A letter from the archbishop: Partners for the Gospel
September 1, 2012
“I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5).
These words of St Paul come to mind as I give thanks for what we are accomplishing together through the 2012 Catholic Ministries Appeal. This year’s Appeal is the most successful in the recent history of our archdiocese. Through the end of July, parishioners have pledged a total of $4,217,653 — not merely meeting our shared goal of $4 million, but exceeding it by more than five percent. More than half of our parishes also exceeded their individual CMA goals, many by significant amounts. More than 800 parishioners responded to the invitation to become CMA Partners by pledging one percent or more of their annual income.
We have reason to celebrate and to give thanks, indeed. Our gratitude is not centered on the numbers of a balance sheet, however—though these are, in themselves, evidence of deep generosity — but on what the numbers make possible by supporting six important ministries. Please allow me to share just a few representative stories with you.
Catholic Charities and Social Services: Through 19 programs, Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio helps to feed, teach, and heal more than 92,000 people a year. Behind those impressive numbers is a story of the Gospel in action over and over again. Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley responds to more than 1,200 requests a month for food assistance through its food pantry, which serves the urban poor in Dayton.
Catholic Campus Ministries: At Dayton’s Sinclair Community College, campus minister Jane Steinhauser was approached by a young woman who seemed anxious and distraught. Suspecting academic, financial, or relationship trouble, Steinhauser was surprised and moved when the student blurted out, “Will you talk to me about God? No one has ever talked to me about God before.” Increasingly, Catholic campus ministers are reaching out to unchurched young people, with the help of our CMA contributions.
Chaplains for Hospitals and Jails/Prisons: Contact with chaplains during times of illness often prompts Catholics who have become estranged from the Church to be reconciled and come home. One chaplain put it this way: “When I was in parishes, I had to go out and beat the bushes to find those who had fallen away. In the hospital, they come to me.”
Our CMA contributions also help provide spiritual comfort and sacramental presence for those who are incarcerated. Every year, prisoners in the correctional institutions located in our archdiocese are baptized and confirmed as new Catholics at the Easter Vigil. “It’s rewarding when those who volunteer get a letter from someone who was incarcerated saying, ‘You really touched my life,’” said a pastor whose parish is involved in ministry to prisoners.
Vocations Outreach and Ministry Education: In addition to helping to prepare growing numbers of men for the priesthood and the diaconate and lay people for pastoral ministry through The Athenaeum/Mount St Mary’s Seminary, your CMA contributions support vocations outreach. For example, as a means of reinforcing a culture of vocations — not only to priesthood, but also to religious life, chaste single life, and marriage — in the Archdiocese, the Vocation Office invites groups of young people to carry out Walks for Vocation, walking in pilgrimage from parish to parish, with stops for eucharistic adoration. This prayerful witness touches many lives along the way. Thanks in good measure to your prayer and financial support, the number of students studying for the priesthood in the archdiocese has nearly doubled over the past four years, to the highest number in a generation.
St. Rita School for the Deaf: Our CMA contributions help change the lives of families dealing with communication disabilities. No child is too young to benefit from the care and education that internationally renowned St. Rita School for the Deaf provides. Teaching communications for life for almost a century, now to both residential and commuting students, St. Rita is a unique institution of which the Archdiocese is justly proud. Last year, the total enrollment was 180 children and, of that number, there were forty-five students with speech apraxia, a treatable condition. The children with speech apraxia benefit from the environment at St. Rita’s in that everyone communicates via a sign language. This makes it easier to treat their problems because they can communicate without frustration.
Retired Archdiocesan Priests: Priests who retire from full-time ministry go on giving of themselves — teaching, feeding, and healing, wherever they are needed, as long as they are able. In truth, they never really retire from serving God and God’s people. Your contributions to the Catholic Ministries Appeal help provide their retirement and medical care.
These are just a few examples of how your contributions to the Catholic Ministries Appeal have strengthened the ministry of the church in southwest Ohio. But the “partnership for the Gospel” in which we participate through our support of the CMA does not end when the pledges are tallied. The need for the critical services that we provide for people in 19 counties, regardless of religious affiliation, continues to grow at a rate that exceeds the pace of economic recovery. We continue to rely on one another for support through prayer, through volunteer efforts, and through financial generosity.
It is important to note that as successful as this year’s Catholic Ministries Appeal was in terms of dollars, the number of Catholics who contribute to the Appeal is quite small — fewer than one in five registered households. These shared ministries are our shared responsibility and joy, and I am asking all Catholics in the Archdiocese to consider prayerfully how we might share this responsibility and this joy more widely. If we can accomplish so much good for our sisters and brothers in need and for the church we love with a contribution rate below 20 percent, imagine what we can do, with God’s help, if each of us participates fully!
Thank you again for your support of the 2012 Catholic Ministries Appeal. With St. Paul, I say, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr
Archbishop of Cincinnati