Your tradition of faith and sacrifice evident in Ignite the Faith campaign
Our archdiocesan Ignite the Faith campaign is continuing to move closer to our goal of funding important needs and apostolates across northeast Nebraska. The second group or wave of parishes will conduct the campaign in the coming weeks. The final wave of parish participation will begin in late summer.
I am gratified and encouraged by participation in Ignite the Faith so far. We have had strong leadership from the beginning among clergy and laity alike. We are able to build on a strong foundation of significant early gifts from lay leaders. I challenged our priests to contribute the first $1 million toward fully funding priests’ retirement, and they are close to meeting that challenge. Hard work from pastors and lay leaders in a group of pilot parishes helped us test the appeal of the campaign’s goals, with good success. The first wave of parishes has just about wrapped up their commitment to this important effort.
I express my thanks to all who have participated in Ignite the Faith. Generous Catholics in the first stages of the campaign have committed more than $22 million to help meet some essential pastoral needs in our local church now and for the future. More than $8 million has already been disbursed to parishes and other apostolates. In other words, the generosity of so many of you is already helping fund the various good works that I have been inviting you to consider.
What are those good works? Within our overall goal of $40 million, $6 million will be used to fund the pension received by our senior priests. Retired and infirm priests receive a modest pension now. Support from Ignite the Faith will ensure that we can meet this important obligation for the future. We owe a great deal to our senior priests for their years of pastoral service to the church in the person of Jesus Christ. Thank you for helping fund this important need.
In just a few weeks, I will have the privilege of ordaining two new priests for service in this archdiocese. Their education and formation – as well as that of all our seminarians – is made possible by a fund that has been established for this purpose. So many of us are praying for vocations, asking God to bless us with the priests we need for the future of our families and parishes. Ignite the Faith will add resources to this fund, so that we can support those who respond to the call of Jesus to the priesthood in the years to come.
Formation in the Catholic faith for our children and young adults is an important priority across the archdiocese. We want to introduce our young people to Jesus Christ, first at home and then within the community of believers in the parish. As they come to know Jesus and to walk with him, they deserve to be schooled in how to become a disciple of the Lord. This does not happen by accident. We are blessed with Catholic schools, religious education programs and youth activities that partner with parents to share the faith with the young. Resources from Ignite the Faith will be used to strengthen all of these efforts. Online training for catechists will be available in every parish. New parish-based youth programs already are being piloted. We are beginning to provide comprehensive formation in the faith for Catholic school teachers.
In every parish, 10 percent of the campaign funds will be returned to the parish as soon as they are received. These funds can be used for special needs, as specified by each parish. In addition, in rural communities, another 40 percent of funds collected will be returned for local Catholic education and religious instruction needs. This will give a big boost to the parishes that support Catholic schools. Rural parishes without schools will have the means to strengthen religious education programs.
All parishes will have access to funds for teacher and catechist training, as well as for the development of new programs for youth. All schools will be able to apply for grants for strategic improvements; all schools will benefit from marketing efforts designed to get the word out about the benefit of Catholic schools. Teachers in every school will benefit from the School of Faith, a program of education and formation designed just for them, and can apply for scholarships to continue their academic education. All of this is in addition to the funds being committed in the Omaha area for CUES and Consortium schools.
In the days ahead, parishioners in the Wave II parishes will receive detailed information about the Ignite the Faith campaign. You also will receive an invitation from me to participate in this important effort. I wish I could speak with each of you in person. I have been able to meet recently with your pastors and a few of your fellow parishioners. I am grateful for their willingness to support the goals of the campaign and to encourage others in the parish to do so.
This effort we are making together as an archdiocesan church is an opportunity to deepen our own faith in Jesus Christ and to embrace our responsibility of sharing that faith with others. We feel a special care for the young, who deserve to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus in an often harsh and confusing world.
In the Easter mysteries we have been celebrating, we are convinced again of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. We have seen the power that flows from the sacrifice of Jesus. He invites his disciples to share in that sacrificial love, in practical ways, day by day. At the coming feast of Pentecost, we will reflect again on the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit, given to us so that we might be generous in witnessing to our faith.
Please join me in asking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our work to "Ignite the Faith" in the Archdiocese of Omaha. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your own decision about a sacrificial gift to Ignite the Faith. We have been blessed by the favor of God and by the sacrifices of those who have gone before us in faith. When you are invited in your parish to join this tradition of faith and sacrifice, please be as generous as you can be. God bless you.