Archbishop’s Annual Appeal benefits evangelization, other worthy causes

For Dave Loecker, evangelization is a personal mission.
“I have friends and family who have left the Catholic Church, so I want to learn how to start conversations to hopefully bring them back,” said Loecker, a member of All Saints Parish at St. John the Baptist Church in Fordyce. 
Now, he has some extra help.
A new mentoring effort is preparing Loecker and other parish leaders to share their faith stories with others. It’s one initiative in the archdiocese’s pastoral vision of creating “One church: Encountering Jesus, equipping disciples, living mercy.”
And it’s just one of many ministries supported by the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, which kicks off Sept. 15 and 16 at Masses throughout the archdiocese.
Loecker said the experienced staff at the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis will be invaluable for people looking for the right words and right actions to attract others to the faith.
“I see a lot of opportunity for growth,” Loecker said. “This will be one of the first big steps for building up the church.”
Jen Moser, coordinator of leadership formation with the evangelization office, is directing the program. Moser said she appreciates the people who are stepping up to be part of the ministry.
“These are people who are generously living lives of discipleship and who have an awareness of the call to mission and a desire to be formed in that more deeply,” she said.
The two-year program began on a pilot basis Aug. 25 in Norfolk. It will help 14 people from seven urban parishes, and 10 people from seven rural parishes, by “imparting the vision and the practical skills necessary for evangelization,” she said.
“We expect that participants will be able to return to their parishes and assist their pastors with concrete evangelization efforts,” Moser said.
Meetings will be held at various locations, usually once a month. The training will include retreats, large group seminars, small group discussions, reading, workshops, mentorship sessions and shared ministry experiences. A final project will involve participants applying their learning and skills to a specific need or area of interest in their parishes. 
Another participant, Cathy Ashton, director of evangelization and catechesis at St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha, and wife of Michael Ashton, superintendent of Catholic Schools, said the first session was inspiring.
“The room was filled with people on fire for Jesus, and the speakers were very motivating,” she said.
“We’re learning how to be companions on the journey for other people and help them grow in their faith,” Ashton said. “I think we’ll see a ripple effect.”
People can actively support that effort and many other initiatives by contributing to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, which provides about 26 percent of the archdiocese’s annual operating budget. 
The appeal helps fund ministries in parishes, schools and other efforts across the archdiocese, including adult faith formation and youth ministry; religious education; training for lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion; Catholic Charities’ annual assistance to 75,000 people; marriage preparation for engaged couples and other programs that enrich family life.
This year’s goal is $4.1 million and 25 percent parishioner participation, said Breeane Kotulak, development officer in the Stewardship and Development Office. 
Last year, nearly 23 percent of parishioners exceeded the appeal’s $3.65 million goal, pledging $4.47 million, the eighth consecutive year the appeal has surpassed goal.
Again this year, pastors, parish leaders and guest speakers from archdiocesan offices and the Archbishop’s Committee for Development will give personal testimonies and promote the appeal for several weeks during weekend Masses.
Parishioners will receive an information packet in the mail the week of Sept. 16. And there will be reminders through e-mails, parish bulletins, articles in the Catholic Voice, announcements on Spirit Catholic Radio and the archdiocese’s website, Kotulak said.
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