Archbishop’s Annual Appeal: Giving in gratitude for what they have received

Six months after stepping away from a public school and into Ss. Peter and Paul School in Omaha, fourth-grader Edgar Armando Gomez began reading in ways he never had before.
“He would get home and instead of doing anything, he would grab a book,” said his father, Edgar Gomez of Assumption-Guadalupe Parish in Omaha. 
“This is now a habit, he gets home and grabs a book. He is going to sleep and grabs another book. It was a great change,” said Edgar, a native of Mexico, speaking Spanish through an interpreter.
With pictures of saints on the wall, helpful teachers and excited students, the environment is similar to their home, said the elder Edgar, who makes tamales and other dishes twice a year for the school’s Kermes fundraising, food and fun festivals. His daughter, fifth-grader Stephanie, also attends Ss. Peter and Paul.
School is just one way the Archdiocese of Omaha is making a difference in the lives of Edgar, his wife, Hilda, and all six of their children. It’s also one reason the Gomez family is grateful for and contributes to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, which helps fund tuition assistance that aids them and other families, as well as continuing education for teachers and staff and other needs in Catholic schools.
The annual appeal also funds efforts in evangelization and catechesis, family life, Catholic Charities and other ministries. The appeal provides about 23 percent of the archdiocese’s annual operating budget.
“We are so grateful for the annual appeal and all that it does for our community,” said Hilda Gomez, also through an interpreter. “In addition to our parish’s weekly collections, we make a pledge every year to the annual appeal.”
The Gomez family is not alone. In an effort that began in September, 16,977 donors across the archdiocese have pledged $4.4 million to the appeal, topping the $3.65 million goal and attracting more donors than ever before. For the eighth straight year, pledges to the appeal have climbed higher than the goal.
Last fiscal year, 15,549 people pledged donations, prayers or both. In 2015-2016, 13,963 people contributed to the appeal.
“I am pleased to see that more Catholics are participating in the appeal each year,” said Archbishop George J. Lucas. “This means that they also are participating more directly in the works supported by the appeal, such as Catholic Charities or support for schools.”
Hilda is among the volunteers at the Juan Diego Center in Omaha, run by Catholic Charities. The center serves immigrants and others through a food pantry, legal assistance, family enrichment and microbusiness training programs.
“That’s my second home,” Hilda said of the center. “I love going, and I love taking the kids, too.”
Edgar said it is important for children to help their parents serve others.
“It has a lot of benefits that they volunteer and they see what it is to share and give. They can see the side of poverty when people don’t have the option to be poor or rich. And, if they participate, they can see, they can teach, learn a little what it is to be humble,” he said.
And faith – strengthened by solid teaching, vibrant parishes, good priests, deacons and others in religious life – forms the foundation for service and all other things in the Gomez family.
“My faith is everything,” Hilda said. “Being able to teach my children the love of God is so important.”
“We can go to English Mass, with people from here, and we could go to Spanish Mass,” Hilda said. “It’s not so important if the Mass is in English or Spanish, what’s important is to show the kids our faith.”
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