Shepherd's Voice

Benefits of Archbishop’s Annual Appeal felt widely

In this month’s discussion, Archbishop George J. Lucas fields several questions about the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, which kicked off last month. The annual campaign supports Catholic Charities as well as evangelization and family enrichment efforts, permanent diaconate formation, vocation awareness activities, safe environment programs, campus ministry and professional development for Catholic school teachers. 

The Archbishop’s Annual Appeal is being conducted in our parishes. Why is this appeal so important to you?

The resources made possible through the annual appeal help me carry out my responsibility as pastor of the archdiocese. It is, of course, impossible for me to pastor the archdiocese all by myself. And I shouldn’t even try. So, the appeal allows me to receive resources from generous parishioners around the archdiocese who want to assist in the work of the Church, which is to announce the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and to make it possible for many people to have an encounter with him living in the Church.

How does the annual appeal help the archdiocese accomplish its mission and vision?

The annual appeal provides a great deal of support to the archdiocesan curia. The curia consists of a variety of offices and apostolates, which form the central administration of the archdiocese. It exists to support the life of the Church in parishes across the 23 counties of our archdiocese.

We have a vision for how the Gospel could be proclaimed and lived in our archdiocese. But we can’t just hope that it’s going to happen. Jesus sends us out as his disciples to announce the Gospel in practical ways and then to find practical ways for our people to meet the Lord and grow as his disciples and friends. The dedicated staff of our archdiocesan curia enables that to happen day by day throughout the year and year by year. Because of the generosity of our people, we can lead a variety of initiatives that support parishes, schools and apostolates across the archdiocese.

Where do you see the annual appeal bearing fruit in the archdiocese?

The annual appeal supports evangelization and family enrichment efforts, permanent diaconate formation, vocation awareness activities, safe environment programs, campus ministry and professional development for Catholic school teachers. 

A significant amount of the dollars raised from the annual appeal supports Catholic Charities. You hear so many stories of Catholic Charities rising to the occasion during the pandemic. They were present in our community and helped thousands of hungry people, people suffering from the stress of the pandemic in families and their employment, and others who were supported with mental health services. 

Catholic Charities and our Catholic schools have an excellent working relationship. Catholic Charities supports the mental health needs of our students and their families.

About this time last year, you announced our Big Goal – that all parishes would be missional communities by 2026. How does the annual appeal help us achieve this goal? 

Since this goal is parish-centered, we have come to see that the work of the archdiocesan curia must be more explicitly directed to helping parishes to develop more toward the goal. With the help of my own leadership team, I am committed to direct our resources to enable parishes to develop the characteristics that would transform them into missional communities. These characteristics involve new forms of effective parish leadership, a clear path for growth in discipleship and a culture of stewardship and generosity. Parish support teams are available to work directly with individual pastors and parishes to cultivate these characteristics. The annual appeal provides essential resources to enable us to support parishes in achieving the Big Goal.

You mentioned that parishes need to be characterized by a culture of stewardship and generosity. What does that mean, and how does it benefit from and support the annual appeal?

In a culture of Christian stewardship, we each hold ourselves accountable to God for the possession, the use and the distribution of all that is given to us in this world. We acknowledge God as the source of every good gift. These gifts include the gift of life itself, personal talents and abilities, material goods we have earned or received and the created world around us. As we reflect on the Scriptures, as well as the universal call to holiness, we come to understand that we honor God by caring for what is entrusted to our stewardship and by offering it generously to build up the common good.

Becoming generous stewards is part of the process of conversion required of every disciple of Jesus. He calls us to follow him without counting the cost and to use what we have to build up our common life in the Church.

The annual appeal is one practical way of building up the life of our archdiocesan church. We are able to provide for important good works together, beyond what can be done by any one parish. And as we focus on our Big Goal, the appeal enables us to assist parishes in developing a culture of stewardship and generosity in all things, beyond this appeal every year.

Then we are really talking about spiritual renewal, not simply fundraising. Is that right?

Increasing offertory giving and other fundraising will only be temporary solutions to meet immediate needs, if they do not have a vital connection to Christian discipleship. The invitation to follow Jesus and share in his mission is to be experienced in every aspect of our life in the Church. Stewardship and generosity will always be at the heart of that experience.

Why is it important to invite more people to participate in the Annual Appeal?

Invitation should be at the heart of the Catholic experience. Each of us is responding to the invitation from our Lord, probably mediated by somebody else who brought us to the Lord and taught us about him. So, we are responding to his invitation. It is his grace. It is his power that is offered to us. And as we accept that invitation ourselves, the Lord sends us out to invite others to participate in the Church’s life, to have life in our Savior, Jesus Christ, and to become his disciples and friends.

It is a joy and a privilege to invite more and more people to participate in the Church’s life in various ways. And I invite all Catholics in northeast Nebraska to participate in the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, to pray for its success, its fruitfulness, but also to offer their material resources to the extent they are able. We can do things together that no one parish or person can do on their own.