Twenty-one speakers visit 33 parishes for annual appeal

Talking, visiting, sharing their stories …

That was the opportunity again this year for the guest speaker program of the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal – which is seeking to raise $3.5 million for fiscal year 2016-2017, or 20 percent of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s annual budget.

Twenty-one ministry leaders and members of the Archbishop’s Committee for Development served as guest speakers, visiting 33 parishes in three weeks, with the last three parishes scheduled for Oct. 8-9.

The program, which began in the 2014-2015 drive, also fits this year’s theme: "Every Town. Every Parish. Every Person. Your story is part of OUR story of faith."

Ana Barrios, a program director at Catholic Charities’ Juan Diego Center in Omaha, visited St. Bonaventure Parish in Columbus, speaking at a Sept. 25 Spanish Mass.

Several parishioners said they visit the Juan Diego Center when they come to Omaha, often for legal immigration assistance or to meet basic needs at the center’s food pantry, Barrios said. Other assistance at the center includes microbusiness training, a family strengthening program and help to those suffering from domestic violence.

"Most of them are aware of the services at Catholic Charities," Barrios said. "It was uplifting for me. I hope it was helpful to them, to hear about what we do."

The speaker program is combined with other efforts for the appeal, including information and a letter from Archbishop George J. Lucas to families across the archdiocese, a film parishes are encouraged to show and a special commitment weekend Oct. 1-2 with materials available in church pews. The appeal began Sept. 10-11 and continues into next year.

The guest speaker program has become an important part of the effort, said Breanne Peterson, development officer in the Stewardship and Development Office.

It strives to raise awareness about ministries supported by the appeal while providing archdiocesan officials an opportunity to visit with people from a number of parishes, hearing their stories and concerns, she said.

"Results have been positive, impacting the parishes as well as the speaker visiting," she said.

The program also appears to be making a difference for the appeal, Peterson said. Last year, 25 archdiocesan employees visited 41 parishes, and members of those parishes committed a total of $90,202 more than the year before, she said.

In addition, more than 4,914 people donated to the appeal last year, compared with 4,477 donors the year before, she said.

The results are important, because the annual appeal supports all of the archdiocese’s ministries, including educating children in Catholic schools, providing faith formation for children, teens and adults, and assisting needy families through Catholic Charities, Peterson said.

The appeal also supports priests, deacons and seminarians and helps the archdiocese train lectors and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, prepare people for marriage and support married couples with enrichment programs, Peterson said.

The guest speaker program provides another opportunity for archdiocesan employees to tell people about the archdiocese’s story, Peterson said.

"The more awareness we bring to these programs and ministries, the better people will understand the impact of their support of the annual appeal," she said.

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