Stewardship in action: the Annual Diocesan Appeal provides essential support

by Susan Moses

North Texas Catholic

parishioners at St. Jude Thaddeus Parishparishioners at St. Jude Thaddeus Parish
Confirmation teacher Emma Brown, Britni Nguyen, Samantha Danks, Knights of Columbus Youth Coordinator William Trice, and Father Joseph Moreno pose after a Mass at St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Burkburnett August 6, 2022. (NTC/Ben Torres)


If you need one example of the Advancement Foundation’s Annual Diocesan Appeal accomplishing its mission, Father Joseph Moreno can give you at least three.

For the first time, the parish cluster of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Burkburnett, St. Paul Parish in Electra, and Christ the King Parish in Iowa Park has received an operating grant from the Annual Diocesan Appeal: $34,000 to hire a director of youth and family ministry.

Fr. Moreno, the pastoral administrator of the parishes, explained the grant will help enrich the faith in his Wichita County parishes. Since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, youth ministry had been limited to religious education classes. Adding a youth minister, he said, will enable teens to “take what they’ve learned in religious ed, use it to apply to their lives, and experience conversion and relationship with Christ. We need that. Desperately.”

Youth and family ministry will grow “where the Holy Spirit leads us,” he added, hoping the parishes will add programs for service, prayer meetings, discipleship, spirituality, fellowship, and vocations, plus maybe even a mission trip.

Ordained to the priesthood in 2021, Fr. Moreno also cites support for seminarians as an instance of the Annual Diocesan Appeal’s impact on the diocese. Last year, the Annual Diocesan Appeal contributed $240,000 toward the tuition and housing expenses of 23 seminarians. This year it will support 26.

Seminarians for the Diocese of Fort Worth are blessed to be able focus on their academic and spiritual formation because their education and living expenses are fully paid by the diocese. While Fr. Moreno was in seminary, he met men from other dioceses who had to take summer jobs or find benefactors to pay for their schooling.

In contrast, seminarians in the Diocese of Fort Worth are able to continue formation in the summer with ministry assignments or Spanish lessons.

Other students outside the diocese had no health insurance and incurred medical debt while in seminary, according to Fr. Moreno.

Fort Worth seminarians “are very fortunate, and the Appeal is a big part of that,” he said.

Fr. Moreno’s three parishes were the first in the diocese to meet their annual goals for donations and participation last year — a third example of how the Annual Diocesan Appeal works.

“I’m very proud of them. It’s stewardship in action, sharing the gifts that God has given us,” he said of his parishioners, whom he described as good, hardworking people — ranchers, farmers, oil industry workers, and airmen from nearby Sheppard Air Force Base.

The priest acknowledged the Appeal evokes the Biblical call to return our first fruits to God and the example of the early disciples in the Book of Acts, who distributed what they had to those in need.

He said, “This isn’t a bunch of little parishes and big parishes that are all independent of each other. God founded one Church, and we’re all part of that Church.”

boy gets out of vehicle
Third-grader Soa Ahovelo gets dropped off for the first day of school at St. Rita Catholic School in Fort Worth August 10, 2022 (NTC/Jayme Donahue)
Third-grader Soa Ahovelo gets dropped off for the first day of school at St. Rita Catholic School in Fort Worth August 10, 2022. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
Brotherhood

Deacon Jim Novak will head to the Metroplex to explain the challenges rural parishes face to the parishioners of St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills.

For 15 years, the deacon has served as parochial administrator to Sacred Heart Parish in Seymour and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Megargel. He recalls that the parishes have received financial assistance from the Advancement Foundation for each of those 15 years.

Rural parishes “keep their belt tight,” said the administrator, especially during years when drought and prices of cattle and oil bring additional financial struggles.

Without the support of the Annual Diocesan Appeal, Sacred Heart and St. Mary of the Assumption would not be able to pay their part-time youth minister, secretary, and maintenance worker, he said.

In the diocese, 37 parishes will receive operating grants totaling $815,000 this year, and salary support is the primary use of parish operating grants. Parishes request help for a priest’s salary (13 parishes), for a full-time or part-time youth minister (12 parishes), for bookkeepers (9 parishes), and more.

When Dcn. Novak speaks to the North Richland Hills parishioners in September, he plans to tell them how beneficial the Appeal has been, citing that his parishes offer religious education and youth ministry at no charge. “I call it ‘big brother, little brother,’” he said, describing the relationship between parishes with robust resources and those without.

But the little brothers give too. Parishioners in Seymour and Megargel consistently meet their annual fundraising and participation goals. Deacon Novak remarked, “People understand it’s important to give, to share with your brother. Our stewardship has come up across the parish.”

While Dcn. Novak is speaking at St. John the Apostle, Toni Kelly, director of admissions and advancement of St. John the Apostle Catholic School, will travel to Sacred Heart in Seymour to explain how stewardship benefits Catholic education.

The Annual Diocesan Appeal provides tuition support that helps students at all 17 diocesan Catholic schools.

Kelly said only 10 percent of students at St. John the Apostle pay full tuition. The student body comprises middle and “not-so-middle” class students from various ethnic and economic backgrounds.

“The majority needs financial aid. [School administration] can’t say ‘Sorry, you can’t afford Catholic education’ and close the doors. We are here to form disciples of Christ,” she explained.

Kelly said tuition assistance from the Annual Diocesan Appeal, the Stephen Breen Memorial Foundation, and other endowments and benefactors are a vital means for families to send their children to the 57-year-old school.

women hold diaperswomen hold diapers
Allison Moore, director of the Gabriel Project, is shown with Emma Bouillion, coordinator of young adult outreach, at a Gabriel Project Supply Closet located at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Keller. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
 
Adapting to needs

Although operating grants to parishes, seminarian education, and tuition assistance are important components of the Appeal, the funds raised also help other needs in the diocese, such as Catholic Charities Fort Worth, diaconate formation, marriage and family life programs, care for retired priests, and ministries to college campuses and prisons.

As needs change in the diocese, so does the financial allocation by the Annual Diocesan Appeal.

This year, for example, assistance to Respect Life ministries will more than double, impacting all pro-life apostolates, which help mothers in crisis pregnancies and their children.

In particular, CCFW anticipated a surge in demand for Gabriel Project services and requested additional funding. Gabriel Project will receive at least $216,000 to add an additional caseworker and volunteer coordinator, plus other assistance to expand the parish-based ministry that trains volunteers to accompany pregnant women in need and provide spiritual, emotional, and practical help until their child is 18 months old.

 

Call to gratitude

Last year, the Annual Diocesan Appeal distributed $3.4 million to parishes, ministries, organizations, services, and purposes in the diocese. This year sets $3.5 million as its goal.

Bishop Michael Olson, in his letter introducing the Appeal, said this is an opportunity to respond to Christ’s call to gratitude.

He wrote, “We have this moment to consider the gift of our lives and the many blessings already placed in our lives by God. Appreciating this goodness draws us closer to God and impels us towards acts of selfless love in imitation of His ultimate gift of His Son, who came to save us from sin.”

parishioners at St. Jude Thaddeus

If you need one example of the Advancement Foundation’s Annual Diocesan Appeal accomplishing its mission, Father Joseph Moreno can give you at least three.

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