August 30, 2019
|Ella Edmiston distributes the Blood of Christ during a Youth Mass celebrated by Fr. Xavier Silvadasan, HGN, at Holy Angels Parish in Clifton. (NTC/Ben Torres)|
If you want to know what someone values, take a look at his credit card statements and calendar. What you see will reveal a lot. How we spend our money and our time reflects what is important to us.
Jesus expressed that idea more eloquently in His Sermon on the Mount. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Where is the heart of the Diocese of Fort Worth? What does the diocese value?
A look at how the Annual Diocesan Appeal disburses its funds shows what the diocese treasures. Helping the poor and marginalized through Catholic Charities Fort Worth. Caring for retired priests. Securing our spiritual foundation through the formation of permanent deacons and seminarians. Ministering to prisoners. Supporting strong marriages and family life.Providing campus ministry to college students. Helping Catholic education remain affordable.
In 2018-19, about one third of the $3,071,292 given by more than 10,800 families went to support these vital efforts.
This good — bestowed throughout the diocese and made possible by the people of the diocese — represents only part of how the Annual Diocesan Appeal benefits the faithful of North Texas.
More than $1 million of the funds raised in the Appeal were distributed through operating grants. Each year, parishes and schools may apply for grants to help with specific needs. Renée Underwood, associate director of the Advancement Foundation, said parishes and schools, especially in rural or underprivileged areas, “need resources and support to help navigate the temporal issues along with the spiritual. The Appeal is to make the entire diocese, all of us, better. We’re all one family.”
Although the parishes and schools that received operating grants in 2018-19 stretch over the vast 23,900 square miles of the Diocese of Fort Worth, the majority requested funds to achieve the same goal: to invest in youth — the future of their parishes and schools.
Building Tomorrow’s Church
About the time this article is published, the teachers at St. Mary Catholic School in Gainesville are getting a pleasant surprise. Their paychecks are a little larger than expected.
Like most Catholic educators, St. Mary teachers work for less than they would earn teaching at a public school, but “our teachers are dedicated,” said Father John Pacheco, pastor of St. Mary Parish. Their commitment to Catholic education means they sacrifice income to keep tuition more affordable.
Fr. Pacheco said, “We want to do the best we can for our teachers. We were overjoyed to receive the grant, because our teachers deserve it. They know the kids. They love the kids.”
Fr. Pacheco was educated in public schools, but since becoming pastor of St. Mary, he’s become “a big advocate of Catholic education.” He explained, “God is in the classroom at our school. We pray. We go to Mass weekly. Catholic education is really important.”
The Catholic education the students receive has a “big effect,” according to the priest. “These students and teachers stay in touch, even after they graduate. The kids go on to be the top students in their high schools, and they make good decisions as they get older.”
Holy Angels Parish in Clifton is also using their grant to instill a lifelong faith in their young people. Like many of the 29 parishes that received operating grants, the parish will use funds from the Annual Diocesan Appeal to improve its religious education and youth group programs. With about 120 families, the small parish just northwest of Waco struggles to balance staff salaries with upkeep of the church property using weekly collections alone.
“Being a small rural parish with a lower average income level than a larger metropolitan parish, these funds will make such a difference to help continue the programs that we currently have in place for our youth and help them to grow,” said Father Xavier Silvadasan, HGN, pastor.
The parish’s vibrant children’s program includes Vacation Bible School, monthly youth Masses, and diocesan retreats that help students grow in their Catholic faith. This year, the parish plans to transition to family religious formation in which parents, guided by a catechist, teach their children.
Appeal Fosters Growth
Holy Angels Parish is well established, tracing its origins to 1954, but two other parishes receiving operating grants exemplify how the Annual Diocesan Appeal helps parishes keep pace with rapid population growth.
The diocese’s newest parish, Holy Trinity in Azle, received a grant, as did the parish that supported it as a mission: St. Thomas the Apostle in Fort Worth.
Beverly Oberdorf served as the business manager for both churches until Holy Trinity became a parish in June. She explained that new neighborhoods developing in Azle and the Eagle Mountain Lake area of Fort Worth are bringing people into the community and into their pews.
|Young boy colors at St. Mary Catholic School. (NTC/Jayme Donahue)|
Underwood, the associate director of the Advancement Foundation, said “Azle and St. Thomas the Apostle are the ideal example of what this Appeal is all about. They have good core people working hard. They have fully functional finance councils and pastoral councils, but they just needed help and encouragement to grow and to turn corners.”
Both parishes have completed building projects to accommodate the growth, leaving little in the budget for staffing. Oberdorf juggled many responsibilities when she and one other employee operated the parish office at St. Thomas the Apostle, even setting up chairs and tables for events.
With the grant, the parish of 1,000 active families is hiring staff to help with liturgy, communications, administration, and the facility “to help parishioners in a timely manner,” according to Oberdorf. Holy Trinity is hiring staff to help with sacramental preparation and religious education.
“For parishes that receive a grant, it’s a blessing because we are all working together for the common good,” she said.
The Annual Diocesan Appeal will help foster measurable growth at St. Maria Goretti Catholic School also — growth that sprouts from the soil.
The Arlington school is using part of their grant for curriculum resources that support hands-on learning opportunities, including an outdoor learning center.
In the garden, which will start in October, students will learn science, of course, but they can also practice math skills as they measure and graph the height of beanstalks, sharpen their artistic talents with sketches of nature, and find fertile ground for prayer and reflection.
Principal Laura Behee said curriculum resources purchased with the Appeal grant will advance Bishop Michael Olson’s vision of a classical education. The new programs encourage active engagement across each subject and are developmentally appropriate for each grade.
A portion of the school’s grant will allow for a part-time development director. Those responsibilities were shared between Behee and two other staff members last year.
Behee said the Appeal demonstrates that Catholic education “comes together through the generosity of many different people. It’s a group effort, not just our parish or our parents. We couldn’t do it without the generosity of many.”
The majority of Appeal donors use traditional pledge cards, but some parishioners are taking advantage of convenient ways to pay introduced in recent years. Many donors have chosen to support the Appeal continually through the St. Francis Circle, which features eco-friendly monthly automatic deductions from a bank account or credit card, eliminating mailed reminders.
Other donors have adopted the text-to-give plan, supporting their brothers and sisters across the diocese with a simple text of ADA to 91999.
Sept. 14-15 will be announcement weekend in the parishes, and Sept. 21-22 will be commitment weekend.
To learn more about the Annual Diocesan Appeal, visit AdvancementFoundation.org/annual-diocesan-appeal.
If you want to know what someone values, take a look at his credit card statements and calendar. What you see will reveal a lot.