Sharing the Faith: Support for the Annual Diocesan Appeal helps build God’s kingdom now and for future generations
Ensuring that the next generation learns to love and practice the Catholic faith requires both individual and collective action from the faithful.
On an individual level, it begins with parents, who are the first teachers of the faith. As a collective action, it extends to Catholics who give their time, treasure, and talents so those on society’s periphery — by geography, poverty, or even imprisonment — can hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Church He founded.
The Advancement Foundation of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth sponsors the Annual Diocesan Appeal, inviting all the faithful of the diocese to impact lives beyond their individual parishes to reach their brothers and sisters in need in the diocese’s 28 counties.
The Appeal supports rural and financially struggling parishes; Catholic Charities Fort Worth; formation for deacons and seminarians; mothers in crisis pregnancies; tuition assistance, security, and learning support in Catholic schools; and other needs in the 92 parishes, 17 schools, and various ministries of the diocese.
The faithful responded generously to last year’s Annual Diocesan Appeal, exceeding its goal of $3.5 million by more than 6%.
Rachel Martinez, Advancement Foundation director of annual giving and grants, said, “The faithful looked at their lives and at God’s generosity and chose stewardship throughout the year by supporting the Annual Appeal.”
The Advancement Foundation has kicked off the 2023-24 Annual Diocesan Appeal, which will support 36 parish and nine school grants, among other purposes.
The Appeal helps fund campus ministry at University of Texas at Arlington, Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, and Texas Christian University, among other universities in the diocese.
Campus ministry is an investment in the future of the Church.
Josh Hubbard, who recently began a campus missionary assignment with St. John Paul II University Parish in Denton, explained,
“College is such a crucial place to intercept Catholics going out on their own for the first time because they really do make that choice of whether they’re going to stick with the tradition of faith they had growing up.”
Campus ministry provides faith formation and community to young adults on campus, plus it prepares the students to become parish lay ministers and catechists when they graduate and join new parishes.
Campus missionaries from St. John Paul II Parish reach out to Catholic students at University of North Texas and Texas Women’s University.
Funding from the Annual Diocesan Appeal assists with their ministry, which begins with introducing themselves to students and inviting them to Mass, a Bible study, or a community night. The campus outreach also offers two retreats each semester. For those wanting to lead a Bible study, one-on-one discipleship is available.
Last year, Sam Macaraeg was the first campus missionary employed by St. John Paul II Parish. This year, Hubbard and Veronica Pyles have joined the staff.
“Our ministry is able to grow as quickly as we are willing to put work in,” said Macaraeg, a UNT graduate.
Pyles served as an intern and Bible study leader before becoming a full-time campus missionary this year. She said it’s rewarding to see a student who is lukewarm in their faith become a reignited, enthusiastic Catholic who goes on to lead Bible studies.
The three have big dreams for the long-term growth of the campus missionary program (as many as eight missionaries!), and even larger hopes for the universities they serve: that one day the universities will be known for their thriving Catholic communities as much as their academic programs.
The parish, with the help of the Appeal, is also developing future cantors and choir directors, according to David Gilmore, director of music at St. John Paul II University Parish.
The parish received a grant to help fund scholarships for section leaders — soprano, alto, tenor, and bass — for its choir. The scholarship recipients sing at both Sunday morning Masses, serve as cantors, and help recruit other musicians to the choir. Some past scholarship musicians have written original music for the parish.
Gilmore appreciates the support from the diocese. Not only does offering choral scholarships improve the quality of the music but “it’s a vital part of the diocesan outreach. There are parishes that have to have help to get things going until they’re self-sufficient. Our parish is only 11 years old,” he said.
Another parish receiving support from the Annual Diocesan Appeal is nearing 100 years old.
Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth, which was founded in 1929 for African-American Catholics, applied for its first parish grant from the Annual Diocesan Appeal this year.
Most of the 36 parish grants are given to small rural parishes that request help with priest and staff salaries. But any parish may apply.
In this instance, Our Mother of Mercy parishioner Tim Jacquet took the lead in requesting funds.
Deacon Tom Giovannitti, parish life coordinator for Our Mother of Mercy, explained, “As a deacon, I had done a lot of liturgy in the past, but not [grant applications]. I knew it existed, and I knew we needed it, but I didn’t even know where to start.”
The two discussed what would best help the parish and determined that salary support for a new employee to help with youth ministry and community outreach was a great need.
Jacquet, who volunteers with liturgy and development at the parish, envisions this employee will be an essential resource in the parish’s mission “to go out, evangelize our parish and in the community, and do what God said to do — to bring people into the Church,” he said.
Just five minutes from downtown or Fort Worth’s medical district, the neighborhood around East Rosedale Street has been experiencing a revitalization with new homes and businesses. Dcn. Giovannitti has noticed a recent increase in health professionals attending daily Mass.
They foresee a similar revitalization in the parish. “Having that outreach person … is perfect timing,” said Jacquet.
“To have growth, you have to have young people, or young people with even younger people,” said the deacon, who came out of retirement to serve at the parish.
Jacquet and Dcn. Giovannitti welcome both former and new parishioners to make a home at Our Mother of Mercy: young couples who grew up at Our Mother of Mercy then moved to the suburbs, plus newcomers to Fort Worth, whether they hail from neighboring Louisiana or distant Africa.
Jacquet said, “The roots of it is the African American experience. It’s what makes us really unique and sought after. And it’s the only one in the diocese.”
“It’s a small parish, and they feel welcomed… . It’s important that we’re open to others, and one of the ways you do that is by having youth programs,” added Dcn. Giovannitti.
Although its resources are limited, the parish maintains a food pantry and helps connect community members with social services and resources from Catholic Charities Fort Worth.
Dcn. Giovannitti explained, “You give because that’s what Christians do. They, from the very beginning, from apostolic times, up to this time, the Church has always gone out and helped those who need help — financial, emotional, spiritual, whatever that help is.”
The Annual Diocesan Appeal helps make Catholic education more accessible by offering tuition assistance and by helping accommodate students with learning differences.
Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Denton is one of nine schools in the diocese receiving salary support for learning specialists and dyslexia therapists from the Annual Diocesan Appeal.
Principal Frank Perez said one full-time and two part-time specialists provide small group one-on-one instruction to supplement classroom instruction for students needing extra help.
And with learning specialists present on the 175-student campus, faculty can quickly identify and assist students with learning struggles.
“We can support those [pupils] more quickly and get in front of it,” Perez said. “Without these interventions here, [the students] would have to go off campus, to the public school, and into the big system.”
The Appeal opens the possibility of Catholic education for students who may have been excluded previously due to financial hardship or learning differences.
Perez said, “If we want to have a Catholic Church in the future, the best way to ensure that is by making sure all kids are getting a Catholic education.
“Catholic education, in Catholic schools or religious education at the parish … is how you get these students to understand that they’re living for something greater than themselves,” he concluded.
WAYS TO GIVE
In September, pastors will announce the Annual Diocesan Appeal, and pledge materials will be available at the parishes.
Advancement Foundation’s Martinez notes a significant increase in online giving. The number of members of the St. Francis Circle, who make a monthly gift through an autodraft from a bank account or credit card, grew from about 615 to 840 donors in two years.
Eight giving societies, designated by various levels ranging from $500 to $50,000, contribute about 60% of the total Annual Diocesan Appeal.
Bishop Michael Olson said, “A commitment to the Annual Diocesan Appeal is an outward expression of our discipleship call to live as stewards of God’s blessings.”