My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As I travel around the diocese visiting our parishes, people frequently tell me that they read my column in the Catholic Times, they thank me for writing it and tell me that they support my messages. I genuinely appreciate such support and the prayers that go with it. If I may, I would like to suggest a way to express your support for my ministry as bishop in a very concrete way: Please contribute to our Annual Catholic Services Appeal (ACSA).
Our theme for the 2016 Annual Catholic Services Appeal is: “Continuing the Mission of Charity.” The inspiration for this theme comes from St. Teresa of Calcutta, who was canonized a saint by Pope Francis earlier this month. St. Teresa of Calcutta, of course, was known for founding the Missionaries of Charity and for their charitable work with the poor.
The appeal begins with the weekend Masses of Sept. 17-18, 2016.
One of the challenges of the Annual Catholic Services Appeal is connecting the cause with the parishioners in the pews. Most parishioners naturally identify with their local parish, which is their primary point of contact with the church. While Catholics understand at least intellectually that they belong to the universal Catholic community of faith beyond their parish, it is hard for some to connect emotionally with a “diocese” which may seem distant and impersonal to them.
To make this connection more personal, it is helpful to see the “diocese” not just as a collection of bureaucratic offices performing tasks far removed from the local parish experience. A “diocese” first of all is a bond of communion uniting all the faithful in a given area under the leadership of their spiritual shepherd, the bishop, in collaboration with the clergy, consecrated religious and ecclesial lay leaders. Our Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is a bond of communion comprised of over 145,000 Catholics in 129 parishes in 28 counties across central Illinois, from the Mississippi River to the Indiana border. It is essential to our Catholic identity that we see ourselves as Catholics not simply as members of a local parish congregation, as important as that is, but also as part of a worldwide community of believers under the spiritual guidance of their local bishop in communion with the Bishop of Rome.
Our “diocese” as supported by ACSA is not just the offices of the Catholic Pastoral Center in Springfield, but is made up of people like Msgr. David Hoefler, who serves as my Vicar General, and Father Christopher House, Chancellor and pastor of the Cathedral Parish of the Immaculate Conception.
The leadership of our “diocese” as supported by ACSA includes people like Marlene Mulford, Director for Communication and Information Services; Father Brian Alford, Director for Vocational Services; Father Charles “Chuck” Edwards, Director for Evangelical and Catechetical Services; John Maxwell, Director for Financial Services; Patricia Kornfeld, Director for Personnel Services; and Steven Roach, Director for Community Services, which includes Catholic Charities. All of these departments have the word “services” in their title to emphasize that they are to be of service, not just to me, but to all the parishes and people of our diocese.
When you walk in the front door of our Catholic Pastoral Center, the receptionist who cheerfully welcomes you to our “diocese” as supported by ACSA is Ruth Anne Staab. My secretary who handles a heavy volume of my correspondence and efficiently manages my schedule to make sure I am in the right place at the right time in our “diocese” as supported by ACSA is Cheryl Kannall.
Our “diocese” as supported by ACSA is also made up of people like our new Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Brandi Borries, formerly principal at St. Anthony Elementary School in Effingham; our Director for Catechesis, Christine Malmevik, who is working hard to organize our Diocesan Adult Enrichment Conference Nov. 4-5 at the Decatur Conference Center; our Director for the Missions, Vicki Compton, who coordinated our Summer Missionary Cooperation Plan; our Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Kyle Holtgrave, who helped organize and lead our pilgrimage group of 63 people from our diocese to World Youth Day with Pope Francis this past summer in Krakow, Poland; our Director for Campus Ministry, Roy Lanham, who is busy welcoming new and returning students this fall to our university campus ministries; and our Director for Marriage and Family Life, Carlos Tejeda, who helps prepare couples for the vocation of holy matrimony.
There are many more people in our “diocese” as supported by ACSA who work quietly behind the scenes, people like Father Kevin Laughery, Father Dean Probst, Father Daren Zehnle, Brother Patrick Shea and Becky Donaldson on our Tribunal staff, who make sure that marriage annulment cases are examined carefully and expeditiously; Greg Fleck and Brad Fisher, who address issues affecting property, buildings and cemeteries throughout the diocese; Patrick Ketchum and Mike Kelly, who make sure that our people and our buildings have adequate insurance coverage; Eliot Kapitan, who shares his vast resource of knowledge about Divine Worship and the Catechumenate; Ember Beddingfield, who works hard to ensure a safe environment in all of our schools and parishes; Donna Moore, who spearheads our pro-life activities and is currently leading the fight against Planned Parenthood’s expansion of abortion services in Springfield; Carole House, who coordinates our Diocesan Campaign for Justice and Hope; Karla Crews, who works with people who have special needs; and Christine Lansaw, our Associate Director for Deaf Ministry.
Our “diocese” as supported by ACSA is wondrously blessed with two new priests, four new transitional deacons and 11 new permanent deacons who were ordained this year, now serving in your parishes. We have 22 outstanding seminarians currently studying for the priesthood, twice as many as we had six years ago, which also means the cost to the “diocese” of training our future priests to serve you in your parishes is now twice as much as it was six years ago.
Your generous contributions to the Annual Catholic Services Appeal support the hard work and dedicated ministry of all of these people who make up our “diocese.” I personally beg you to respond generously to support me and our “diocese” by contributing at least one percent of your annual income to our Annual Catholic Services Appeal either by direct mail, by giving to the in-pew collection in your parish, or by donating online at www.dio.org/giving.
May God give us this grace. Amen.