Today is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Throughout the Bible we find God imaged as a shepherd to His people, but it’s in St. John’s Gospel that Jesus distinctly says, “I Am the Good Shepherd”. It just so happens that Good Shepherd Sunday falls on Mother’s Day this year. I suspect it’s not a stretch, for most of us, to think of all the ways our mothers have been like shepherds for us—I know it’s true for me—guiding us, protecting us, sacrificing herself for us.
But as Catholics, we think of our Church as a mother, and similarly, a shepherd for us. I know the Church is flawed, not always a perfect mother, but that’s certainly her ideal, and the task for which she still strives.
Recently you likely received and saw letters from both Archbishop Sartain and Fr. Todd regarding the upcoming campaign for the Annual Catholic Appeal. We would do well to remind ourselves, what exactly is this and why do we have it? It’s a one-time donation we make each year that helps fund about 60 different ministries in our diocese. In this big, diverse diocese of nearly 180 parishes and 900,000 Catholics, there is much to be done in the name of Jesus, our Good Shepherd.
So, for example, your contribution to our Annual Catholic Appeal helps our youth, by means of funding CYO programs (which by the way, many of our St. Joseph boys and girls take part in this). It helps fund the Office for Youth and Young Adult Evangelization, as well as the Newman Centers on college campuses in our state —so important to reach out to young adults. It helps to support our Catholic schools, making places of prayer for our children, 5 days a week. The Annual Catholic Appeal helps fund our many programs that serve the poor and the vulnerable, particularly Catholic Community Services. And there’s more—a whole lot more.
To fund these services and ministries, our parish will be assessed $135,000. I’m asking for your help. As you surely recall from past years, what we pull together above that $135K comes back to our parish in the form of a rebate. In years past the rebate paid for the pews you’re sitting in, our bell tower; it paid to renovate our beautiful Blessed Sacrament Chapel. It has given substantial support to our outreach programs.
After discussion with our Pastoral Council and other parish leadership, we came to the decision to use this year’s rebate in the following ways:
First, we will give $10,000 of our rebate to outreach, in service to those in need.
Second, we plan to build walls to serve as a backdrop for the ambo and the presider’s chair. Depending on how long you’ve been here, you may recall when there was nothing but open space in those locations. While the openness it provided was good, we eventually hung the fabric panels you still see. They provided a place to hang seasonal art, to give color, beauty and focus to the sanctuary, the heart of where we worship. The walls we plan to construct will still provide openness and light to pass through, a place for seasonal art and color. You get some sense of it, looking at the architectural rendering in the back of the church. Our intention is to have these built in the summer.
But there’s more: We also plan to set aside a portion to help fund next year’s Parish Mission and Parish Picnic.
Finally, any remaining amount will be used to fund maintenance needs for our parish facilities.
For whatever way it serves as a convenience for you, we will now give you the opportunity to fill out a pledge card, which can then be placed in the collection basket. I ask you to pray about possibly contributing the equivalent of $1 per day for the year. If you’re not sure if you can do that or even want to, please spend a little time this week praying about. I’m well aware that there are those among us who are struggling to make ends meet, and so any contribution is helpful, even prayers in lieu of a monetary gift. It all helps.
As a seminarian, I benefited directly from your past generosity: all so that I might be here with you all, to serve in the name of Jesus the Good Shepherd. And if I live long enough to become a retired priest, I’ll again benefit directly from your generosity. For it all, I am most grateful and privileged. For all the ways you’ve made it possible, through contributions to the Annual Catholic Appeal, through prayers, and everything else—for it all, I am truly grateful.