As you can tell from his column in last month‚Äôs issue of the Catholic Connection, the coming year will be one of transitional challenge for the people of our diocese. Bishop Duca will be conducting planning and listening sessions designed to help lead our combined faith community into the future. One thing that will not change will be the existence of our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal and the critical role it plays in weaving a beautiful fabric of generosity that helps define who we are as Catholics in the Diocese of Shreveport.
For the coming year, the largest Appeal allocations will be care for our retired priests and replacing those men with seminarians poised to become our new ordained leadership of the future. ‚ÄúWe provide expert medical care to our older priests and that is costly,‚ÄĚ comments Bishop Michael G. Duca. ‚ÄúBut I have no doubt that this is the right thing for our Appeal to provide to these men who have given so much to sustain the life of the Church in our diocese.‚ÄĚ
When discussing our vocations program Bishop Duca is hopeful: ‚ÄúWe have good men in our seminarian program and we are starting to experience ordinations again in this diocese. That is inspiring to our people and our priests who stretch themselves to minister to our needs throughout the diocese.¬† I certainly see Appeal support of our ministry of vocations as critical.‚ÄĚ
Religious education of our youth and young adults is another area that will see intense Appeal support in the months ahead. ‚ÄúCatholic education should be a priority among our parents of this diocese because we have an excellent Catholic school system in place to meet the educational needs of our families.‚ÄĚ As Bishop Duca reminded us in last month‚Äôs issue, ‚ÄúOur religious education programs for both young and old need a new model for catechesis that blends prayer and learning and our Appeal will assist in providing that.‚ÄĚ
In the area of charitable endeavors and outreach, our Appeal provides funding to established providers for the poor like Catholic Charities and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Bishop Duca touched on this in January when he wrote, ‚ÄúI have witnessed the people of our diocese engaged in charitable work in a variety of ways and it is very inspirational to me and I pray our Appeal support of these programs will place these good works more at the center of our mission and make it part of our everyday life.‚ÄĚ
The Appeal also provides for a host of other programs that accomplish real good for the people of our diocese. The success of these initiatives also brings pride to our chief shepherd: ‚ÄúThere are components of our Appeal that for years have done great work for our diocesan Church,‚ÄĚ said Bishop Duca.¬† ‚ÄúWhile I cannot touch on them all I must mention our bright and active Hispanic ministry that reaches young and old alike, our publication, the Catholic Connection, is award-winning and brings me consistent positive feedback from our people and even my brother bishops.¬† We have a successful diaconate program that allowed me the privilege of ordaining 16 men last year and an excellent Office of Worship to coordinate our liturgical celebrations.‚ÄĚ
All this and more is what our Appeal provides for the people of our diocese: some 40,000 Catholics who worship at approximately 38 locations within 16 civil parishes, encompassing over 14,000 square miles. This is the demographic of an Annual Appeal that has been serving the diocese since its inception. Many who read this publication have been Appeal donors for over 20 years and helped last year‚Äôs Appeal to be extremely successful. Thank you!¬† If you have yet to participate in this annual effort, please prayerfully consider doing so. A copy of this year‚Äôs pledge card can be found on page 22 of this issue.
‚ÄúOur people are so generous,‚ÄĚ said Bishop Duca.¬† ‚ÄúNothing would bring me greater joy than to see a larger percentage of our families making a pledge to our Appeal. It does so much for our diocese and for people in need. May God bless the new Appeal donors we hope to welcome to our giving family, and may His richest blessings be upon the people of this diocese.‚ÄĚ
by John Mark Willcox, Director of Stewardship & Development