by John Mark Willcox, Director of Stewardship & Development
For only the second time in its history, our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal will take place during a Jubilee Year for the Church. As we work to serve during this “Year of Mercy,” there is no better way to enter into the Jubilee spirit than by supporting our Annual Appeal and all it provides for the people of our diocese. Various Appeal programs and ministries take on an even greater significance in light of our “Year of Mercy,” as your Appeal continues its mission to provide for the work of Christ in our region.
As in prior years, Appeal care for our retired and infirm priests remains a priority as our ordained workforce continues to age and require assistance. This includes those dedicated priests who are currently working past retirement age to provide for the people of God within our diocese. This year, eight retired priests will depend on Appeal assistance with additional retirees expected.
“I have visited all of our retired priests recently and I can say with confidence that they are well cared for,” commented Vicar General Fr. Rothell Price. “Appeal assistance makes a real difference in their lives and they greatly appreciate this annual support from the faithful.”
Working to replace our retired priests with the newly ordained remains the job of Vocation Director Fr. Matthew Long. “We simply could not facilitate the seminary education for our nine men in formation without Appeal support,” said Fr. Long. “These seminarians are very aware of how our Appeal assists in their journey to ordination and I join them in thankfulness for the assistance of our Appeal supporters.” To have nine men in training for the priesthood is indeed a blessing for our diocese, and your Appeal dollar is key to bringing their desire to serve as priests to fruition.
Appeal support is also assisting Catholic Charities in their efforts to establish an office in the Eastern Deanery. “We are so excited to be able to have an office in Monroe,” related Catholic Charities of North Louisiana Executive Director Jean Dresley. “Being able to provide assistance for the needy of our Eastern Deanery has been a goal since our inception and now, due in part to Appeal support, we will see it happen this year.”
Your Appeal gift will help to further the development of a comprehensive youth plan fostered by the Office of Campus, Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Since 2015, Kevin Prevou has directed this office which seeks to provide the very best in outreach and ministry to these critical members of our worship community. “Our Appeal truly helps us reach out to our youth and young adults within this diocese.” reminds Kevin. “Appeal support allowed us to host a number of special events and training opportunities for the youth of our diocese last year, including a November trip to Indianapolis for the National Catholic Youth Convention for nearly one hundred Catholic high-schoolers from across our diocese.”
Our Catholic educational system that includes our schools and catechesis remains strong because of yearly Appeal support of tuition assistance and services provided to those teaching the Catholic faith at the local parish level. Our numbers of Spanish-speaking Catholics continues to grow and Appeal support of our Hispanic Ministry efforts is sustaining successful outreach to this vibrant part of our worship community.
Your Appeal also supports a Safe Environment Program that has educated thousands across our diocese. It also sponsors the mission of our diocesan Office of Worship, continuing education for our clergy and our award-winning monthly publication, the Catholic Connection.
Having visited all of our worship locations last year, Bishop Duca remains upbeat about our future as a combined worship family. “Seeing and speaking with so many of our Catholic faithful last year just reminds me as bishop how lucky I am to serve such a diverse and active group of believers,” noted Bishop Duca. “I am not only inspired by the work being done in our parishes, chapels and missions, but the generosity of our people is also very inspirational to me personally. Know that your support of our Annual Appeal really does make a difference and I was able to experience that fact for myself during my weeks of visitation across the diocese.”
Whether you want to help a Catholic child attend school, provide for a retired priest, assist the needy through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, give a Catholic foundation to our youth and young adults or sponsor a man in seminary, our Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal is the perfect vehicle to accomplish all of this and more. Take time this year in prayer to discern how you can assist our Appeal campaign and make your 10-month pledge on February 21 to aid the Church with ministries and programs that are available through no other source. Let us strive to make this “Year of Mercy” a tangible Jubilee Year to those in need across our region.