By Reathel Giannonatti for OND
With the conclusion of 2018, we reflect on the relationship parishioners have with their diocese as gifts of time and talent are recognized and gifts of treasure have been accounted for. Relationships between diocesan offices and faithful donors have been built over time through a commitment to open and forthright communication, trust and mutual affection. Unlike the very personal relationships of parishioners to their parishes, where the trust and affection of volunteers is so visible and immediate, much of how we determine the health of diocesan relationships to donors is determined by the bottom line.
At the end of November, 266 lay parish leaders left their families, jobs and other commitments to spend two days at the Convocation of Parish Leaders in Fargo. This group of parish delegates committed to work diligently to evangelize the unchurched and the fallen away. Lay people, priests, pastors and deacons listened with fixed attention. The event was an extraordinary expression of stewardship of the faith and a profound connection between parish volunteers interfacing with diocesan ministries.
The Mount Saint Benedict Foundation is providing up to five years of funding for parish leaders to continue their work as “missionary disciples” through a grant to the Catholic Community Foundation. The Office of the Bishop and the Office of Formation in Discipleship have built a strong bond of mutual trust, cooperation and communication with the Mount Saint Benedict Foundation Board. The sisters are stewarding this work, with our lay leaders and pastors acting as their “boots on the ground.”
At the Chancery, we set the 2018 Diocesan Annual Appeal (DAA) goal at $900,000, which along with grants and parish assessments provides the funding to meet the annual budget of $2.3 million. We are 2% away from our goal in gifts and pledges. Year end for the 2018 DAA is January 31.
In November, Bishop Hoeppner made his annual appeal to support St. Mary’s Mission at Red Lake. Our pastors, (who continue their ministry in the face of media attacks and the shame we all share in the recent disclosures of abuse and subsequent cover-up) stepped up and encouraged parishioners to support the poor and especially St. Mary’s Mission which experienced a horrific fire and the loss of their parish building in 2017. By Jan. 1, 2019 gifts for school operations from more than 1,000 donors totaled nearly $160,000. This represents more donors and larger gifts than the Mission has ever received in any past St. Mary’s Mission Appeal. This total does not include gifts received from donors outside our diocese, many whom give in response to our mailing. These gifts have been coupled with major additional gifts restricted in use for a new parish building. Catholics are generous to those in need.
The work our pastors have done in building the Seminarian Education Endowment is equally humbling. The Office of Stewardship and Development created a brochure to encourage individuals, parishes and organizations to commit to building the Endowment. Seven parishes began a new burse, eight parishes funded an existing burse, many individuals made gifts large and small to existing burses or opened new burses in their own or a loved one’s name. The Seminarian Education Endowment has grown by just under half a million dollars over the past three years; clearly an expression of confidence in our future and trust in the institution. The Catholic Extension Society of Chicago has awarded the Diocese of Crookston a $25,000 seminarian education matching grant for 2019 in recognition of this excellent work.
The Father’s Day Collection for retired priests which provides health insurance coverage and reimbursement for other medical and dental expenses exceeded the previous year’s totals by over $10,000. Msgr. Michael Patnode was featured in our OND ad, as he had recently retired from ministry. He continues to serve in parishes nearly every weekend.
In a year fraught with troubling revelations and doubts, lay and ordained Catholics continue to be stewards of their faith. We have set out on a path to repair relationships with the fallen away and to grow the faith. Parishioners give their time and their talent. The joy and the energy of the gathered lay faithful at the Convocation in Fargo was palpable. Faithful donors continue to support their parishes and diocesan ministries. Parishioners across the diocese never seem to forget the needs of the poor. While stewardship messaging and timing are never quite perfect, and the gratitude expressed to the faithful and the pastors who lead them is always inadequate, we have been successful in 2018. The Holy Spirit is with us, leading us to a new place, where no matter what we face, we will not only survive but thrive.
Reathel Giannonatti is the Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development.