Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - For the 44th year, the Bishop’s Charity and Stewardship Appeal (CSA) will give Catholics across the Diocese of Lincoln the opportunity to share the blessings God has given them with others.
First established in 1971 by Bishop Glennon Flavin as the Diocesan Development Program (DDP), the annual appeal was given its new name by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz and continues its important fundraising under Bishop James D. Conley.
Titled, “The Light Shines in the Darkness,” this year’s CSA will once again invite every member of every parish to give as generously in support of 19 different diocesan-wide ministries, as well as every single parish and school.
Father Michael Zimmer, CSA director, said that the campaign theme comes from St. John’s Gospel, verse 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
“We’re playing on dual aspect of light,” Father Zimmer said. “It’s sharing the light of faith, but for some of these ministries and apostolates, it’s also literally keeping the lights on.”
One example of an apostolate that depends heavily on CSA funding is St. Gianna Women’s Homes.
“We call it a home because the women stay there as long as they need to. In a shelter, you can only stay a short period of time,” explained Father Christopher Kubat, director of Catholic Social Services.
The mission of St. Gianna Women’s Homes is to give practical, psychological and spiritual help to women who are escaping violence or the pressure to abort. The women and their children are welcomed to a rent-free, safe home to call their own, while multiple other services put them on the road to healing and self-sufficiency.
When a woman and her children come to St. Gianna Women’s Homes, the Marian Sisters who manage the program ensure she has everything she needs, from free rent and utilities, to furniture, housewares, food, clothing, budgeting classes, etc. Residents are even helped with job placement if necessary.
The cost of providing all this is considerable, but the multi-faceted approach is essential. Father Kubat said CSA funding is an important part of the apostolate’s financing.
“Just like anything else that CSA funds, it’s an important piece,” he said. “It all adds up.”
Catholic schools also rely on CSA funding for many parts of their budget, including giving teachers well-deserved raises, updating textbooks, repairing or replacing older equipment or furniture, and facilities maintenance.
“A lot of parish schools have already pre-budgeted with what they are going to get back from CSA,” Father Zimmer said.
Any parish that supports one school – such as an elementary school – receives 40% back of their CSA goal and 100% of funds raised above that. For parishes that support two schools – an elementary school and a high school – 80% of their goal is returned to them, along with 100% of any additional funds raised. (Parishes that do not support schools only receive back the funds they raise over their set CSA goal.)
The diocese’s ever-growing Hispanic ministry is another program that benefits from CSA contributions. Under the leadership of Father Ramon Decaen, diocesan director of Hispanic ministry10 priests spend time each week ministering to Spanish-speaking people. They prepare all ages to receive sacraments and answer other needs through corporal and spiritual works of mercy, often with the help of Catholic Social Services.
Even with that effort, Father Decaen said, “We’re playing catch-up because of the dramatic growth of the Spanish-speaking population here.”
CSA funding has enabled religious sisters from Spanish-speaking nations to come help with this important ministry. Currently, four sisters from Hijas de la Pasión de Jesucristo in Mexico (the Passionist Sisters) are working in three cities with the most concentrated Hispanic populations: Hastings, Lincoln and Tecumseh.
“We’re very grateful to CSA for the work that has already been done, which has made it possible to have the sisters here, and also for us to put together a larger plan for how to meet the needs of these people,” Father Decaen said.
With the Joy of the Gospel capital campaign running simultaneously with CSA, it’s especially important people understand the difference between the two efforts.
“The Joy of the Gospel campaign is for the future, while CSA is focused on the nuts-and-bolts of everyday operations,” Father Zimmer summarized.
A good example of how the campaigns fund different goals is St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward. CSA provides a small amount of funding for annual needs, such as equipment or furniture. The Joy of the Gospel campaign, by contrast, is collecting funds to build additional housing and classrooms so the seminary can expand.
“We want people to understand the sacrificial need of both campaigns,” Father Zimmer said. “People have responded wonderfully to the Joy of the Gospel, but there are needs that capital campaign doesn’t address.”
He noted that CSA is a way to directly and immediately have a huge impact on people in need, whether that’s an abused woman and her children who are rebuilding their lives in the safety of St. Gianna’s Women’s Homes or an immigrant family being catechized and cared for in the language they understand, and someone else.
“In baptism, we are all given the charge of letting the light of faith burn brightly,” Father Zimmer stressed. “We may not all be able to go out and help battered women, but we can make the sacrificial contribution needed to help them and keep the light of faith burning brightly that way.”
For more information about the CSA, where the money is used and how you can help, contact your pastor or parish office. Monetary donations can also be mailed to The Bishop’s Charity and Stewardship Appeal, P.O. Box 80328, Lincoln, NE, 68501-0328.