Story by Reagan Scott
(SNR) - The first weekend in May marks the kickoff weekend for the annual Charity and Stewardship Appeal for the Diocese of Lincoln.
Father Michael Zimmer is serving in his fourth year as director of the Charity and Stewardship Appeal, which was established under Bishop Glennon P. Flavin in 1971. This year marks the 47th year of the appeal.
“The primary goal was to support education in the parishes,” Father Zimmer said. “Today, a small portion goes to the diocese, the rest of the funds go back to the parish.”
Last year, $3.1 million was raised; $2.5 million of which was returned to parishes. The diocese uses the portion they receive to support a number of ministries such as the Office of Evangelization, Camp Kateri, Catholic Social Services, nursing home ministry, the diocesan tribunal and many more.
“All of these things are important to pave the way for us as we continue to explore life,” Father Zimmer said.
Each parish is assigned a goal to meet for the appeal. If a parish exceeds their goal, 100 percent of the funds that are raised beyond the goal go back to the parish.
The amount of money from the goal that goes to the diocese depends on how many schools the parish supports. If a parish does not support a school, all of the funds raised towards their goal will go to the diocese.
For parishes that support one school, 40 percent of the goal goes to the parish, and 60 percent goes to the diocese. Parishes that support two schools receive 80 percent of their goal and 20 percent is returned to the diocese.
This year’s goal for the 135 parishes in the diocese is $1.9 million, which was not increased from the last year, according to Tracy Lockwood, finance officer for the diocese. Of that amount, only about $700,000 will go to the diocese, and only a small portion covers administrative costs.
“When it comes to administration of the program, we operate at a four percent administration cost,” Father Zimmer said. “A high majority of every dollar given goes directly to help people.”
In years past, the Charity and Stewardship appeal has exceeded its goal, raising an average of about $3 million each year, which Lockwood thinks says a lot.
“I think it says parishioners are passionate about their parishes and their schools and that they’re dedicated to the Church’s mission,” she said.
The average participation rate in the appeal is between 40 and 50 percent, which is higher than the national average. However, just like the national average, that number is starting to decline. This year’s goal is to try to get more people to support the appeal, no matter the amount they can donate.
For some, that could mean something as simple as giving up one $5 latte a month, saving $60 over a year, which could be enough to help a child defer the cost of summer camp at Camp Kateri.
“We have a need to give because it takes us outside of ourselves,” Father Zimmer said. “We are not isolated individuals but a community that supports each other.”
The theme of this year’s appeal is Psalm 95:6 which states, “Come let us bow down and worship.” This theme goes along with Bishop Conley’s desire to increase Eucharistic Adoration in the diocese.
“This year, we reflect on what it means to bow down before our Lord, especially in the practice of Eucharistic Adoration,” Bishop Conley said in a video promoting the appeal.
The Bishop’s desire for increased Eucharistic Adoration goes hand in hand with the mission of the appeal.
“By supporting the Charity and Stewardship Appeal people are directly supporting programs that encourage Eucharistic Adoration and encounters with Jesus,” Father Zimmer said.
During the kickoff weekend, every registered household in the diocese will be able to pick up a pledge card at their parish that they can use to donate. There is also a link on the diocesan website where people can donate online and can even give a one time, quarterly or monthly gift.
In a video promoting the appeal, Bishop Conley said, “Your support is vital to the Church’s mission to bring Christ to all, to set us free from sin and free for holiness.”