Our People are Generous Disciples

SPRINGTIME IN THE OZARKS—The Japanese Stroll Garden, Springfield, MO. (Photo by Bruce Stidham/The Mirror)

A blessed Easter Season to all of you! Now that Lent is over, have you gone back to your normal routine? With all the things that you might have given up, such as television or media or sweets, have you now binged on all of those things to make up for those 40 days? How about having an extraordinary Easter Season? Why not continue one of your Lenten practices throughout the 50 days of the Easter season? Are you able to go to an extra Mass during the week? Can you keep the TV off and pray the rosary as a family? Is there some way that you can mark these 50 days of Easter as a special time to grow in your faith?
As much as we try to make Lent special through prayer, fasting and charity, can we not come up with some Easter activities as well?
During Lent I read the passion narratives in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. How about reading the resurrection narratives in the Gospels? How about Reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the beginnings of the early Church? During the seven weeks leading up to Pentecost (May 28), how about focusing on one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit each week? We are Easter people! Let’s not go back to the same old ways. Let’s build on what we did during Lent, and carry it through the 50 days of Easter.

In a letter dated March 10, 2023, from the Office of National Collections in Washington, DC, I received a thank you for the many donations from our diocese for the national collections taken in the year 2022. First and foremost, $78,302.79 was collected for the 2022 Retirement Fund for Religious. In a note from Sr. Stephanie Still, Executive Director for the Retirement Fund for Religious, was written, “We are very grateful to you and your parishioners for your generous support of our mission.” This annual collection helps to support nearly 30,000 elderly sisters, brothers, and religious order priests each year.

In addition to that amount, in 2022 you contributed $53,392.48 to the Good Friday collection to support the Holy Land. Add to that $44,725.42 for Central and Eastern Europe; $16,578.19 for the Catholic Communications Campaign; $44,054.12 for the Catholic Home Missions appeal; $41,767.50 for the Church in Latin America; $57,340.79 for Catholic Relief Services; and $43,785.64 for the Charities of the Holy Father. If my math is correct, that comes to a total of $326,554.55 donated last year to these various Catholic causes. That does not include your support to the local Diocesan Development Fund (DDF); the second collection each November for Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri; to your local Saint Vincent de Paul Society, or your personal donations to your local parish and other charitable organizations. Your generosity is overwhelming, and as the bishop of the diocese, I thank you.

Of course, when people are not happy with me or some other facet of parish or diocesan life, many immediately withdraw their financial support. I recently received a DDF card which said “no more contributions until you get a priest that cares about our church and our parish…” Another wrote, “we will not contribute this year because of a conflict with the parish council.” Let me be very clear, money does not influence me. I’m a realist, I know we need money to sustain our mission and ministries, but that’s about as far as it goes. Ultimately, people donate to the diocese or to their parish because they believe in our mission. We are “One Church, East to West, loving Jesus, serving Jesus, sharing Jesus.” Throughout our diocese, all our parishes are trying to move from “maintenance to mission,” focusing on holiness, intentional discipleship, and witnessing to the faith.

Yes, some of our priests speak with accents beyond our southern Missouri drawl. Yes, some of our priests may have a different skin color than perhaps do you. Yes, some of our priests might have a big learning curve when it comes to working in a parish in the Church of the United States. But let me say this: without those priests that have accents or different skin color, we would not be able to keep our parishes open. And, as I wrote to one parishioner, “instead of giving me the list of all the things you don’t like about your priest, could you tell me what you’re trying to do to help him?”

At the end of the day, we are all in this together. And if we focus only on our differences, we will find them. Rather, let’s focus on our shared common humanity, our faith, our love of God and Neighbor, and you’ll also discover a great many similarities! You either believe in the mission of the Church, and you support that mission, or you don’t, and this mission is way more than personal or political agendas.

O Sacrament Most Holy
O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all Thanksgiving
be every moment Thine.

Published in the April 28, 2023 issue of The Mirror.