When I was appointed archbishop here back in 1997, I was reminded that my responsibilities embraced three essential ministries. First of all, I must be a teacher of the faith. Secondly, I must do everything I can to sanctify and bless the people whom I’ve been called to serve, particularly through the celebration of sacraments. Finally, I was to lead this church in western Oregon the way Jesus would lead it, as a servant. As Jesus told his disciples, “I have come not to be served, but to serve.” All leadership in the church must be servant leadership.
Teach. Bless. Serve. Those three words sum up all that the clergy, religious and laity, in partnership with me as archbishop, try to accomplish by our presence and activities among you. Teach. Bless. Serve. Those three words seem especially appropriate for this year’s Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal, being reinstated now after a year’s absence because of the Archdiocesan Capital Campaign. In the coming weeks you will feel at times inundated with information about the 2012 appeal. Last year’s focus on the five-year capital campaign undoubtedly led some people to think we would no longer have an annual appeal. If that was true, I apologize for the confusion.
The appeal was cancelled so that pastors and parishioners could make an honest and sincere effort to support the capital campaign as best they could, without confusing the annual operational needs of the appeal with the long term needs of the campaign. That may have been a mistake, but it was a decision that I made with the support of archdiocesan leadership. I certainly am grateful to all who made pledges in the campaign and who will be paying them off over the next five years. But one year without an appeal has clearly diminished the financial resources we need to carry out the many ministries of our church. Hence it is all important for us to be successful again this year with the ACA.
All kinds of ministries benefit from the annual appeal. Some of them, like seminary education, the needs of retired priests and Catholic education were centerpieces of the campaign. This year’s ACA will continue to fund these services partially, but campaign donations will allow us to direct appeal donations to other important ministries more significantly.
This year we decided to highlight three of the important ongoing services here in the archdiocese. They are our Office for People with Disabilities, our Campus Ministry outreach on various college campuses, and tuition assistance for needy families with children in our Catholic schools. These are all very practical ways that together we reach out in love to teach, bless and serve in the name of Jesus Christ. We have prepared a video to be shown in parishes throughout the archdiocese on Sunday, Feb. 12, when we will be asking all of you to make a commitment to this year’s appeal. In that way you will hear, not only from me, but also from people across the archdiocese who have benefited from these services.
Some of our Catholic people, of course, simply are unable to make a pledge for this annual appeal. Providing a home, food and decent health care for the family must be uppermost. But the poor always seem to find a way to give to the Lord through their church. I was amazed during the past campaign how some parishes, often with less affluent parishioners, did so well in responding to our request for donations, while other parishes seemed to be more focused on their own needs and responded either minimally or in no way at all to our capital campaign. It’s a challenge for all of us to see if we really are supporting the church the way we should. After all, the flip side of the discipleship coin is stewardship. As disciples, we are blessed with the gift of faith given us. As stewards of that faith, it’s our task to spread it and thereby to teach, bless and serve others.
St. Peter reminded the early Christians in his first Letter, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” We are good stewards when we use our spiritual, material and human resources responsibly, giving generously of our time, talent and treasure. Christian stewards receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly and share them lovingly as a way of returning them to the Lord who is the source of all our blessings.
It is true that there are obstacles to stewardship which confront us every day, especially in a culture which tends to ignore spiritual realities and largely shapes the values we embrace. It’s not enough, as is the practice of some Catholics, to support the mission of the church when some ministries are attractive to us or respond to needs in which we have a special interest. We support the church because it is a responsibility each one of us assumes through Baptism and Confirmation to cooperate with the Lord and His church in the work of building the kingdom of God here on earth.
On Sunday, Feb. 5, I have asked all pastors to announce the beginning of this year’s 2012 Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal. On the following Sunday, after the video is shown in church, an in-pew solicitation will be made of all present to make a pledge, payable throughout the year, on a schedule that suits the convenience of the individual donors. A second opportunity for making a pledge will be given on the following Sunday, Feb. 19. There will also be an opportunity to make pledges through the mail or online. I ask you to consult the archdiocesan website, if that is your preferred vehicle for giving.
For this year’s appeal we have chosen a special patron, Blessed Pope John Paul II, who was beatified by Pope Benedict this past year on May 1 and who gives me the courage and energy to beg for Christ and His work here in western Oregon. Please join me in praying through the intercession of Blessed John Paul for the success of this year’s annual appeal. As that great Pontiff reminded us at the end of the jubilee year 2000, “The future starts today, not tomorrow.” God bless us all in this important endeavor, as together we teach – bless - serve here in Catholic western Oregon.