Annual Diocesan Appeal planning opens with eye on economy

Photo Caption: Elaine McGinnis of St. Bernard’s, Bushnell, receives the top attendance prize for her parish from Bishop Jenky at the 2009 Annual Diocesan Appeal kickoff event.

By: By Tom Dermody

The work of Christ must continue even in times of economic stress, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, told hundreds of parish volunteers who met Saturday to begin prayerful planning for the 2009 Annual Diocesan Appeal.

“An enormous amount of everyday generosity, unshakeable faith, and sacrificial giving is witnessed in the history of our Catholic diocese,” said the bishop in his homily at a Mass opening the appeal planning day at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Peoria.

Representatives from most parishes in the diocese were on hand to begin work toward this year’s appeal, which in April will seek $5.3 million to support the centrally funded apostolates and agencies of the diocese. The theme of this year’s Annual Diocesan Appeal is “Count Your Blessings.”

At both the Mass and in later remarks at the Spalding Pastoral Center, Bishop Jenky acknowledged the challenging economic times. The 2009 appeal goal, unchanged from last year, reflects the diocese’s concern and its pledge to “be as frugal as we possibly can.”

“People are thinking more seriously about what is important and what is less important” as they make financial decisions, said the bishop. Supporting the work of Christ — both at the local parish and school level as well as the diocesan and universal church — is always important, he said.

Bishop Jenky recounted how the church’s work continued through past recessions, the Great Depression, and even times of persecution.

“The work of Christ flourished in the Diocese of Peoria, and I have every confidence it will continue,” he told the group.

He thanked those who braved snowy roads to attend Saturday’s Mass and appeal kickoff. About 35 priests were present to concelebrate the Mass, during which prayers were offered for the success of this year’s appeal.

For many of the parish representatives, the brief kickoff meeting that followed the Mass provided their first look at the Diocese of Peoria’s new Spalding Pastoral Center. Bishop Jenky welcomed them to the new building that will serve them for years to come.

While extolling the new center’s technological and environmental virtues, he added “the best thing is it’s paid for,” thanks to extraordinary gifts to the diocese.

The day was planned by the Office of Development and Stewardship, and featured a preview of a seven-minute video promoting the Annual Diocesan Appeal. Participants received a planning packet giving the appeal’s purpose and history and suggesting “10 keys to a successful ADA.”

A breakdown of the proposed distribution of funds was also presented, showing how much funds would be distributed among categories including Catholic schools and religious education, social concerns, pastoral care, and vocational development. Six parishes received a jump start to their drive through attendance prizes awarded through a drawing.

Several department heads from the Diocese of Peoria were present and were introduced to the crowd. Speaking on their behalf was Vincent McLean, director of the Office of Catechetics, who described how his staff and six regional directors serve the diocese’s 1,250 catechists and thousands of students.

In his opening prayer, Msgr. Paul Showalter, P.A., vicar general, expressed gratitude for all of God’s blessings, “especially the gifts of life and faith.” He said Jesus’ example shows us “the meaning of life consists in giving.”

“It’s not temporary success, riches or fame that gives life meaning,” said Msgr. Showalter, “but service rendered to God brings fulfillment.”

Both the video and poster promoting the 2009 Annual Diocesan Appeal make use of the image of the rosary. Bishop Jenky noted the diocese is preparing to celebrate a special Year of the Rosary and said the power of the devotion may be needed more than ever.

“Against all odds, Christianity will always win with Mary praying for us and with us,” said the bishop.

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