Parish, school leaders are challenged to know, share the ‘why’ behind all they do

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, welcomes 140 people from around the Diocese of Peoria to a stewardship and evangelization conference at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria on March 5. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Why do our Catholic parishes and schools exist?

There are many answers to that question, but the one that encompasses them all takes only three words, a gathering of parish and school leaders from around the Diocese of Peoria was told on March 5.

“To make disciples,” is the answer suggested by Katie Herzing, the senior parish coach at Our Sunday Visitor.

“Our mission, given to us by Christ, is to go and make disciples,” she told the 140 in attendance at a diocesan stewardship and evangelization conference at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. “Everything we do should be oriented to that. To be Christ in the world.”

Katie Herzing, senior parish coach at Our Sunday Visitor, gives the keynote address at the Diocese of Peoria’s March 5 stewardship and evangelization conference at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Herzing, who helps parishes nationwide create vision plans to share the Gospel in the 21st century, was the keynote presenter at the first-of-its-kind event. The conference replaced the diocese’s former biennial development and stewardship days and expanded to include those serving in a variety of other ministries such as evangelization, respect life, vocations, Catholic Charities, and the diocesan tribunal.

“We all work together for the same goal,” said Debbie Benz, director of the diocesan Office of Development and Stewardship, in welcoming remarks. “And that’s to bring people to a deeper relationship with Jesus and to help them get to heaven.”


Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, thanked those who serve the church for being involved in “essential ministry.”

“I am more convinced than ever that the heart of our faith, the heart of our ministry, no matter what we do, is to share Christ,” said Bishop Jenky. “The financial part is important, but the real importance is the journey of faith which you help people keep growing on.”

Herzing reinforced that message by urging those serving in parishes and schools to understand the Catholic “story” and to realize that not every Catholic in today’s culture knows or remembers it.

“We used to be a Christian culture and we valued Christianity,” she told the group. “Now our culture doesn’t celebrate Catholicism, it celebrates secularism, human interest, empowerment.”

She broke down the Catholic story into five Rs:

  • Relationship — We are created to be in relationship to God
  • Ruptured — That relationship is ruptured by Adam and Eve’s sin and our sin
  • Restored — The relationship is restored through Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection
  • Receive — We are called to receive God’s grace into our hearts and then
  • Respond — to that grace in our lives.

“The message is simple, but it can be difficult to live out,” said Herzing, who offers suggestions on her weekly blog,

“If we don’t have discipleship as our first mission, then we’re just an NGO doing service or a public school providing education,” said Herzing. “If we lose our ‘why,’ then all we’re doing is trying to get a lot of people to participate in our super-exciting fundraiser or volunteer for something they may not even know why they’re doing.”


After lunch, Benz showed the video that will promote this year’s Annual Diocesan Appeal. The appeal, which funds diocesan ministries and also benefits parishes, is scheduled to be conducted in most parishes on the weekend of April 6-7. Benz announced the goal remains the same as last year’s target: $6,745,000.

This year’s conference was sponsored by Our Sunday Visitor. Attendees concluded the day by breaking into smaller groups for workshops based on their areas of interest. Most were led by members of the diocesan staff.

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