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Appeal builds the Church, reaches out in charity

Most of us are fortunate enough to have our basic needs met. Food, clothing and housing are essentials that generally are easy to come by; but for thousands in the archdiocese, the reality is much different.

Through the Annual Catholic Appeal, Catholics are called to build the Church through their generous support, which makes possible thousands of miracles in the lives of those the Church serves every day.

This year's appeal focuses on "One Heart in Charity" and looks toward its greatest ally — the Blessed Mother — in caring for others. Catholics are called to emulate Mary's fiat, or "yes," through their support of the appeal, which runs through May 7 and has a goal of $13.75 million. Approximately 91 cents of every dollar raised goes back into the community in the form of direct services.

The appeal provides funding for programs that serve the greater St. Louis community's most immediate needs. Areas include the physical needs by the way of help for immigrants and refugees, food pantries and other services for the homeless. The appeal also boosts Catholic education, formation of priests, support for vocations, adult catechesis and efforts to defend life, marriage and religious liberty.

'A whole new world'

Father Marty Mulvihill, a resident who celebrates Mass at Mother of Good Counsel Home most days, has noticed that the smiles from Massgoers are a little more apparent these days.

In February, the skilled nursing facility in Northwoods was the recipient of 24 hearing-assistance devices, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Archbishop's Charity Fund, which is administered by the appeal. The devices amplify the sound from microphones in the sanctuary of the chapel, making it easier for residents to hearing the readings and homily, as well as the words of consecration.

The inspiration behind the effort was resident Marie Casey, who moved to the home in October. The 90-year-old has significant hearing loss, and she was using a similar device at her home parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson.

As much as the home needed the devices, "we couldn't afford to buy them," said Sister M. Christine Crowder, FSGM, administrator and superior of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George.

After some brainstorming about funding sources, Casey's daughter, also named Marie, and Sister Christine petitioned Archbishop Robert Carlson for funding. The Archbishop's Charity Fund is used for specific, special needs in areas not covered by other appeal categories.

Mass is celebrated in the chapel twice daily — once for the sisters, who are part of the staff, and once for residents, their families and staff — and on Sunday mornings. Sometimes residents who can't hear well would nod off during Mass, or lose focus and move around the chapel in their wheelchairs.

"I can see their lips moving and they pray along," Sister Christine said. "One day I read at Mass, and the lady next to me pulled my sleeve and said, 'I could hear every word you said.'"

Father Mulvilhill said a resident told him, "'I've been listening to you three years and I could not hear one word you said until now,'" he recalled. "This is opening a whole new world of hearing the Word proclaimed."

Daughter Marie Casey teared up thinking about how the devices are meeting the spiritual needs of the elderly. "It broke my heart that these people who are my inspiration — like my mom, and the priests who are living here who have given their lives in service to all of us, and especially elderly women who have raised families and taught their children how to pray — they couldn't participate. This is feeding everyone's soul more thoroughly."

"There are elderly people who long to hear the Word and the consecration," mom Marie Casey said.

College life

The Newman Center-Catholic Student Union at Lindenwood University is a godsend for Jacquelyn Olimpio, an English major who also is studying for certification in secondary education. She appreciates the support she receives in her faith and the friendships she's made.

Olimpio, whose family lives in Crestwood, seizes the opportunity to learn about Catholic teaching and celebrate the faith. Mass and adoration priorities, she said, and the mission of "bringing people an understanding of Christ as the Real Presence among us."

Helpful are dialogues that are sometimes held after Mass with various priests of the archdiocese answering questions about the faith, Olimpio said.

The center recently moved to a larger space providing room for growth. It already has seen much growth since its start six years ago.

Palm Sunday was a recent highlight, as students processed through campus before Mass. The center is known for its music ministry, annual mission trip — to eastern Kentucky this year — and Chastity Week events, called Pure Love. An Earth Day celebration will promote care for God's creation and a barn dance and barbecue in the campus quad will be the last event of the school year.

The Annual Catholic Appeal has helped boost Catholic presence on college campuses in the archdiocese, including Lindenwood. The appeal "is essential," said Carol Wilmes, campus minister. "It supports everything from our mission trips to our weekly prayer and Sunday liturgy. We couldn't function without it."

Named in honor of Cardinal John Henry Newman, Newman centers are Catholic ministry centers at secular universities throughout the word. About 45 percent of the student body at Lindenwood identify themselves as Catholics.

In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Newman apostolates have formed as well at Maryville University and Webster University. Long-established Newman apostolates are thriving at Washington University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. St. Louis University and Fontbonne University sponsor their own campus ministry programs.

Wilmes was reminded of the center's success in its mission when meeting with a Lindenwood alum, strong in her faith, who is preparing for marriage. She also cited a student who plans to enter the Sisters of Life in New York in August and one who just applied to attend Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.

"We're preparing them for a life in the Church. We're supporting what parents have started and pulling in some students who didn't have as much formation in their childhood," Wilmes said.


Another Annual Catholic Appeal recipient, Catholic Charities of St. Louis, launched an initiative, Pathways to Progress, in collaboration with its eight federated agencies, leaders in the community and other organizations to walk with families out of poverty. It provides intense, wrap-around case management and support services for two to four years while connecting to resources that enhance individual strengths, develop skills and build financial assets that lead to empowering families toward stability and long-term economic independence. Pathways has begun to work with families in north St. Louis County.

Catholic Charities of St. Louis also is providing long-term care to households affected by a tornado hit near Perryville Feb. 28. Catholic Charities was among agencies that participated March 4 in a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC), a one-stop shop to provide information and disaster-related assistance.

Archbishop Carlson asks people to respond to the call of Jesus just as Mary did. "With one heart, as the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we pray for a charitable response to help the less fortunate, those in material and spiritual need, and the forgotten. Your gifts are so important to help those facing many of the same uncertainties and fears that the young woman of Nazareth faced." 

Parishes will have pledge cards available at Masses during the weekends of the appeal.

For more information about the appeal, including videos and how funds are granted, visit www.archstl.org/aca. 

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