“Tell Your Story” is the theme of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal, which begins in parishes Saturday, April 21, and runs through Sunday, May 6. The goal is $14.2 million. The theme highlights the charitable works funded by the
appeal and shows how ordinary people are greatly impacted by the generosity of Catholics in the archdiocese.
Paige Keller used a variety of bright colors in her artwork — a delightful mix.
The art design class at Trinity Catholic High School is her favorite. “It’s fun,” the sophomore said. “I like to design, using color, showing emphasis, foreground, background so you can really make things pop off the page.”
Trinity is a “nice community,” a good group of students and faculty, she said, and she’s expanding her academic horizons in classes such as a computer class that has gone beyond the basics.
Her art teacher, Tony Bodnar, encouraged his students to excel by designing a drawing using the concepts they’ve learned so far, including patterns, emphasis, movement, unity, balance and contrast. He presented examples, then moved from student to student, asking each questions to prompt them to think creatively.
Meanwhile, in an Intro to Media class taught by Melissa Kennedy, students were involved in a layout and design project using computers. The class teaches the basics of video and print production. Kennedy, who teaches English and media classes, came to Trinity as a student-teacher from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and has taught at the Catholic high school for almost 15 years.
“It’s a part of who I am, to be a Titan and be part of this community,” she said. “We do a lot of good for our kids, for our families and the community.”
Students who come to Trinity “find they have people in their corner,” the educator said. “When they come here, they’re not just some kid in the crowd. They’re important to us, and their success is important to us.”
Trinity is “a mission-driven school,” Kennedy said, “and we feel it is very important to be a presence in North County as Catholics making an impact on the community.”
One of her students, Tyler Curry, found the assignment to design a poster challenging, one of the aspects he enjoys about Trinity. “I love going here,” said the junior, whose favorite subject is science. “It’s a safe environment. I’ve made a lot of friends. The education is great. I’ve seen myself grow academically.”
Trinity, which this year has an enrollment of 337, had more than $1 million in scholarship offers given to seniors last year. The school offers 58 hours of ACC college-credit classes, and students are eligible for the A+ scholarship program to Missouri community colleges. At Trinity, 99.9 percent of students graduate.
“We’re in an inclusive environment,” Kennedy said. “It’s not like we’re only taking kids that come in with stellar records. We take a lot of kids who have a lot of room to grow and help them see a light at the end of the tunnel and maybe a future they didn’t know they had.”
Funding from the Annual Catholic Appeal provides valuable support “to make sure we’re here, and we’re here to stay,” Kennedy said.
Deacon Christopher Rubie calls his time as a transitional deacon at Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie a learning experience that also is energizing.
“I believe that I have learned a lot about ministering to parishioners, particularly in such a large parish as ICD, while also learning a lot about the priesthood from such great examples as Msgr. Ted Wojcicki and Fathers Henry Purcell and Alex Nord,” Deacon Rubie said. “The priests of ICD are always available to listen to me, with whatever questions I may have with regard to ministry, and to offer advice for me as I grow in my experiences of preaching at Mass, or visiting the sick or home bound, ministering baptisms, or guiding engaged couples in marriage preparation.”
The Kenrick-Glennon seminarian was ordained to the transitional diaconate a year ago and is en route to priestly ordination this spring. The high school hockey player has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in legal studies from Webster University. He entered the archdiocesan seminary in 2014, which prepared him for parish work.
At Immaculate Conception, Deacon Rubie appreciates the parishioners and his pastoral relationship with them. “I am always energized by the life, vitality, and deep faith of the ICD parishioners,” he said. “I really enjoy talking with everyone I see at the parish on weekends; I love occasionally visiting the school and love interacting with the kids; and I especially love giving high-fives to all the children I see after Mass has ended.”
He’s impressed with the teamwork and the collective effort parish staff members contributes to making Immaculate Conception a welcoming parish and quickly felt welcome there. “ICD has influenced me tremendously in seeing how a parish can be a ‘home’ for people as they journey in their lives together as Christian men and women. When a parish can be a ‘home’ for people of all ages — a place and a community where Jesus is encountered in the lives of His people — then Jesus is truly active and alive within a parish,” Deacon Rubie said.
As a seminarian supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal, “it has been an absolute blessing for me,” Deacon Rubie said, citing “the tremendous generosity” of St. Louis Catholic families, who freely give their time, talent and treasure out of love for the Church. “I can say, along with my brother seminarians, a heartfelt thank you for all you have done, and continue to do for us,” he said.
Ministry to divorced
When she went through a divorce, Donna O’Donnell said, she couldn’t imagine any good coming from it or any way out of the struggles it brought. But she eventually healed and was determined to help others.
“I felt this call, even before I was ready, to help people down in that hole with no hope,” O’Donnell said. “I wanted to let them know that someday this divorce will not be the first thing they think of when they wake up or the last thing when they go to bed.”
O’Donnell approached then-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish pastor Msgr. Robert Jovanovic about her idea for a program to help people recover with their faith intact or even deepen. She was prepared to make a hard sell about the idea, but he stopped her. He previously had invested in a program using authoritative sources on DVDs, which was tucked away in a closet, and was waiting for the right person to lead the ministry.
The 12-week course from Ascension Press is based on the sacraments and Church teaching. Today, the archdiocesan Office of Laity and Family Life, which receives funding from the Annual Catholic Appeal, coordinates the Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide course, a support group format to help separated and divorced Catholics find peace, power and renewed passion for life. The program includes 30-minute DVD presentations each week, covering topics of shock, denial, anger, grief, guilt, forgiveness and much more, as well as discussion opportunities. It’s known for its solid Catholic teaching and good results.
The divorce ministry brings something good from something terrible, O’Donnell said. Many people turn away from the Church when they get divorced, incorrectly thinking that the Church no longer wants them, she said. The first step is to stabilize their emotions and deal with the shock, denial and depression. They need to take back the power in their lives by embracing forgiveness.
“If we ask God for forgiveness in a part of our life, we need to offer it also,” O’Donnell said.
People who experience the losses that come from divorce are encouraged to look at what’s really important — that heaven is our destiny, said O’Donnell, who trains facilitators for the course.
The permanent diaconate has allowed Deacon Allen Boedeker to have a dual vocation of marriage and ordained ministry. A couple of priests encouraged him to consider the permanent diaconate, and he was ordained 21 years ago.
A full-time theology teacher and sacristan at St. Louis University High School, he is in parish ministry and served liturgically in a number of capacities in the archdiocese. He has a master’s degree in theological studies from St. Meinrad Seminary and helps deacon candidates, “walking with them their first year through their classes. I get to sit through those classes so I get refreshers,” Deacon Boedeker said.
The Annual Catholic Appeal has been instrumental in funding the many educational efforts of the diaconate program, he said. The Appeal also supports the lay formation program, which currently includes a parishioner from St. Andrew Parish in Lemay, where Deacon Boedeker is the administrator.
“There’s never a dull moment,” Deacon Boedeker said. “People come to the door and ring up on the phone with many different situations. It continues to be very challenging in a good way. I just love parish ministry.”
He recently was contacted by a woman in the parish who’s had what he called “experiences of movements of spirits.” He put her in touch with the Catholic Renewal Center, which deals with unexplained occurrences caused by a lost soul, or what some might call a ghost. He said there’s pronounced occult activity in his parish, including at an abandoned school, and Deacon Boedeker does several house blessings each month.
Deacon Boedeker came to St. Andrew Parish in 2001. He is involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, helps with the Parish School of Religion and arranges for priests to do sacramental work at the parish.