October 18, 2013

United Catholic Appeal funds essential to celebrating the sacraments

(This is the third in a series of four articles looking at how “United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope” funds are distributed, and how the funds benefit all in the archdiocese. See the second article.)

By Natalie Hoefer

In his Catechism on the Priesthood, St. John Vianney posed a series of questions:

“Who placed [the Eucharist] there, in that tabernacle? Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace?”

To each question, he answered “the priest,” and for some of those questions, one could additionally answer “the deacon.”

Without priests, and often nowadays without deacons to assist them, there could be no celebrating of the sacraments—in essence, says St. John Vianney, “there could be no religion.”

This week, we focus on how funds from “United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope” benefit all in the archdiocese by aiding in the formation of priests and deacons, and in caring for retired archdiocesan priests.

‘Freedom to discern without worry’

For Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, the United Catholic Appeal funds are “spread around,” says Father Robert Robeson, rector of the seminary.

“It supports us in being able to provide the educational resources that are needed for [college] seminarians in their formation. It helps support our operations, helping with the buildings, doing retreats and formation classes.

“It’s not a one-to-one kind of thing where [the appeal funds] pay for a seminarian, but it helps us do what we need to do above other monies we receive so we can provide well-formed individuals for theological seminaries,” says Father Robeson.

Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, however, does provide one-to-one assistance to seminarians with United Catholic Appeal funds.

“The funds from the United Catholic Appeal go directly toward seminarian education. They pay for tuition, room and board, insurance and other fees related to formation,” says Father Eric Augenstein, archdiocesan director of vocations.

“It allows the archdiocese to educate our future priests spiritually, academically and pastorally. Providing for the well-rounded formation of future priests benefits the archdiocese by having priests formed in the history and theology of the Church, but also pastorally to be able to minister in parishes and schools.”

The funds also allow archdiocesan seminarians to attend the Pontifical North American College in Rome, as well as for seminarians to participate in summer Spanish language immersion programs in Latin America.

Father Joseph Moriarty, who currently serves as vice-rector at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and as associate director of spiritual formation at Saint Meinrad, says having their seminarian formation paid for gives them “the freedom to discern without worry or anxiety.

“Having all these expenses paid for is not so much a ‘free ride’ as it is freedom for a seminarian to give attention to the call in his heart, to study, to be formed pastorally, spiritually and academically,” Father Moriarty says.

“Then the whole Church benefits.”

Deacons provide ‘a deeper bench’

Like seminarians at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, men in diaconate formation for the archdiocese have their tuition and weekend room and board at various locations in central and southern Indiana paid for by the United Catholic Appeal.

“They do not pay tuition when they enter into formation largely in part because very few deacons will ever draw a salary from the archdiocese,” says Deacon Kerry Blandford, archdiocesan director of deacon formation and parish life coordinator of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis.

“[The appeal] pays for the formation of these men, and their service is then seen back at the parishes and around the archdiocese.

“They perform charitable works within their parishes. They assist their pastors in outreach to the community and to the marginalized. We have guys who work at jails, in hospital ministry, at assisted care facilities, at pregnancy crisis centers. Many of the guys work in different aspects of Catholic Charities,” Deacon Blandford says.

Even those in parishes without a deacon benefit from diaconate ministry, he explains.

“Deacon Pat Bower at St. Barnabas [Parish in Indianapolis] works with getting folks at Methodist and IU Health [hospitals] to serve as [extraordinary] ministers [of holy Communion]. He does the training, recruiting and gets folks in to make daily visits and rounds. We have a couple of deacons who assist by going. So even if you don’t have a deacon in your parish, you might receive Communion in the hospital through their ministry.

“If a call comes from a parish and the priest isn’t there, someone has to go. That’s where the deacon can step in,” says Deacon Blandford.

“It gives us a deeper bench, and provides a whole different layer of ministry.”

‘They don’t want to just sit’

Most people look forward to retirement, a time to do what they want when they want.

On the contrary, “Most retired priests are very interested in the parishes they served,” said Father Gerald Kirkhoff, archdiocesan vicar for advocacy for priests. “They don’t want to just sit.”

This is a blessing, he said, because “the archdiocese couldn’t cover all the scheduled Masses without the help of our retired priests.”

And those retired priests—currently 41 of them—are able to serve because they are cared for through United Catholic Appeal funds.

“When priests turn 70, they start drawing retirement,” said Father Kirkhoff. “They don’t have to stay in the archdiocese, but many do. Some live in apartments, some in condos, some in private homes or assisted care [facilities].

“Besides providing retirement, the archdiocese also provides health insurance through [United Catholic Appeal] funds. Our health insurance doesn’t stop when we retire.”

Many priests don’t stop when they retire, either.

Take Father William Munshower, 81, who lives at St. Paul Hermitage, a home and assisted care facility operated by the Sisters of St. Benedict in Beech Grove.

“Not only does he help with Mass at the hermitage,” says Father Kirkhoff, “but he is part-time sacramental minister at St. Andrew [Parish in Indianapolis].”

Or look at Father John Geis as an example of an active retired priest. Although retired, the 78-year-old priest still serves as part-time sacramental minister at St. Maurice Parish in Napoleon, Immaculate Conception Parish in Millhousen, and St. Denis Parish in Jennings County.

Even the oldest retired priest in the archdiocese, 98-year-old Father Hilary Meny, still celebrates daily Mass for archdiocesan intentions in the home of family members with whom he resides.

“They’re really vital,” says Father Kirkhoff of the archdiocese’s retired priests. “I mean, 41 people who have served many years, and they’re still interested, they’re active as much as their health allows. The only thing most retired priests don’t want to do anymore is go to meetings.

“These guys have been active 40, 50 years. They’ve collected a certain amount of wisdom, insight and experience they can share. We all benefit from that.”

(For more information on the United Catholic Appeal, log on to www.archindy.org/uca or call the Office of Stewardship and Development at 317-236-1425 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1425.)

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