By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
“It’s wonderful to be with you here tonight on this spring evening,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert, main celebrant and homilist of an evening Mass April 8 at St. Ambrose, Schuylkill Haven that kicked off the 2019 Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA) in Schuylkill County.
“It’s good to see so many here … you’re the backbone of your parish.”
The Diocese of Allentown and BAA Trust Advisory Board hosted the evening that launched this year’s appeal, “Because We Are Catholic,” which has a goal of $4.6 million to help those in need.
The liturgy was followed by a reception in the parish hall, which included presentations by two BAA Trust Advisors: John Boyer, parishioner of St. Ambrose; and Mark Scarbinsky, parishioner of St. Clare of Assisi, St. Clair.
The appeal always begins after Easter.
Monsignor William Glosser, pastor of St. Clare of Assisi and vicar forane of the Schuylkill Deanery, was principal concelebrant.
Also concelebrating were Monsignor William Handges of Pottsville, pastor emeritus of St. Peter, Coplay; Father Ronald Minner, pastor of Holy Cross, New Philadelphia; Father Paul Rothermel, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, Ashland; and Apostles of Jesus (AJ) Father Barnabas Shayo, assistant pastor of All Saints, McAdoo and chaplain at Lehigh Valley Hospital Schuylkill, Pottsville.
Also, Father Eric Tolentino, administrator of St. Mary, Ringtown and St. Joseph, Sheppton; and Father Christopher Zelonis, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel, Minersville. Monsignor Edward Zemanik, pastor of St. Ambrose, concelebrated and was master of ceremonies.
“Jesus gets himself into trouble when he refers to God as his father. As Christians, we have the image of God as a loving father. People of the Old Testament didn’t see him that way, they saw him as more of a judge,” said Bishop Schlert in his homily, adding part of the reason they subsequently wanted to put Jesus to death is that he saw God as his father.
“We are people of the Trinity,” the Bishop said.
“We as a Church reach out in love to those most in need. In penance, we meet a loving God. In the Eucharist, we meet the divinity of Christ. At confirmation, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us in love.
“We are asked to put the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit into what we do every day.
“All of us are born in love, surrounded by the love of the Trinity, and will stay in the love of the Trinity.”
The Bishop thanked those gathered for all they do, and said, “Calling God our Father through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit – it’s what makes us Catholic.
“The best way to start our appeal this year is with the greatest prayer ever – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
As the evening segued into the reception, Father Zemanick led those gathered in a prayer and Paul Acampora, secretary of Diocesan Secretariat for Stewardship and Development, offered words of welcome.
“Being with you is a blessing,” Acampora told the faithful of Schuylkill County.
Acampora said news stories say that people are not giving to the Church, but said that’s not true, as the appeal has received nearly a half million dollars so far and it hasn’t even officially started.
“People like you are making a difference locally and across the country.”
The event included a screening of the BAA video.
In 2018, BAA supported community services with $2,153,000; education $846,000; vocations $508,000; parish life $423,000; parish sharing $370,000; and administration $300,000.
Scarbinsky thanked everyone for their past support of BAA and voiced confidence “we can count on you this year.”
“Being a trust advisor has opened my eyes to the need and also to the different Catholic ministries who work hard meeting those needs,” he said.
Scarbinsky spoke of the Limited Purpose, Protection of Trust Assets and Segregation of Trust Assets.
Scarbinsky said assets are used solely for the intended purpose of the trust. “We make sure the money is used for intended purposes.”
The money, he said, is protected from claims of creditors of the Diocese.
Of the Segregation of Trust Assets, Scarbinsky said, “These assets can never be an asset of the Diocese. They are an asset of the trust, a completely separate account.”
Scarbinsky said board members are appointed by the Bishop for a three-year term, with a minimum of five members mandated by the trust; there are currently 12 members.
“They are representatives of the appeal. The theme this year, ‘Because We Are Catholic,’ drives to the heart of our Catholicism.
“In Lent, we are more attuned to the sufferings of Christ, and to the sufferings of those around us. I’m not here to talk about your level of donation – that’s between you and God. I challenge each of you to be an ambassador for Christ.”
Boyer said he’s been a BAA trust advisor since its inception in 2012. “I’m proud to be part of this wonderful group.”
Boyer said approximately 48 percent of BAA funds go to health and human services, including Catholic Senior Housing.
Catholic Charities is the largest recipient of the appeal,” he said, funding such things as feeding the hungry, assisting families with counseling in their grief and other traumas, case management for older adults and pregnancy support.
“Last year over 100 households in Schuylkill County received counseling, and 1,000 meals were served at the Pottsville Soup Kitchen,” Boyer said. “These are our neighbors.”
Boyer said BAA supports the three Diocesan special learning centers, including St. Joseph Center for Special Learning, Pottsville. Students in Schuylkill County benefit from the Bishop’s Catholic Scholar Program, and “in something that’s near and dear to my heart, grade schools in Schuylkill County receive a stipend.”
He added BAA funds also help adult formation, Ministry with Persons with Disabilities, and seminarians. “I’m proud to say we have two diaconate candidates from our parish.”
Boyer said if a parish exceeds its BAA goal, 50 percent of the money is returned to the parish.
He said administrative costs of the appeal are only 6 percent, and administrators make sure the funds go where they can do the most good.
“Because we are Catholic, it is our calling to reach out to those who need it most. No contribution is too small – every dollar makes a difference.”
“The most important thing about the appeal is we do it because we are Catholic,” the Bishop said. “When someone comes for service, we don’t ask if they are Catholic.”
Bishop Schlert referenced the Diocesan Mission Statement, “A Roman Catholic family of faith, centered in the Eucharist, faithful to the Church’s teaching, bringing the light of Christ to each other and our community.”
“Bring the light of Christ to each other and are community – we do this in many ways, but BAA lets us do it in concrete ways,” Bishop Schlert said. “That happens not because of me, but you.
“I’m very proud of the work we do together in BAA.”
“The appeal – in all its forms – has been a part of my life since childhood,” said Eileen Barlow, parishioner of St. Joseph, Frackville. “My mother used to ‘collect’ for Catholic Charities when I was young. I can still picture her going door-to-door.
“I have worked in and for the Church since I was in my teens and have seen the need for support of our seminarians, clergy, special needs students, soup kitchens, and the like. We are charged with caring for the least of our brothers and sisters, and this is a small way in which I can give back.”