Catholic Service Appeal: Lifeblood of Christ’s work in the diocese

JACKSON – There are the hungry and homeless in Mississippi. There are the troubled families and marriages. Immigrants desperate for a kind gesture and vulnerable elderly alone and needing a little help.
These are just a few of the issues at the heart of the Diocese of Jackson’s many initiatives funded each year by the Catholic Service Appeal that Bishop Joseph Kopacz kicks off in January aimed at raising $1,203,235.
In a letter to faithful, Bishop Kopacz is asking for financial and prayerful support for a successful 2020 campaign, which in turn will safeguard God’s work in the Diocese of Jackson and help the local Church to continue to thrive and grow.
As part of the drive, a special collection will be taken at all parishes Feb. 8 and 9, and all gifts, no matter what size, are appreciated to help the many ministries, programs and services that reach out to the diocese’s diverse and widespread people.
Although called by many other names and bearing a variety of themes, the Church appeal is conducted in almost every diocese in the country to raise necessary funds so the different dioceses may continue to function and provide ministry and pastoral and administrative services needed for its parishes, agencies and people.
This year, the theme of the Diocese of Jackson’s campaign is taken from Luke 1:47 and is the opening stanza of Mary’s Magnificat, “My Spirit Rejoices.” The campaign logo specifically created for the appeal is an image of Mary by artist Jill Steadman Strickland, a parishioner of St. Richard in Jackson.
“Her beautiful artwork helped us capture the theme of the campaign,” said Rebecca Harris, diocesan director of stewardship and development, who also heads up The Catholic Foundation, about the appeal inspiration.
As the campaign begins, Harris encourages all to reflect on the beautiful image of Mother Mary, the first disciple of Jesus, and her spirit of commitment, giving and praise to God for blessings. “Her ‘yes’ to God is a perfect example for all throughout our diocese,” said Harris.

Why is the appeal so important?
The appeal is essential and without it, many impactful initiatives would not be possible. For example, funds are needed to promote vocations to the priesthood and to support the education of seminarians, tomorrow’s parish leaders. At the present time, Andrew Nguyen and Cesar Sánchez, are on their final steps of the priesthood path with the help of past campaign monies. Both men will be ordained May 16, 2020 at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson and receive first assignments.
Funds help services and programs of Catholic Charities, the primary diocesan social service agency that reaches out to the vulnerable and very poor of the area’s communities, who otherwise may not receive assistance.
Appeal funds support retired priests, shepherds who have faithfully given their lives to serve in the diocese’s parishes taking care of sheep and sharing the good times and the bad moments going above and beyond. Many senior shepherds have no family members of their own, but continue to hold on to memories made during their ministry years with parish families once so much a part of their lives.
Campaign funds are needed to continue outreach to the diocese’s mission parishes, many with parishioners of low-income households. Many of the special communities thrive with support from appeal funds making mission ministry possible for the communities known for their hardworking people of great faith and love for God and his Church, which many call a second home.
Campaign funds help the diocese’s work to strengthen family life and enhance intercultural ministry. Monies make possible lay formational programs, counseling and spiritual guidance to the forgotten in prisons, religious education in parishes and outreach to young adult students on college campus, who are the church leaders of tomorrow.
Finally, contributions support evangelization and communication efforts through media, print and today’s internet touching millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This is a vital ministry in the modern world of materialism and culture of death when so many are searching for something better. Promoting the gospel message and spreading the Good News through various platforms is a significant tool that helps reach faithful and people of little or no faith. Initiatives are changing hearts and reaching and saving souls.
All are asked to answer the call and say yes as Mary did and generously support the 2020 diocesan Catholic Service Appeal. Contributions, in turn, help the Church in its mission in Mississippi. “When we join together as one diocesan family to support all these ministries, we can all make a difference,” said Harris.