Catholic Appeal support affects work at parishes Print
Trusting in the Spirit
Thursday, Apr. 02, 2009 -- 12:00 AM
Trusting in the Spirit by Grant Emmel

It goes without saying that our Lord loves us enough to make sure that we have ample occasions to grow in holiness during the Lenten season.

A good example of this is how we are given opportunities to practice forbearance with people and organizations, especially when our inclination is to do exactly the opposite.

Historically, there has been a negative attitude when people speak of the Diocesan Service Appeal (DSA) that has been used to help fund the programs of the Diocese of Madison. This isn't surprising since I've never met a person who was in love with the idea of paying a tax, regardless how worthy the organization.

As the diocese transitions into a more typical funding mechanism, that is, having both a smaller mandatory tax and the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA), I thought that it would be a good time to let you know how important your support is to the Office of Planning and to give everyone a Lenten opportunity to practice forbearance for the diocese and for me.

Planning is everything

I'll cut right to the chase, ask for your forbearance, and tell you what my basic operational premise is in the Office of Planning.

Absolutely everything is about planning or making preparations. Even Scripture speaks about God's plan for us or requesting man to prepare for some future event (see Is 14:24, Is 25:1, Is 37:26, Wis 14:14, Mic 4:11, Acts 2:23, Eph 3:9, or John 14:1). In fact, this idea is so basic to how man operates, either by himself or in concert with one another, that it should not surprise anyone when I bring this point up.

So, to do things right (or to figure out what God's plan is) takes time and effort to make a good plan of action. A popular saying is "Failure to plan is a plan to fail," and it's true; you can only "wing-it" so many times before your lack of planning is going to get you into trouble.

How is that relevant to the diocese? Well, all of the work that was done by the diocese in Guided by the Spirit and Trusting in the Spirit assisting parishes in creating a strategic plan for the future, was funded by you without any buy-in from you. While there is a lot of "stuff" that was created, most of the time, effort, and money was put into planning how we were actually going to recreate our diocese in this time of a reducing number of priests. No funds, no planning. No planning, no plan for the diocese. Personally, I think it was a good investment but remember, forbearance!

Helping people do their jobs better

A huge part of the Office of Planning and the work that we do revolves around people and helping them do their job better. Sometimes we do this well and sometimes not so much. But, the point is, the Office of Planning doesn't succeed unless the people in the parish are succeeding at the work they are doing. We can't help those in the parish unless we understand their needs and concerns. That takes time and effort, lots of phone calls, e-mails, and driving long distances for meetings.

When we do understand these needs, and the people in the parish know it, there is a certain buy-in that occurs with everyone that makes us all brothers-in-arms, working together, and pulling in the same direction. This is real; it's happening every day, time and again.

Now and in the future it can only happen because of your generosity in giving to the Annual Catholic Appeal; generosity that is based upon your buy-in because you recognize that we're all committed to bringing God's Kingdom to earth. To the degree that we haven't succeeded yet, I ask again for your forbearance and prayers, and we promise to work harder at earning your generosity.

God's hand in the future

We live in "interesting" times, where our faith is constantly challenged by the difficulties we are given by the world around us. There is much uncertainty as the diocese begins this new Annual Catholic Appeal campaign, because we are depending upon you to help us help you. I'm a big believer in God's providence and that things work out in God's plan for us, whether or not we understand the reasoning or believe that we can do it.

It also helps that, last time I looked, God is the richest guy I know. That being said, it is up to each one of us to cooperate with God's command, which for God is the same as a plan, to love Him and to love one another. There are many ways for us to cooperate, but a basic one is to feed His Body, the Church. Not just your parish church, which is very important to support, but also the diocesan Church which, in some sense, is the Church of the churches.

Know that your support for the ACA directly affects the work being done in your parish. Every bit of support is profoundly appreciated because it is seen as a validation of our work -- all of our work. Yes, this change may be difficult, but you get used to that in the Office of Planning, and while I'm not sure that I convinced you about buying into the ACA, please don't worry, that's my opportunity for Lenten forbearance.

Thank you again for all that you do in support of both your parish and our diocesan ministries. May this time of Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving lead you to a glorious Easter. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or mail us at Trusting in the Spirit, 702 S. High Point Rd., Madison, WI 53719.

Grant Emmel is the director of the Office of Planning for the Diocese of Madison.