By Renae Kranz
Each year when the Catholic Family Sharing Appeal begins, many of us can probably think of one or two ways we’ve come into contact with some of the things offered by the Diocese of Sioux Falls. Maybe one of our children went to a youth conference or a college-aged child is involved in the Newman Center on their university campus, or maybe we attended a talk by Dr. Chris Burgwald to deepen our knowledge of our own faith.
This past year has been one where nearly every Catholic has regularly felt and seen some of the things the diocese provides for parishes and for all Catholics: Sunday TV Mass, The Bishop’s Bulletin, parish websites, and online parish giving just to name a few.
These things have come into our homes when we couldn’t be together and helped us stay connected with each other as one family in our one faith. They brought our beautiful Catholic faith to us when we couldn’t go out to meet it in the world.
Communication is key
In past years, the Communications Office of the Diocese of Sioux Falls produced Sunday TV Mass each week so those who couldn’t come to church could still take part in Mass in some way. The audience typically consisted of Catholics who were sick, cared for a sick or disabled family member, or maybe lived in a senior care facility. It may have been your own grandmother or your great aunt or uncle watching Mass on TV.
That all changed when COVID became a reality of life. Within days in the early part of last year, public Masses were canceled and all Catholics in the diocese turned to the Sunday TV Mass on KELOLAND TV or YouTube to keep some semblance of normalcy in their Sunday routine. For some Catholics, even as most have returned to in-person Mass, this option is still their only one.
Pat McGill, parishioner at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Beresford, has been isolating herself since November of 2019 due to breathing problems. When COVID hit, she knew her isolation would last much longer. But Pat has taken it all in stride, using Sunday TV Mass to keep her connection with the Church and with our Lord strong.
“I feel a connection at 10:00 on KELO. That connection has built over the last year,” Pat says. “It’s a delight to have Bishop DeGrood as the celebrant. He’s not always there of course, but when he is, I feel like I’m getting to know the bishop better. His messages are very important in a rural diocese. It’s a very special connection for me.”
Pat enjoys watching Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, but she misses the community and comfort of being in Mass with people she knows, and most of all she misses real Communion. While she’s been isolating at home, she has appreciated how the volunteers filming TV Mass pan the camera during Communion to show those at home the beautiful stained glass windows or rest on the crucifix for a moment of prayer.
“I read the spiritual communion prayer and I’m so happy,” Pat says. “It’s a place for another connection and then for prayer. That prayer has helped me tremendously. It’s taken the guilt away, the guilt of not being at Mass on Sunday.”
The Eucharist is critical to Pat as a Catholic. She says it is her salvation and is the reason she is Catholic. She loves when her own priest, Father David Roehrich, visits to bring the body of Christ to her and gives her reconciliation. It’s been an important part of her week.
“It’s been a miracle. You look at life either with no miracles or life IS miracles and it’s such a gift,” Pat says.
She continues to stay in touch with fellow parishioners through calls and emails, she attends Bible studies by Zoom, and she watches homilies of priests from former parishes she has attended. They’re all ways for her to maintain connections and learn more about her faith.
Pat also uses the Bishop’s Bulletin to stay connected to the diocesan Church. She refers to it as “a bulletin board for the Catholic Church” and part of the brand for the diocese. She loves the color, the print and the style and feels like it’s a step above other diocesan publications in the area.
“You’re finding the gifts in the diocese and bringing them to print, because people still need print,” Pat says. “We get ideas from what other parishes are doing, and we get to see God in other people.”
The stories in the Bishop’s Bulletin often tell the stories of others in our diocese and how they are living their Catholic faith. They have provided inspiration to Pat and many others and helped to point the way to a deeper faith in Christ. The Bishop’s Bulletin has also been a major connecting point for those who read it.
“I just have been enjoying the time to read like I’ve never read before. It’s interesting in the Bulletin to see what people are reading right now (from the January 2021 issue). I found that interesting,” Pat said. “I was thinking about the story on discipleship, and I remember underlining one of the paragraphs about keeping the right mindset, because I think we can be so overwhelmed with the news.”
Pat has really made use of the communications from the diocese to keep her faith strong. “My faith has gotten stronger. Maybe it’s because I’ve had more time to pray. Maybe it’s because I’ve had more time to reflect.”
Whether it’s through the Sunday TV Mass, Bible studies on Zoom or the Bishop’s Bulletin, Pat and others in the diocese just need ways to stay connected with their faith family.
“I still feel a connection and yet I lost a little bit of community because hearts need hearts,” Pat says. “When you connect with people via the heart, it’s a stronger connection than through the brain.”
Catholics like Pat need those at-home outreaches provided by the Diocese of Sioux Falls and paid for by Catholic Family Sharing Appeal. They keep us together as the family of God.
Technology connects parish families
Information technology (IT) assistance provided by the diocese has also helped keep us connected. Behind the scenes, this office of only two leapt into action when Masses were canceled. They helped parishes across our diocese figure out how to stream their Masses so parishioners could still spend time with God in prayer, even if it wasn’t within the parish walls. That was done on top of helping diocesan staff transition to temporarily working from home.
Father Timothy Smith, pastor at Holy Cross, Ipswich, St. Thomas the Apostle, Roscoe, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Leola, was just one of the priests impacted by the help of the IT Office. Director Dawn Wolf and technology support specialist Adam Staebell helped Father Smith begin streaming Masses, but he needed a place to put those videos. With the assistance of the IT Office, he was able to create cost effective websites for all three of his parishes.
“[Parish] members can now access the parish bulletin online and also have easy access to local online Mass and prayer services,” Father Smith said. “We also have received equipment support that keeps our technology updated and our parishes on the cutting edge. Dawn and Adam are a great team and very helpful to priests.”
IT help for parishes is one area where Catholic Family Sharing Appeal makes a real impact that helps parishes save money. This in turn helps those parishes stretch their dollars to their fullest potential for their parishioners and their communities. Father Smith knows how important this is.
“The cost and time it takes to find tech support from outside providers would be a huge dent to our annual parish budget,” he says. “Our parish CFSA support pays for itself. My business experience in the corporate world has taught me that we get a dollar-for-dollar benefit for the CFSA contributions we make by saving time and money.”
“Technology can be complicated and there are definitely best practices and ways to approach technology-related issues that can make parish administration much less expensive and time-consuming,” Dawn says. “We have a lot of resources for parish discounts on hardware and software, which can really maximize those parish dollars and leave more money available for ministries.”
The IT office assists 118 parishes, four Newman Centers, 11 Catholic elementary schools, all priests, deacons and religious communities, and several Catholic entities in our diocese with varying levels of technology, telecommunications support and training.
Father Smith and other priests in the diocese have had to adjust to the reality of not being able to gather for events and meetings in person as well. With online technologies like Zoom and the IT Office’s help in setting them up and providing discounts, parishes have kept Bible studies, meetings and faith-formation events going.
Zoom has been especially helpful for Father Smith’s parishioners who have used it for youth ministry, adult programs and their local group of Legion of Mary. All ages have stayed connected with each other.
“I never cease to be amazed to hear how [parish] members benefit from the technology we use,” Father Smith said. “I have a parishioner who is 101 years old and she participates in the Legion of Mary online meetings and watches streaming Mass faithfully. It means so much to her and others to see the home parish each week.”
Similar stories could be told by other priests all over the diocese. With online streaming and other technology needs, the IT Office has never felt more crucial to parishes. They were even able to make online giving easier for parishioners so parishes could continue to function during a very uncertain period. Father Smith was grateful for that option.
“Our members have adopted it (online giving) easily. We also have received online donations from people across the country who want to support the hometown parish. That has been a big surprise,” Father Smith said.
The IT Office doesn’t charge for any services provided to parishes and staff. It’s a direct benefit of appeal contributions, and Dawn says their office couldn’t exist without Catholic Family Sharing Appeal dollars.
“Everyone has gifts and talents that are God-given, and our gifts happen to be around technology and providing solutions to those we serve,” Dawn says. “We are blessed to do what we do for diocesan organizations and people we love. Nothing gives me and my staff more satisfaction than helping our parishes and our bishop, priests, deacons and religious with technology.”
What else is supported?
As Catholics, we are called by our God to show our love of neighbor by sharing our gifts with others. Catholic Family Sharing Appeal allows us to share those gifts with others in our own diocese and in our own communities.
The list of programs, ministries and events supported by CFSA is longer than I’ve described so far, but all of them will help us implement Bishop DeGrood’s new vision for the diocese, Lifelong Catholic Missionary Discipleship Through God’s Love. (For more on the Bishop’s vision, you can read the feature story in the July 2020 issue of the Bishop’s Bulletin.) This vision will allow us, God’s people, to spread His love and make Him tangible to others in our communities. It’s our calling directly from our Lord in Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Give with a generous heart
Pat and many others like her count on the ministries of the diocese at this time of challenge. She continues to have a grateful heart for all that is given through Catholic Family Sharing Appeal. But she also knows not everyone realizes the importance of this appeal. It connects the diocesan parishes and parishioners to each other in God’s love.
“We become connected through the diocese with all of these parishes,” Pat says. “And if our parishes don’t support the mother house, that’s what I call the diocese, it’s the mother house. If we don’t support that, programs die. And once a program dies, and I’ve learned this in all my years in education, you don’t get it back.”
Support for the programs and ministries of the diocese through Catholic Family Sharing Appeal will provide the path to bring Jesus to those around us through the Bishop’s vision. Please open your heart and give generously as you are able.
And go out and make disciples of all nations.
To see more information about the Catholic Family Sharing Appeal, visit sfcatholic.org/cfsa.