The Bishop's Bulletin

Learning to look outward

Melinda North, Director Catholic Family Sharing Appeal

Why does it always seem that when December rolls around all we can think is, “Wow! Where did the time go?” Is it because we are rushing from event to event or focused on our never-ending “to-do” lists? I’d like to believe it’s because we are living life to the fullest, and that it just zips by, but I’m afraid that in reality I tend to keep my head down, focused and working to finish the proverbial, “to-do list.”

Looking back over this past year I realize that one conversation has made it even more memorable than most. A priest-friend of mine challenged me (actually the whole congregation, but it felt like he was talking to me) to see what would happen if we stopped focusing inward and began focusing outward. He said significantly more than that, but this was the one piece that I could not shake from my mind, or my heart.

I am a mother of four beautiful children. I see God’s blessing every day in my morning hugs and every night as I give butterfly kisses at bedtime. This caused me to believe I was always looking outward and always seeing God’s blessing and works first hand.

But what my friend said kept coming back to me. For some reason God would not let this statement of “focus outward” leave my mind, so I took it to prayer. What He revealed to me over time was that my “outward focus” was centered on the happenings in my little world, under my roof. God was calling me to open my eyes and notice all the wonderful things He is doing outside the walls of my home. At that point I realized how narrow my focus was when counting all of God’s blessings.

Realizing how hard it is to see beyond my own walls in my personal life has helped me to realize how hard it can be to see the many great things God is accomplishing in our diocese through each of us. In my role as Director of the Catholic Family Sharing Appeal (CFSA), I find myself wishing I could somehow capture on video all the incredible things happening in our diocese and, in a sense, help others look outward.

People always ask, “What does CFSA fund? Is it really making a difference?” At times like these I wish I could pull out the magic crystal, video-playing ball to help everyone see firsthand the impact their gifts are making.

In 2016, together as one family – of 16,475 families to be exact – we came together to share our gifts through the Catholic Family Sharing Appeal.

If I had that magic crystal ball, what would it show? You would see 1,600 students and adults celebrating their faith at the Diocesan Youth Conference. You’d be able to watch these same individuals go from singing praise and worship to kneeling on a hard cement floor in adoration of our Lord in Holy Eucharist. You would see the grieving parent, spouse, sibling or child, finding comfort in the counseling provided by Catholic Family Services. You would experience the togetherness a homebound individual feels when they participate with thousands of other people in the celebration of the Sunday TV Mass with Bishop Paul J. Swain from our Cathedral of St. Joseph. I wish I could introduce you to any and all of the 31 men discerning their call to the priesthood or the staff at the Catholic Pastoral Center who work with and for the parishes of our diocese. At this point, the magic crystal ball would start buffering because there is so much more to be seen. These services listed are only a fraction of all that CFSA supports.

Because of each gift of prayer and sacrifice someone has made to share their blessings with the Lord, our diocese has come to be as full and blessed as it is today.

In my looking outward, I have seen the impact giving can make. The fruits of our gifts are real. What I’ve listed are the many blessings we can see. More often than not, the fruits of our gifts are ones that we cannot see…yet.