Bishop’s Appeal underway in all Diocese of Knoxville parishes

Funds raised benefit Catholic Charities, seminarian education, youth, justice and peace, St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic

By Jim Wogan

The Bishop’s Appeal 2017— a critical source of annual funding for diocesan works of mercy, formation, evangelization, education, and charity — is underway at all 51 parishes and mission churches in the Diocese of Knoxville.

The theme for the Bishop’s Appeal 2017 is “Called to Serve” — words inspired by a prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Calcutta.

“Everything St. Teresa says is powerful and carries meaning, because she actually lived the words she spoke,” Bishop Richard F. Stika said. “Mother Teresa’s words were rooted in her love for Jesus, her work, and the people she served. Without action, words mean almost nothing. When we abide by our words, we give them meaning.”

“The Bishop’s Appeal is vital to our mission as the Catholic Church in East Tennessee because it helps fund our works as a diocese — by supporting all of the programs we undertake throughout the year,” Bishop Stika added.

The Bishop’s Appeal 2017 kicked off in late January with an information weekend at all parishes and mission churches around the diocese. Commitment Weekend was held Jan. 28-29.

Bishop Stika has called the appeal the “lifeblood” for diocesan ministries.

Gifts to the annual Bishop’s Appeal fund a variety of critical programs, including Catholic Charities of East Tennessee; seminarian and clergy formation; justice and peace programs; Christian formation; the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic; and youth, young adult, and campus ministries.

“Catholic Charities of East Tennessee receives a significant portion of our annual operating budget from the Bishop’s Appeal. Without it, our programs and our ability to serve those in need would suffer greatly,” said Sister Mary Christine Cremin, RSM, executive director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee.

The Bishop’s Appeal expects to contribute $500,000 to Catholic Charities — nearly 13 percent of the organization’s approximately $3.8 million annual budget.

The St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic is to receive $100,000 to assist its mission to provide free medical care to remote areas of East Tennessee.

The Bishop’s Appeal will contribute $500,000 to support clergy and seminarian formation in 2017.

“For me, it’s quite simple, if the Diocese of Knoxville didn’t have organizations and people with such giving hearts to help fund my education to go to seminary, I wouldn’t be a priest right now. I couldn’t afford to do it,” said Father Ray Powell, who was ordained in 2015 and serves at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in LaFollette and Christ the King Church in Tazewell. Since 2014, the Diocese of Knoxville has ordained nine priests.

Nearly $430,000 is appropriated for Christian formation, including support for Catholic schools, parish-based religious education, catechist formation, marriage preparation and enrichment, and RCIA.

Additionally, the appeal will provide $400,000 for youth, young adult, and campus ministry programs.

Even in the midst of a successful capital (Home) campaign, contributions to the annual Bishop’s Appeal have grown in recent years. Bishop Stika credits the generosity of parishioners and their understanding that the annual appeal remains vital for the day-to-day ministry of the diocese. In the end, Bishop Stika says, it comes down to an acknowledgement of Mother Teresa’s example.

“I have told people that the Bishop’s Appeal is not about me. It’s about the good work we can do for our diocese. Cardinal (Justin) Rigali and I have contributed to the Bishop’s Appeal because we believe in it, because without it, we aren’t living up to the challenge Mother Teresa has presented,” Bishop Stika said. ■

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