New name, same important mission

2022 Bishop’s Appeal, which assists vital ministries, begins with faith in the continued generosity of parishioners

By Jim Wogan

Deacon Hicks Armor has mixed feelings about the annual Bishop’s Appeal. The yearly undertaking to raise vital funds for diocesan ministries set another record for giving in 2021 and may reach $3 million for the first time in diocesan history.

Following a year in which COVID suspended Masses and turned the world, and not just the Church, on its heels, Deacon Armor is ecstatic and grateful.

“Definitely so, and Bishop Stika is, too,” Deacon Armor said. “At the same time, I am concerned that by showing our gratitude and expressing our deep thanks to those who continued to contribute, I want to make sure that we don’t become complacent. We have a long way to go before we can fully fund all that we do. The Bishop’s Appeal is the single most important effort we make to raise needed funds for our ministries, but it doesn’t cover the entire cost of our outreach.”

Coming off a successful 2021 effort, the Bishop’s Appeal for 2022 will begin with parish announcements in late January. Commitment weekend is Feb. 5-6.

Deacon Armor is hopeful that the 2022 appeal will be as successful as in recent years—albeit with a revision to the name.

In 2022, it has become the Bishop’s Appeal for Ministries.

“The new name really emphasizes to the faithful that the Bishop’s Appeal specifically funds our ministries,” Deacon Armor said. “It is their lifeblood, and it is necessary for their survival. Without the appeal, Bishop Stika and the diocese would not have the necessary financial resources to continue our outreach through programs like Catholic Charities, Catholic faith formation, and clergy and seminarian formation, just to name a few. The ministries are the heart and soul of what we do.”

The continued growth of the appeal has been dramatic and impactful.

In 2010, the appeal raised just over $900,000. It has set contribution records in nine of the past 11 years.

“The strength of the appeal should not be on meeting a number,” Deacon Armor said. “The strength of the appeal should be the purpose of what the number will allow us to do. We always focus on how we can best serve Catholics and others in East Tennessee who are less fortunate. Jesus never asked somebody for money. He came to help people and to save souls. If we focus on money, I think we’ve missed the mark. It takes money to fund ministries, but if we focus on what we’re supposed to be doing, which is serving God’s people, He will help us reach the number. That’s why I think ministries and participation are the key to the whole thing.”

In 2021, the Bishop’s Appeal provided $578,000 to Christian formation programs in the diocese. The funds helped support religious education in parishes for youth and adults, and RCIA formation for those coming to the Catholic Church for the first time, among other efforts. Catholic Charities of East Tennessee and clergy and seminarian formation each received $500,000 last year. Youth, young adult, and college campus ministries were allocated $465,000. The diocesan justice and peace ministry received $72,000, and the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic was given $50,000.

“The faithful in our diocese have always been generous, and we hope that will continue.” Deacon Armor said.

Over the years, the growth of the Bishop’s Appeal has meant an increase in financial support for the ministries. In 2011, Catholic Charities of East Tennessee received $336,600 from the appeal compared with $500,000 annually in recent years, including 2021. Funding for seminarian education has increased from almost $119,000 in 2011 to $500,000 in recent years. Youth and young adult program funding has increased from nearly $171,000 to $465,000. The St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic has received $500,000 from the Bishop’s Appeal over the past seven years.

The record numbers have been beneficial, but they also overshadow the real need within the ministries of the Diocese of Knoxville.

“For instance, the Bishop’s Appeal contributed $500,000 to Catholic Charities of East Tennessee in 2021, but CCETN’s annual budget runs about $4 million,” Deacon Armor pointed out. “Likewise, the Bishop’s Appeal has been able to contribute $500,000 for clergy and seminarian education, but the annual cost to educate seminarians is more than $900,000 a year,” he added.

Deacon Armor has been in his current position as diocesan director of stewardship and strategic planning for just over a year. His background in business provided him with the skills Bishop Stika was looking for when considering candidates to lead diocesan fundraising efforts. The deacon also is the father of two (now adult) adopted children, which was made possible through the efforts of the Catholic Church years ago when he and his wife, Vicki, were hoping to start a family.

“Bishop Stika has recently said that Catholic Charities of East Tennessee is the social services arm of our diocese. I have been there,” Deacon Armor said. “I have two adopted kids, so I know how much our programs can help people. I was one of those people that the Church helped many years ago.”

In 2022, the name of the Bishop’s Appeal has been revised. But its mission remains the same.

“A lot of people think the Bishop’s Appeal is a money-ask, but this is so much more than money,” said Allison DiGennaro, assistant director of stewardship and strategic planning. “People come into the Church because of what it does. People living on the margins are provided shelter, food, and medicine thanks to the Bishop’s Appeal. This is a chance for people to recognize what they have been given and then give it back—so God can multiply it. That is the heart of the Bishop’s Appeal. That’s why we keep asking.”

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