“There’s a joy in giving back if you have been blessed in terms of your own life,” says Msgr. Laurence Bronkiewicz, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield and chair of the Priest Advisory Committee (PAC) for the Annual Catholic Appeal.
While parishioners in Ridgefield tend to be blessed financially, Msgr. Bronkiewicz, who was raised in Norwalk and served at parishes throughout the diocese, says that hearts filled with the joy of faith are always eager to share their gifts with others. In their generous response, richness of faith counts for more than financial wealth.
“‘Joy in Christ, Our Gift to Share,’ the title of this year’s appeal, is how parishioners respond in love and thanksgiving for the blessings they have received from God and want to give to others,” notes Appeal Director Pam Rittman, echoing his observation.
“The Annual Catholic Appeal reaches people who need help in their life journey in so many different ways,” Msgr. Bronkiewicz says. The appeal helps to fund ministries and programs and activities throughout the diocese, many of them far beyond the ability of any single parish.
“The most appealing piece for our people is the assistance offered by Catholic Charities,” he says. “We neighbor on Danbury, and our parishioners are involved in helping at the Dorothy Day shelter and Morning Glory breakfast program. A number of them are involved in making the Midnight Run to New York City, bringing down food and clothing—that’s especially needed in the winter months.”
St. Mary’s has also benefitted from the assistance of a number of seminarians over the years, and enjoyed the presence of James Bates, who was ordained to the priesthood this month, during his service as a transitional deacon. “We will have another seminarian this summer, Anh Vu, who is originally from Vietnam,” adds Msgr. Bronkiewicz.
St. Mary’s partners with St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport, and parishioners have shared projects together. Beyond that, St. Mary’s parishioners are aware of the wider world served by the diocese and areas of ministry that even their parish’s energetic outreach will never directly contact.
“When we talk about the Annual Catholic Appeal, we tell them ‘You’re touching lives you never meet, people you will never know and experiences you will never have.’ They respond to that,” says Msgr. Bronkiewicz.
“I’ve heard many reflections of the joy they experience knowing that they have had an impact. They realize that what they are giving is making a difference in someone’s life.”
In Ridgefield’s neighboring town to the south, Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton shows an equally generous response to the “Joy in Christ, Our Gift to Share” Annual Catholic Appeal.
“Peoples’ generosity comes from the recognition that they’ve been blessed,” says their pastor, Father Reggie Norman. Vice chair of the Priests’ Advisory Committee, he had previously been pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport. Although that parish lies in an inner-city neighborhood, its parishioners, too, responded to the blessings they have received.
“People are spiritually wealthy when they realize that God is working with them,” Father Norman says. They share that joy in every way they can. “Time and talent are just as valuable as treasure,” he says, noting that parishioners in both his former and his present parish are generous in every way.
The Annual Catholic Appeal assists ministries and programs throughout the diocese. “Sometimes the parishioners don’t know all the needs, or exactly what the diocese does,” says Father Reggie. The programs assisted by the appeal are many and varied. Future priests discern their vocation through St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford and retired priests retain independent living at Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Retired Priests Residence. Chaplains bring the love of Jesus to nursing homes and hospitals. The Leadership Institute enriches the faith formation of adults. Young couples are prepared for marriage through the pre-Cana program, youth can take part in the Catholic Service Corps and the C4Y chorus, directors of religious education and catechists receive support and training, and the most vulnerable unborn and elderly have a voice through the Respect Life Office.
“We’re the universal Church,” says Father Norman. “People are happy to do their part. Ours is a culture of giving. It resonates with them and expresses the joy of their faith. They trust that their support will go where it will be most useful.”
There are a number of ways to donate to the Annual Catholic Appeal. Pledge envelopes are available at every parish, and may be placed in the Sunday collection. The appeal also offers the opportunity to make gift and pledge payments online. Some companies have a Matching Gift Program, particularly to Catholic Charities or to education in Catholic schools, including St. Catherine Center for special needs. It is also possible to make a charitable gift from a traditional IRA without having to pay federal income taxes on the distributions.
“It’s easy to make a gift this way, but please contact your financial representative for more information,” says Rittman.
(For more information or for assistance on donation opportunities, call 203.416.1479 or email 2018ACA@diobpt.org.)