2015 Annual Catholic Appeal — Commitment Weekend — February 7th/8th
During these past two years, since his election as Pope back in March 2013, I have confessed many times that I am something of a “pope-aholic” and a Francisco-phile.” I just can’t get enough of Pope Francis!
“Mercy” and “compassion” are words that Pope Francis uses again and again to tell the world what Jesus and the Gospel are all about. In his first Sunday homily as Pope, he told the group of Vatican employees who were attending Mass in their little parish church just inside the Porta Sant’ Anna: “Mercy is the Lord’s most powerful message.”
As often as we celebrate Mass, we begin with the Penitential Act, asking the Lord for mercy: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord have mercy!” So mercy is first and foremost something that we ask for and receive from God, in the form of the forgiveness of our sins.
But once we have experienced the Lord’s mercy in our own lives, the way that we express our gratitude to the Lord is to show mercy to one another. Because the Lord has treated us with mercy, our proper response is to be merciful towards others, particularly to our brothers and sisters in need.
Just before he was elected Pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergolio shared with the other Cardinals a reflection on the image of Jesus knocking on door in the Book of Revelation. Usually he said, we picture Jesus outside the door, knocking on the doors of our hearts, asking us to hear his voice and open the door so that Jesus can come in. But Cardinal Bergolio suggested that there is another way to picture this scene. Picture Jesus inside, knocking on the doors of our churches, asking us to let him out, so that he can reach out to the poor and the oppressed, the people who are marginalized and neglected by society.
That image of Jesus, knocking on the doors of the church, asking us to let him out, is a powerful way to understand what the Annual Catholic Appeal is all about. Each year at this time, the ACA reminds us that we here at Mission San Diego de Alcala are part of a much larger local church; we are part of the Diocese of San Diego. By our support of the ACA, we make possible the many programs and ministries by which our local Church throughout San Diego County and Imperial County reaches out to our brothers and sisters in need.
During this coming week, all registered members of the Mission Parish will receive by mail a letter from Fr. Bill Springer and me telling you about the Annual Catholic Appeal and inviting you to participate. With our letter you will find the ACA brochure, a list of the programs offered by Catholic Charities, along with a pledge card and envelope. When you receive our letter, please read it and review the brochure and the list of programs provided by Catholic Charities, pray for the success of the ACA, and ask yourself how you can best participate this year. Don’t worry if you are not registered or if you don’t receive our letter in the mail. We will have extra copies of the brochure and pledge cards available for you next weekend.
Our parishioners here at Mission San Diego have always responded generously to the ACA. Last year, for example, 468 families pledged more than $120,000, with an average gift of more then $250. We are confident that we will be able to meet and exceed this year’s assessment of $82,000 (which is $2,000 more than last year).
As a theologian, my specialty is ecclesiology, or the theology of the Church. And I like to explain that Jesus established the Church as the way for him to continue his earthly ministry after he returned in glory to his Father in heaven. Much of Jesus’ earthly ministry continues right here within our own parish, as we preach the Gospel, share our faith, celebrate the sacraments, and reach out to our neighbors in need.
But as you can see by looking through the ministries and programs provided by the Diocese of San Diego and by Catholic Charities, there is also much of Jesus’ earthly ministry that continues beyond our parish boundaries. And there are a number of parishes in the Imperial Valley that really need our help to develop the facilities that they need to serve their parishioners.
We don’t have time now to go through the entire list of the ministries and programs by which Jesus continues His earthly ministry here in the diocese beyond our parish boundaries. But I would like to highlight one ministry that is near and dear to all of our hearts – the ministry of priestly formation.
Near to my heart, because for 9 years I was involved in priestly formation as a member of our seminary faculty. But close to all of our hearts because in recent years, two of our own parishioners have benefited from our support of the ACA.
Eight years ago, Jay Bananal, who at the time was our Youth Minister, gave up his successful career in computer science and information technology to enter the seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2012, and he is now assigned as Associate Pastor in Brawley (in the Imperial Valley).
And Corey Tufford, who was part of our Youth Group and a graduate of St. Augustine High School, is now in his fourth year of Theology School at the North American College in Rome. I look forward to going to Rome in October for his ordination to the diaconate. Corey will return to the Diocese and be ordained as a priest next summer. All of Jay’s and Corey’s seminary education have been paid for by our contributions to the Annual Catholic Appeal.
In addition to the brochure, there is a wonderful video available on our parish website and on the diocesan website that describes all of the ministries and programs that we support through the ACA. Please take the time to click on the link and watch that video. That video will tell you the story much better than I can in this brief homily.
Next weekend will be Commitment Weekend, when we will ask you to make your commitment and to put your pledge card into the regular collection basket. As in the past, you can make a one-time donation or monthly payments, using cash, check or credit card. You can also make your donation online using the link on our parish website or on the diocesan website.
Please be as generous as you can. No gift is too small if it comes from your heart. What’s important is not how much you give, but that you want to give whatever you can.
Pope Francis has told priests and deacons not to give long and boring sermons, but to be brief, preaching no longer than seven of eight minutes. So rather than going over that time limit, I will stop here.
In conclusion, let me quote briefly from the last page of the ACA brochure that you will all receive in the mail this week:
Our Response as Stewards:
Participation in the Annual Catholic Appeal accomplishes something simple but profound: it opens the door of faith for others and for yourself. Because of your gift, someone will meet Jesus Christ, have the opportunity to experience His loving grace, know His Mercy, and rest in His peace.
Thank you. And God Bless You.