Dear Father Joe: Should I give to our local diocesan appeal? If so, why?
I get lots of questions from parishioners about the wider Church’s fundraising efforts, specifically the once-a year-effort that, in our diocese, we call DSA or Diocesan Services Appeal. It’s an important topic; so let me share my thoughts with you on this.
First of all, in my parishes, as in most, we take up collections every week that we can. We do this because we need money to operate. The money goes to the practical and the mission. In terms of practical, the biggest expense is salaries and insurance. In the budget at both of my parishes, that is by far the biggest expense, even with our painfully underpaid employees.
Beyond that, we spend a significant amount of our resources ministering to the poor and to our parishioners.
Neither the practical, nor the ministerial, would be possible if we didn’t take up collections every week.
I would assume that this is the norm for most parishes.
Now, if we take the diocese we are within, we will see that it has the exact same needs but on a much bigger scale. The diocese needs to do what individual parishes do but without a weekly collection. Instead, it counts on us to take up one big collection each year so that it can minister and help each parish minister.
Let’s look at how the diocese cares for the poor and vulnerable first.
In your diocese, it would simply astound you if you were to track the vast and efficient charitable work that is carried out. In its ministry to the poorest and most vulnerable, I think you would swell with holy pride at what your diocese has done and continues to do. It is almost impossible to imagine how the regions in our diocese would function were it not for the amazing work that the Church does. The government assistance programs would find themselves overwhelmed if we weren’t able to help.
None of this would happen without the DSA.
DSA is also the means by which the diocese ministers spiritually.
EDUCATION OF SEMINARIANS
A big budget item for any diocese is the education and training of young men who are discerning priesthood. If a young man discerns that God may be calling him to the priesthood, it's quite the process. It takes a minimum of 8 years, usually 9 or 10. To educate a priest, you need professors who have unique degrees, and, frankly, there just aren’t many people with those degrees. Beyond that, a seminarian should be in community with other young men discerning priesthood.
You put these together and you have a very expensive, but necessary, education process, and it's literally only possible through our DSA collection.
CARING FOR THE FINANCIAL AND BUSINESS NEEDS OF ALL THE PARISHES
There is another good that is a bit harder for me to explain but is, in fact, the most pervasive means by which the DSA helps your parish specifically.
Any diocese that is well coordinated treats the whole enterprise as one unit, in some ways. When it comes to insurance, a diocese saves the People of God significant money by pooling the insured. Instead of 100 individual parishes attempting to secure rates for insurance, a diocese is able to broker lower rates by grouping us.
When it comes to building projects, your parish has access to specialists and wisdom that it would not have without spending a lot of money. At both of my parishes, we had significant projects to complete, and we saved an amazing amount of money by not having to hire specialists; instead we were “gifted” with the specialists that our collective money funded through DSA. We were able to secure bridge loans that no bank would’ve given us.
A specific example:
When I first came to my parish, I found we were significantly behind in our insurance payments, and, frankly, our math told us it was going to take some time to get this done. The diocese stepped in and helped us to work it all out, and the great news is that we caught up in less than two years. To be clear, if it weren’t for the diocese helping us, we would’ve been in some longer-term trouble.
To sum it up folks, once a year, the diocese asks each parish to step up and support the work that it does. Just as parishes must pay employees, cover insurance, care for the poor and needy, educate kids and minister to those in need, the diocese has those exact same needs and yet cannot/does not do a weekly collection.
I could go on and on … I genuinely feel a holy and joyful burden to share with everyone I can what a blessing the diocese is for us, and it's my hope that by sharing this all with you, you get a sense of why it's such a good thing to support the DSA.
As for me, I am making my pledge this week. I ask you to do the same.
Enjoy another day in God’s presence.