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Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal

Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal Diocese of Joliet

Shining the Light of Christ

“It is not enough to receive the light, one must become light.”

~ Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There is no denying the importance of light to humanity. It brings comfort, warmth and growth. It leads us from darkness. It guides our journey.

Of course, as Christian stewards, we recognize that Christ is the true “light of the world” (Jn 8:12), and equally important to those corporal, tangible benefits are the countless spiritual ones His special light provides. Each and every day, I am grateful to Him for lighting my path, especially as I begin my ministry here in the Diocese of Joliet.

But what becomes of Christ’s light? Do we keep it for ourselves?

One cannot help but consider the servant in the Parable of the Talents, who buried his master’s bag of gold instead of increasing its yield and was subsequently thrown out into the darkness. Christ’s disciples are called to magnify His light, which is why we chose Shining the Light of Christ as the theme for the 2021 Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal (CMAA).

Our annual appeal supports 30 ministries that shine Christ’s light throughout the diocese, especially on those most in need. In this opening report, you can read how your gifts to the CMAA help the poor and vulnerable, form our future shepherds, and spread the faith through our Catholic schools, faith formation programs in parishes and programs for young adults.

I also invite you to visit and learn more about how our annual appeal allows us, together, to do our part in building God’s kingdom here on earth.

Please prayerfully consider joining me in supporting the 2021 Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal and shining Christ’s light brightly in our diocese.


Most Reverend Ronald A. Hicks

Bishop of Joliet

Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal

A message from Jane Lagger, chief development officer

When I began serving as chief development officer for the Diocese of Joliet just a year ago, the world had yet to learn the seriousness of COVID-19. But soon enough, we settled into a stay-at-home order that stretched from weeks into months, and our Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal (CMAA) faced dire predictions.

Thanks to generosity of so many in our diocese, those warnings did not come to fruition. Instead, when faced with unprecedented darkness, loyal supporters of the CMAA joined together — shining the light of Christ across our diocese.

Together, we ensured the 30 ministries our CMAA funds would continue to serve those most in need in our communities. These ministries are essential to feeding and sheltering the poor, forming our seminarians for as many as eight years before ordination, educating children and adults alike in our faith through schools and parish religious education programs, and protecting and respecting life.

The number of people requiring our services rose dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, and the manner in which we provide some of these ministries changed almost overnight. Catholic Charities, which receives a significant portion of the CMAA budget each year, still provided free meals and nights of shelter, only in hotels once its emergency and short-term shelters closed. Our Christian Formation Office continued to form children in the faith, creating a resource for families with the assistance of other diocesan offices. All 52 Catholic elementary and high schools reopened for in-person learning, thanks to the guidance of the Catholic Schools Office.

Stories about the tenacity of our faithful pastors and parishioners will be told for years to come. Future generations will learn how the light of Christ shone brightly in our diocese during the pandemic, leading many to Christ during a time when His light was desperately needed.

We now undertake the 2021 CMAA with hope on the horizon, and our theme, Shining the Light of Christ, beautifully illustrates how we, as Christian stewards, respond when our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are in need. Please continue to pray for the health of our community, and shine Christ’s light brightly as you reflect on your gift to our annual appeal.

Seminarian Formation

The Diocese of Joliet has 29 seminarians who will spend as many as eight years in formation before being ordained to shine the light of Christ as our priests. Your gifts to the CMAA support seminarian formation, which can cost as much as $50,000 a year.

Encouraging seminarians to encounter and experience God in every circumstance in which they find themselves is a valuable element of formation.

“We give seminarians the space to see their vocation as a ministry of service to the Church and the community from the gifts they have received,” said Father Steven Borello, vocations director.

Seminarians are required to complete a clinical pastoral education program and earn an assistant hospital chaplaincy certificate as part of their formation. This experience allows them to confront mortality in situations often fraught with darkness and fear. “Seminarians are able to bring hope and light,” Father Borello said.

For 10 weeks, Sam Conforti visited patients at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, finding his encounters with those who were reluctant to speak with him as valuable as his conversations with those seeking comfort and solace.

It was an experience “no textbook, nor classroom presentation, could recreate,” said Sam, who entered the seminary from Christ the King Parish in Lombard and is now in the sixth and final year of formation at Mundelein Seminary. “Each and every time I was called to a bedside of someone near death or in a very critical condition, I was keenly aware of Christ’s presence. I felt a calming and appreciative sense that I was at the place I was meant to be.”

Catholic Charities

Your gifts to the CMAA help serve our community’s most vulnerable members. Catholic Charities serves more than 60,000 children, adults and senior citizens in need each year.

The global pandemic threatened to leave our diocese’s most vulnerable out in the cold when shelters were ordered to close their doors.

“Shelters are at full capacity almost all of the time,” said Ermal Molla, an emergency services case manager for Catholic Charities. “New people that became homeless didn’t have a place to go because the shelters were closed.”

After quickly working to negotiate extended stay room rates with area hotels so clients had shelter and could socially distance from one another, Catholic Charities began delivering them meals each day, operating out of Daybreak Shelter in Joliet.

During the stay-at-home order, Diane Meader Schenk was one of only a few volunteers allowed to continue assisting at the emergency shelter. She and Gail Flatness, kitchen coordinator, worked tirelessly to package lunches and dinners for those staying in the hotels, as well as provide bagged lunches to hungry community members who typically ate at Shepherd’s Table.

She was amazed at how the community came together to keep people fed and housed — and impressed with the resiliency of those who found themselves in such a tough situation in the middle of a crisis. “To go from misfortune to disaster and still be thankful ... I pray that would be me if that happens in my life,” said Diane, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Lockport.

With great hope, those in need seek help from Catholic Charities, which shows them that when God closes one door, he opens another. Catholic Charities helps people look into the other door and see the shining light of Christ upon them.

Human Dignity

Your gifts to the CMAA protect life and all that sustains life.

Through the Office for Human Dignity, our diocese works to ensure the fundamental right to life.

“At the same, we advocate and actively engage in securing all those things in life necessary to provide for the full dignity of the human person and to protect all God’s creation,” said Thomas Garlitz, director.

To protect our planet, “the womb of all life,” the office has added Laudato Si’ Ministries to its efforts to respect life, promote justice and peace, and support mission work domestically and around the globe.

Named after Pope Francis’ 2015 landmark encyclical on the environment and human ecology, Laudato Si’ Ministries “tries to bring the light of Christ and hope to some of the darkest troubles of our times,” said Kayla Jacobs, director of programs for the new ministry.

Laudato Si’ Ministries focuses on preserving and protecting the natural world and its resources for future generations, attracting both young Catholics as well as those who have children and grandchildren. “This ministry has been a generational bridge,” Kayla said.

As a college student, Katie Gozum was involved with Catholic organizations dedicated to climate change so she was eager to participate in Laudato Si’ Ministries. “Pope Francis calls us to an ecological conversion — a conversion of heart — to turn that love of the earth and what God has given us into a response to the environmental crisis,” said Katie, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Naperville.

Christian Formation

Because of your gifts to the CMAA, parish religious education programs are able to serve more than 32,000 children and adults.

Although Wendy Jo and Paul Burnett missed their parish family at Our Lady of Mercy in Aurora during the stay-at-home order, they continued to grow in faith with their children, thanks to the God, Family, Friends program.

“There were a lot of fun games that my brother Paul and I would play to help us better understand the Gospel,” said Viviana Burnett, 9.

As soon as in-person worship was suspended in mid-March, the Youth Formation Office created its own program to help “families keep and live Sunday in their domestic Church,” said Ryan Purcell, director.

With collaborators from the offices of Hispanic and Ethnic Ministries, Family Life, Catholic Schools and Adult Formation, his office released the first God, Family, Friends electronic resource a week later, with a page for parishes to personalize before emailing to their parishioners.

“It was intentionally meant to engage whole families together in an encounter with God and fun, engaging interactions with family and friends,” Ryan said.

The program brought God’s presence into the Burnett home at a time when they needed it most. “The God, Family, Friends program helped my family to shine the light of Christ by encouraging and equipping us to make God top priority in our home,” Wendy Jo said. “We spent time as a family focusing on God’s love for us and exploring our responsibility to share His love and spread His Word to others.”

Catholic Schools

Because of your gifts to the CMAA, 15,489 Catholic schoolchildren shine the light of Christ through encounters in their classrooms and homes.

Dr. Michael Boyle considers a Catholic education to be one of the most significant gifts he has given his five children.

“I’ve seen how it’s really benefited them in terms of the way they interact with the world, live their faith life and treat other people,” he said. “Catholic schools really reinforce shining the light of Christ.”

Now, as the new superintendent of Catholic schools, Dr. Boyle is helping to ensure families throughout the Diocese of Joliet can have the same experience as his family — even during the coronavirus pandemic.

When Naomi and Jerry Barnes chose St. Andrew the Apostle School in Romeoville because of its strong sense of family, they could not have realized how much this factor would impact their decision to send their two daughters for in-person learning during the pandemic.

“The school staff and principal, as well as the families, have all been doing their due diligence to make sure that everyone’s safe while the children are at school,” Naomi said. “We’re just not numbers — they care about their well-being.”

The Catholic Schools Office helped guide the diocese’s 52 Catholic elementary and high schools to a safe reopening for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“All of our schools are open for in-person learning, which speaks to a remarkable sense of dedication, effort and persistence of not just the Catholic Schools Office, but the pastors, principals, staff, teachers, students and families, about wanting to return to something that’s very important to them,” Dr. Boyle said.

Deo Gratias Society

When you pledge your gift to the 2021 Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, prayerfully consider joining the Deo Gratias Society.

Members take a leadership role in the work of the Church, pledging to become partners in a shared vision for the future of the Diocese of Joliet.

A gift of $1,000 or more enrolls you in the Deo Gratias Society. In addition to spiritual benefits, membership includes an annual Mass and reception with Bishop Ronald A. Hicks, and recognition in our annual publication for society members.