May 13, 2005

Parishes give up their own funds
to help home missions

By Brandon A. Evans

When talking about the home missions of our archdiocese—those parishes and schools that serve important populations but need financial help to continue operating—the focus is usually on the places receiving help.

But for every success story in the archdiocese of a parish or school that was given vital financial assistance, there lies behind it the story of a parish’s generosity in providing that help.

The home missions are funded through the archdiocese in different ways.

A large portion of the money raised in each year’s United Catholic Appeal—more than $1 million in recent years—goes toward home missions.

Another way that these parishes and schools in need are helped is through grants from the Saint Francis Xavier Home Mission Fund.

The home mission fund receives all of its money from parishes which choose to give the money they raise above their individual United Catholic Appeal goal—money the parishes could choose to keep for themselves—to the home mission fund.

Last year, 11 parishes and schools received more than $400,000 from the Saint Francis Xavier Home Mission Fund thanks to the generosity of other parishes.

Parishes may also choose to give money from its weekly collections or from parish fundraisers to the home mission fund.

Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove is one parish that has given money raised from parish events to help out home mission parishes and archdiocesan schools that are in need. The parish gave about $40,000 to the archdiocese last year to help parishes and schools that aren’t as fortunate.

“It’s stewardship,” said Father Gerald Burkert, pastor of Holy Name Parish. “I kind of pushed the effort. I wanted to do that for years.”

He presented the idea to the parish council, which agreed. Father Burkert said the members of Holy Name Parish are always generous “anytime we ask for things.”

“We need to do something to give back or God’s not going to continue to bless us,” he said.

One of many parishes in the archdiocese that gives 100 percent of its UCA “overages” to the Saint Francis Xavier Home Mission Fund is St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis.

Father Gerald Kirkhoff, pastor of St. Piux X, said that the parish has been donating the money for about three years.

“I felt like this is something we need to do,” he said.

Knowing that some of the money given to the home mission fund goes to nearby center-city Indianapolis parishes and schools has helped St. Pius X parishioners understand the importance of the fund, Father Kirkhoff said.

“Their roots are in many of these parishes, and their grandparents and parents,” he said. “St. Philip [Neri Parish in Indianapolis] is our sister parish.”

“Supporting home mission parishes through the United Catholic Appeal expands and celebrates parish stewardship on two levels,” said Joseph Therber, executive director of stewardship and development for the archdiocese.

“First,” he said, “the giving parish is collectively a steward by freely sharing its gifts for the betterment of persons outside it own ‘boundaries.’

“Second, the receiving parish becomes more able to carry out its vital works of prayer, faith formation and social outreach through the partnering spirit of the giving parish.”

This whole process can help parishioners understand that they are part of a larger, archdiocesan family, Therber said.

“I think of a southside Indianapolis parish that frequently and voluntarily sends large gifts for our home missions,” he said. “This parish is so connected to the archdiocesan family that it is unwavering in its generosity and trusts that the need exists and that we will help the parish touch human lives by directing its gifts according to its wishes.”

Still, Therber said, there is room for parishes to grow in their generosity to the home missions.

“I think awareness is definitely the key,” he said, “as well as having the confidence to believe that people will respond generously and joyfully when faced with a picture of poverty greater than their own.

“A huge step forward will be when every parish in the archdiocese invites a home mission priest, school principal or teacher into its assemblies to give a first-hand account of the miracles that occur in our home missions every day.

“Accordingly, we are starting to seek individuals who would be interested in serving as home mission volunteers.”

(To learn more about how you can serve as a home mission volunteer, call 317-592-4067.)

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