By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Mary Agnes Ryan made something of a confession when she spoke about her vocation during the Diocese of Trenton’s Annual Convocation for Religious.
“The love of my life is Jesus Christ, and for 52 years, with his grace, I have responded to his call to go where he wanted me to go, for as long as he’s wanted.”
That reflection from the diocesan director of the Department of Catechesis was one of many “Stories of Love” that are featured in the 2018 Annual Catholic Appeal, which is officially launched this month in every Catholic parish across Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
The theme for the new appeal is “This Is What Love Looks Like,” answering the question posed 1600 years ago by St. Augustine of Hippo: “What does love like?”
In a message for the appeal, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., writes, “Love, said St. Augustine, ‘has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.’ In the Diocese of Trenton, we are those hands and feet.
“Love ‘has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.’ In the Diocese of Trenton, we are those eyes and ears.”
In announcing the 2018 ACA, Bishop O’Connell encourages faithful of the Diocese to reflect on the many ways each act of love is performed through works of outreach, ministry and service in parishes around the Diocese.
“Every year, the good people of our Diocese accept the Lord Jesus’ invitation and respond so generously, as their means will allow, to support and grow the essential programs, ministries and services of our Diocese. I rely on you and ask for your continued support,” he said.
“What does love look like?” Bishop O’Connell asked. “My brothers and sisters, it looks like you.”
ACA in Action
With a goal of $7 million, the 2018 ACA kicks off across the Diocese in mid-February. Parishioners can learn more about the campaign through a video that will be shown at Masses illustrating the outreach and ministries that the donated funds help to make possible. According to the Diocese’s Development director, Steve Nicholl, and associate director, Mariann Gilbride, the video will help to shine light on the Diocese’s work in bereavement, prison ministry, parish nursing and respect life advocacy. Also included will be the areas of marriage, forming priests and growing vocations, adult faith formation, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and Catholic schools and religious education.
In addition to Sister Mary Agnes’ “Story of Love,” the campaign also features testimony from:
Father Michael Kennedy, now parochial vicar of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Burlington, who shared that his June 2017 priestly ordination marked the “culmination of everything I’ve been studying for and working toward for the last five or six years and over 40 years of discernment.”
Vito and Erin Chiaravallotti of St. Mary Parish, Middletown, who reflected on the Bishop’s Anniversary Blessing Mass they took part in. The couple, who had been married a year, stated, “It was really great to see all the couples who were married 25 and 50 years. It was inspiring for both of us to see that. Something for us to aspire to.”
A teen volunteer for the Diocese-sponsored Mission: Jersey service immersion experience, who stated, “Just knowing that God put me here to do his work is so powerful to me.”
All of these programs and initiatives are made possible by the funds generated in the Annual Catholic Appeal.
Parishioners will be invited to make an in-pew contribution by using the pledge cards that will be available in all churches on Appeal Weekend. Those who wish to discern their contribution may review the appeal content that they had been mailed by completing and returning their pledge cards, or donate online at dioceseoftrenton.org/catholicappeal. An expanded digital and social media presence this year has been developed with younger parishioners in mind, so that donations can be made through hand-held devices.
Commenting on the 2017 appeal, which raised $5.8 million of the $7 million goal, Gilbride said it fared well considering it was held in conjunction with “the historic” Faith to Move Mountains Endowment Campaign. However, now that Faith to Move Mountains has concluded almost all of its solicitations, energies will be redirected toward the ACA and the many ways in which it supports the day-to-day works of the Diocese of Trenton.
Other information that may be found on the ACA website includes various planned giving or memorial donation options; a percentage breakdown of the ministries that will receive support from the appeal and ways in which the faithful can make their donation through the mail, Diocese of Trenton, 701 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, N.J. 08648; online, dioceseoftrenton.org/catholicappeal; or by phone, 609-403-7197.