When I entered the seminary in 2006, I was stepping away from a career as an IT consultant, which afforded me some good financial stability as I went from a very comfortable salary to a $100/month stipend. I used to joke with my former coworkers that I was on the salary reduction plan in my life! But with just about everything being provided for in the seminary, I had very little need for much. I am grateful that as I entered into a new financial reality, I was able to reflect on the notion of stewardship in a new way. Initially, I began to think: “Times are going to be a little leaner financially for the next few years. I better be careful about how I use my savings.” But then I received something in the mail from the diocese, it was information about contributing to the Annual Catholic Services Appeal, better known as ACSA. Before I tossed it aside in the interest of playing it conservative with the limited funds I had, I thought a little more about it. Although I don’t recall exactly what my prayer was, I decided to contribute, and to accept the challenge of a larger donation. Although I did not know exactly what all the funds supported, I did know that seminarian education was a part of it. So as a beneficiary of the generosity of so many throughout the diocese, I figured it was worth my making a sacrifice as well.
Over the years, I have encouraged people to see the importance of contributing to ACSA, for whether we are aware of it or not, every parish is a recipient of the services that our diocesan offices provide, not the least of which is the formation of our seminarians. These men then become the priests who serve our parishes and bring us the sacraments. If we value God’s grace (which we better if we call ourselves Catholic), then we have to acknowledge that we are all beneficiaries of what the diocese offers to us.
Fast forward to the present day, and ACSA is no longer an appeal that the diocese asks the faithful to contribute to. When that was first announced, some people breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps they thought: “I don’t have to give money to the diocese any more”…as if “diocese” is a bad word. I am in my 10th year of working at our Diocesan Curia, working every day with the people we sometimes just clump together as “the diocese”, questioning their usefulness. May I, in all humility and with frankness, offer a fatherly correction to anybody who thinks this way. You may have your ideas of “the diocese”, often formed through less-than-informed views of others. Perhaps you do not even know a single person who works for “the diocese” (except me of course), but I do, and I can attest to the great quality of our people and the very, very generous service they provide to me personally, to our Cathedral parish, and to the parishes throughout the diocese, to which we all belong. We all are the diocese. Period. We are not just Cathedral parishioners, we belong to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, and we should be very proud of that.
Sorry for the digression – back to ACSA. So if ACSA is no longer a thing, how do the diocesan offices support themselves? Each parish now tithes 10% of our monthly income to our diocesan offices so that these services can continue to be offered. Therefore, when you support our local parish, you are also supporting the work of the whole diocese, which is really important to our understanding of what it means to be members of the Catholic Church.
Perhaps you had contributed to ACSA in the past, and now that it’s no longer here, you see that as one less contribution. But may I humbly ask you to direct the funds you would have donated to ACSA to now go to our parish? And if you were not contributing to ACSA, would you prayerfully consider increasing your weekly gift of treasure to our parish, and by extension, to our diocese?