Parish generosity rewarded through Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal rebate

Moira Cullings

This past January, Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Mead celebrated the dedication of its brand new church building. Among the excitement surrounding the new church was also a need for funds to support the project.

That’s when the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal (ACA) rebate the parish received last year came to the rescue.

“It was put into operating expenses, which really helped us out because having just built a new church, we now have a loan that we need to pay off,” said parish pastor Father Alan Hartway.

“By using that fund in operating expenses, we were able to cover a lot of those moving costs,” he said.

The appeal rebate occurs when parishes exceed their ACA fundraising goal and receive money back, which they can use to benefit the parish.

Last year was the first time Immaculate Heart of Mary in Northglenn received the rebate since Father James Spahn has been the parish’s pastor.

“Every year I’ve been here these four years, it’s been going up and up,” said Father Spahn. “Finally, this year, we reached our goal.

“It just made me proud of my people,” he said. “The people at the parish are very generous to so many causes.”

Parishes use the rebate funds in a variety of ways.

For St. Thomas More in Centennial, the rebate they received last year was put into a general operatory fund, said pastor Msgr. Thomas Fryar. That money was likely used in several ways, including adding more cantors at church services, bringing in visiting priests to hear confessions, and helping the parish pay for new renovations.

St. Thomas More’s ability to exceed their goal of over half a million dollars was deeply inspiring to Msgr. Fryar.

“It speaks about the commitment of our community to the wider Church,” he said. “When we are aware of and reach out to the wider Church, you can’t help but have the blessings that come back upon our people.”

Like his fellow priests, Msgr. Fryar is encouraged by the generosity of his parishioners and the action they take to give back to the archdiocese.

“As a pastor, it’s nice to see the parish alive,” he said.

Father Hartway notices a similar generosity among his parishioners and explained that the ACA connects them to the entire archdiocesan family.

“They feel like there’s a bigger team with the archdiocese,” he said. “They feel that they are supported by the archdiocese. It’s not just taking money from us, it also gives it back.”

To motivate his parishioners during the ACA and beyond it, Father Andrew Kemberling, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul in Denver, emphasizes the need each person has to give.

“We have found that you have a need to give before giving to a need,” he said. “But if you lead with the idea that you’re giving to a need and you satisfy the need, then people are left with the false conclusion that you don’t need to give anymore. But you always have a need to give.”

And responding to that need to give doesn’t go unnoticed, Father Kemberling added, as portrayed in through the ACA rebate.

“God’s generosity will be rewarded back to you,” he said.

COMING UP: Historical clarity and today’s Catholic contentions

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One of the curiosities of the 21st-century Catholic debate is that many Catholic traditionalists (especially integralists) and a high percentage of Catholic progressives make the same mistake in analyzing the cause of today’s contentions within the Church — or to vary the old fallacy taught in Logic 101, they think in terms of post Concilium ergo propter Concilium [everything that’s happened after the Council has happened because of the Council]. And inside that fallacy is a common misreading of modern Catholic history. The traditionalists insist that everything was fine before the Council (which many of them therefore regard as a terrible mistake); the progressives agree that the pre-Vatican II Church was a stable institution but deplore that stability as rigidity and desiccation.

But that’s not the way things were pre-Vatican II, as I explain at some length and with some engaging stories in my new book, The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform (Basic Books). And no one knew the truth about pre-Vatican II Catholicism better than the man who was elected pope during the Council and guided Vatican II through its last three sessions, St. Paul VI.

On January 25, 1959, Pope John XXIII, thought to be an elderly placeholder, stunned both the Church and the world by announcing his intention to summon the 21st ecumenical council. That night, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini (who would be known as Paul VI four and a half years later), called an old friend. An experienced churchman who had long served Pius XII as chief of staff, Montini saw storm clouds on the horizon: “This holy old boy,” he said of John XXIII, “doesn’t know what a hornet’s nest he’s stirring up.”

That shrewd observation turned out to be spot on –– and not simply because of the Council, but because of the bees and hornets that had been buzzing around the ecclesiastical nest for well over 100 years.

Contrary to both traditionalist and progressive misconceptions, Catholicism was not a placid institution, free of controversy and contention, prior to Vatican II. As I show in The Irony of Modern Catholic History, there was considerable intellectual ferment in the Church during the mid-19th century, involving great figures like the recently-canonized John Henry Newman, the German bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler (grandfather of modern Catholic social thought), and the Italian polymath Antonio Rosmini (praised by John Paul II in the 1999 encyclical, Faith and Reason, and beatified under Benedict XVI). That ferment accelerated during the 25 year pontificate of Leo XIII, who launched what I dub the “Leonine Revolution,” challenging the Church to engage the modern world with distinctively Catholic tools in order to convert the modern world and lay a firmer foundation for its aspirations.

American Catholicism, heavily focused on institution-building, was largely unaware of the sharp-edged controversies (and ecclesiastical elbow-throwing) that followed Leo XIII’s death in 1903. Those controversies, plus the civilization-shattering experience of two world wars in Europe, plus a rapid secularization process in Old Europe that began in the 19th century, set the stage for John XXIII’s epic opening address to Vatican II. There, the Pope explained what he envisioned Vatican II doing: gathering up the energies let loose by the Leonine Revolution and focusing them through the prism of an ecumenical council, which he hoped would be a Pentecostal experience energizing the Church with new evangelical zeal.

John XXIII understood that the Gospel proposal could only be made by speaking to the modern world in a vocabulary the modern world could hear. Finding the appropriate grammar and vocabulary for contemporary evangelization didn’t mean emptying Catholicism of its content or challenge, however. As the Pope insisted, the perennial truths of the faith were to be expressed with the “same meaning” and the “same judgment.” Vatican II, in other words, was to foster the development of doctrine, not the deconstruction of doctrine. And the point of that doctrinal development was to equip the Church for mission and evangelization, for the modern world would be converted by truth, not ambiguity or confusion.

Over the past six and a half years, it’s become abundantly clear that more than a few Catholics, some quite prominently placed, still don’t get this history. Nor do the more vociferous elements in the Catholic blogosphere. Which is why I hope The Irony of Modern Catholic History helps facilitate a more thoughtful debate on the Catholic present and future, through a better understanding of the Catholic past.