Why I’m adding Parish Relief fund to 2020 Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal

For weeks we have been focused on the health impact of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than half a million people in the U.S. But in recent weeks the economic toll has come into clearer focus, and our parishes and communities are among those places impacted. Given these realities, I am introducing a parish emergency relief fund as a component of this year’s Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal.

The developments related to the new coronavirus seem to change daily, and I am proud of the efforts that our priests, deacons and parishioners have made to reach out to those in need, often in very creative ways.

We have seen drive-through confession, priests who walk or bike through the boundaries of their parish to make the presence of Jesus known, parishes who are calling all their members to see if they need assistance, and many online initiatives to bring the Mass and the Gospel to everyone during this pandemic. As Archbishop, I have given pastors the authority to celebrate Confirmation for those who are prepared to receive it. Indeed, we are diligently working on plans to prudently restore public celebration of the Mass, while still making efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This will have to be done in a gradual manner.

Clearly, our parishes are not sitting idle, despite the restrictions necessitated by the current crisis. At the same time, our parishes are feeling the financial impact of not being able to take up a weekly collection to fund their ministries, including those that help the poor and homeless. This shortfall in donations has resulted in staff losing their jobs or having their hours reduced.

In normal years, the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal raises money for vital ministries like our Catholic Schools, Catholic Charities, our seminaries and numerous evangelization efforts. Those ministries will continue to be funded by the Appeal this year, but the 2020 collection will also include a Parish Relief Fund to help parishes hardest hit by the spread of COVID-19. This special fund will assist those churches with families and parishioners in need, provide payroll support to parishes, help make up for shortfalls in offertory giving and help pay for efforts to increase giving.

I am aware of the many people who have lost their jobs or been furloughed during the ongoing shutdown. For those in this circumstance it is important to remember the parable of the widow who gave two small coins worth only a few cents. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty…’ (Mk. 12:43-44).

We see here how much Jesus values the gift of trust in God’s providence and praises the widow for it. In the same way, Christ accepts whatever you can give, including your prayers for those in need. If God is blessing you with stable finances and the means to give more than you normally do, then I urge you to prayerfully consider making a substantial gift in this time of need for so many.

I would like to close with Jesus’ frequent exhortation to his followers: ‘Do not be afraid.’ The news is filled with messages of fear and reminders of our fallen nature. With the gift of faith, we trust in God’s daily provision for us and serve as channels of grace and blessing for others. Let us not be afraid to proclaim our faith in Christ with our actions and our words. Thank you for your generosity during this time. I am certain the Lord will bless you!

Make your gift today at archden.org/donate.

COMING UP: A man for strengthening others

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

When the choirs of angels led Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, into the Father’s House on September 3, I hope the seraphic choirmaster chose music appropriate to the occasion.  Had I been asked, I would have suggested the Latin antiphon Ecce sacerdos magnus as arranged by Anton Bruckner. The all-stops-pulled moments in Bruckner’s composition, deploying organ, brass, and full choir, would have been a perfect match for Paul Mankowski’s rock-solid Catholic faith, his heroic ministry, and his robust literary and oratorical style; the a capella sections, softly sung, mirror the gentleness with which he healed souls. Above all, I would have suggested Bruckner’s motet because Father Mankowski truly was what the antiphon celebrates: “a great priest who in his days pleased  God.”

We were friends for some 30 years and I can say without reservation that I have never met anyone like Paul Mankowski. He was off-the-charts brilliant, an extraordinary linguist and scholar; but he wore his learning lightly and was a tremendous wit. He rarely expressed doubts about anything; but he displayed a great sensitivity to the doubts and confusions of those who had the humility to confess that they were at sea. He could be as fierce as Jeremiah in denouncing injustice and dishonesty; but the compassion he displayed to spiritually wounded fellow-priests and laity, who sought healing through the work of grace at his hands, was just as notable a feature of his personality.

His curriculum vitae was singular. The son of working-class parents, he put himself through the University of Chicago working summers in a steel mill. He did advanced degrees at Oxford and Harvard, becoming the sparring partner of a future Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, at the former, and delving deeply into the mysteries of Semitic philology – unfathomable, to most of his friends – at the latter. He taught at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and was pastor of an English-speaking parish in Amman, Jordan. Wherever he was, he lived like a true ascetic; he was also the best company imaginable at a meal or a party.

He was a writer of genius, although his published bibliography is considerably slimmer than it might have been, thanks to the years when he was silenced or censored by his religious superiors. A good example of his ability to combine keen insight and droll humor is his 1992 dissection of the goings-on at the annual convention of the American Academy of Religion (available here). More recently, Father Mankowski drew on his extensive experience as a confessor and spiritual director to pen, with his superiors’ permission, a respectful but sharp critique of his fellow Jesuit James Martin’s book, Building a Bridge (available here). In the decades between those two pieces, and when permitted to do so, he published essays and reviews on a wide range of topics, including literature, politics, Church affairs, biblical translations and the priesthood, while sharing his private musings with friends in a seemingly endless series of pungent parodies, revised song lyrics, and imagined news stories.

Years ago, his friend Father Richard John Neuhaus dubbed Father Mankowski one of the “Papal Bulls:” Jesuits of a certain generation notable for their intellectually sophisticated and unwavering Catholic orthodoxy, which often got them into hot water of various temperatures (including boiling) with their Ignatian brothers and superiors. Paul Mankowski was no bull, papal or otherwise, in a china shop, though. He relished debate and was courteous in it; what he found off-putting was the unwillingness of Catholic progressives to fight their corner with a frank delineation of their position. This struck him as a form of hypocrisy. And while Father Mankowski, the good shepherd, often brought strays back to the Lord’s flock, he was unsparingly candid about what he perceived as intellectual dishonesty, or what he recently deplored as “ignoble timidity” in facing clerical corruption. Paul Mankowski was not a man of the subjunctive, and he paid the price for it.

He is beyond all that now, and I like to imagine St. Ignatius of Loyola welcoming him to the Father’s House with a hearty “Well done, my son.” In this valley of tears, freshly moistened by those who mourn his untimely death at age 66, Father Paul V. Mankowski, SJ, will be remembered by those of us who loved him as a man and a priest who, remaining faithful to his Jesuit and sacerdotal vocations, became a tower of strength for others. This was a man of God. This was a man, whose courageous manliness reflected his godliness.