By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
The Bishop’s Annual Appeal may be more important than ever in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Bishop Mark Hagemoen in a video message launching the 2020 effort to raise funds for a range of ministries and programs in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
Echoing the three-year diocesan Pastoral Plan released last fall, the theme of the 2020 Bishop’s Annual Appeal is “Proclaim Christ,” with a focus on “Reaching out in service.”
The proclamation of Jesus Christ and the hope of Jesus Christ is needed more than ever in these uncertain times of COVID-19, says Bishop Hagemoen — and so is reaching out in service to those in most need: the marginalized and vulnerable, the grieving, the sick and the imprisoned.
“We are socially distancing at this time, but that doesn’t mean we are distant from the needs and the hungers and the issues of our brothers and sisters — and we need to respond as a community,” he says in the video introduction shared with parishes across the diocese and on social media and websites.
Video: Introduction to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal by Bishop Hagemoen
“Number one, people need to hear the faith, and they need to hear words of hope and encouragement, and they have to be based on Christ and the biblical teachings,” adds Bishop Hagemoen in a follow-up message. “People are wanting substantive, simple, honest teaching.”
Effective proclamation, the use of technology and social media has come to the fore at this time of COVID-19, he notes, a new reality that is requiring the diocese and parishes to launch new communication initiatives.
“The impact of COVID-19 has impressed on us all the need for effective communication and evangelization,” notes the bishop. “We need to continue to develop effective use of new technology and communication to deliver the message of the Gospel and provide opportunities for access to prayer, liturgical worship, and other opportunities for faith formation. We also need to develop and deliver comprehensive and quality Catholic News. Thus, we have launched our Catholic Saskatoon News site and expanded the use of social media.”
At the same time, the diocese is moving forward with igniting and supporting new efforts of evangelization in parishes, as well as in vocation promotion and outreach to young adults. The imminent arrival of members of the Verbum Dei order of religious sisters in the diocese is among the initiatives that will move these efforts forward, explains the bishop.
The call to service is another challenge, he adds. “The Christian message has always been that in union with Jesus Christ, we are served, blessed and enriched to the extent we reach out from our own poverty and need in service to others.”
This includes Hospital Chaplaincy to those who are sick — especially those who are in hospital during a time of crisis such as COVID-19, without regular family and community support — those who are imprisoned and who need to hear the hopeful message of the gospel through Prison (Restorative) Ministry, and those who have fled violence and persecution to find a new home in Canada through refugee sponsorship organized through the diocesan Office of Migration.
“Perhaps more than ever the Church is called to be a prophetic witness in its efforts welcoming refugees and those displaced from their homes. This witness also extends to efforts to advocate for migrant workers, and the many vulnerable women and youth from other countries exploited through human trafficking in Canada and beyond,” says Bishop Hagemoen. “Support for people on the margins, including the stranger and the incarcerated, must always be the work of our Church.”
COVID-19 impacts BAA
The pandemic and the restrictions that continue on the size of gatherings permitted in Saskatchewan — including worship services — has affected some of the logistics of this year’s Appeal, with a greater emphasis on mail and online materials.
Rather than the traditional in-person diocesan launch day for pastors, parish leaders and BAA volunteers, a series of online Zoom meetings were held to provide information and assistance to parish teams, says Cathy Gilje of the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation, who coordinates the Annual Appeal.
Home visits will not be part of this year’s effort, but as with other COVID-era efforts and events, there will be a greater focus on phoning parishioners and on sharing of electronic materials via websites, e-mail and social media.
What has not changed is the need and the importance of the outreach and evangelization supported by gifts to the Appeal, stresses Gilje. “The whole call of the Church is to work together as a community to help those who are in need, those who cannot help themselves, those who are searching for truth and meaning. By joining our hearts and our hands and our gifts together, we can truly make a difference,” she says. “I am so grateful for the generosity and the loving hearts of so many in our diocese. Their words and their actions truly do Proclaim Christ!”
Bishop Hagemoen concludes: “Far more important than what is given, is that we all participate and give in some way — and I don’t just mean financially, but that we are part of the life, mission and ministry of the diocese.”
Bishop’s Annual Appeal prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages, curing every disease and illness. Come to our aid amid this pandemic, that we may experience your healing love.
Jesus Christ, you came into our lives to bring us abundant life. Bless the Bishop’s Annual Appeal to renew our parishes, engage our youth, form lay leaders, and serve the most vulnerable among us.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, help us build a vibrant church where every Sunday matters, every person can embrace their priesthood to share in the mission and life of the Lord. Send your Holy Spirit to show us how to strengthen and support families, marriages, vocations and promote healing through the sacraments and restored relationships.
Loving and gracious God, you gave us your Son, Jesus Christ. He gave of Himself on the cross and in every moment of His life. He saw the sick; He healed them. He saw the hungry; He fed them. He saw the lame; He cured them. He saw the discouraged; He encouraged them. He saw the dying; He gave them new life.
Open our hearts to the many ministries offered through the Diocesan Church. Strengthen our resolve to be like Your Son, Jesus Christ, to give of ourselves in every moment of our lives.
We pray this through Christ, our Lord, Amen.