By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND
Crookston, Minn. – On Feb. 1, nearly 90 people from around the Diocese of Crookston gathered for the 39th Diocesan Annual Appeal (DAA) Kickoff Dinner. The event, held at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Crookston, is a time to gather those who help facilitate the annual appeal at the parish level to distribute materials and thank them for their work in support of the diocese. The DAA was announced in parishes on Feb. 9-10 and pledges will be taken the weekend of Feb. 17-18.
This year’s event began with Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner leading Evening Prayer, followed by a dinner and presentation.
“Thank you all for being here,” Bishop Hoeppner said. “The goal for this annual appeal has been reached every year thanks to the hard work and the generosity and stewardship, the sharing of God’s work of the faithful of this local Church.”
“The goal was $890,000 this year, and again for the third year in a row, what has been collected is well over $900,000,” he said.
After Bishop Hoeppner, Reathel Giannonatti, JD, Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development shared a few remarks about the state of the DAA.
“In 2016, we had 39 parishes who made their goal. This year we had 45 who made their DAA goal, so congratulations to all of you for that and for a job well done,” she said. “The parishes who made their goal typically exceed their goal by a great deal. We really appreciate that.”
She added that the redemption rate for appeal pledges is just under 98 percent.
“Our overall participation went down a little bit this year, so we have to be a little bit concerned about that,” Giannonatti said. “We have fewer people making pledges, making gifts, but the gifts were larger.”
She was impressed by people’s generosity in a year when there were several extra collections taken up for disaster relief aid.
“Even with all the extra collections and extra asks that have come from a lot of dioceses, people have still been very, very generous,” she said.
The guest speaker for this year’s DAA Kickoff Dinner was Father Matt Schmitz, Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks; St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher and Holy Trinity, Tabor. Father Schmitz was ordained in June and shared a few milestones from his first months of priesthood.
He spoke about celebrating his first Mass at his home parish, St. Joseph, Brooks; moving to East Grand Forks and celebrating Mass for the first time at Sacred Heart, St. Francis and Holy Trinity.
“On day 22, I celebrated my first anointing of the sick,” he said. “She told me the next week it worked, so that was good!”
On day 65 of his priesthood, he was called to the hospital at 3 a.m. where a man in his 90s was passing away.
“As soon as I walked into the room, his son said, ‘I think he just passed away.’ I walked up to the bed and I took his hand and I said his name and he stirred, so I anointed him, gave him his Apostolic Pardon and prayed the prayers for the dying and by the time we had finished the prayers for the dying, he had passed away. It was an incredible, incredible experience,” said Father Schmitz.
Father Schmitz said that during Mass on day 70 of his priesthood, when it was time to distribute Communion, he was brought a paten full of hosts that had not been consecrated because they didn’t make it to the altar.
“Thankfully we broke them into about sixths – the ones that were consecrated – and we had enough,” he said.
On day 84, someone called to schedule Confession after being away from the Church for decades.
“As a priest, I feel very blessed to witness these moments in people’s lives, to stand in the person of Christ, to speak the words at the Eucharist, to announce forgiveness of sins after 20, 30 or 50 years or a month or a week,” Father Schmitz said.
“I witness this daily, but it’s your sacrifices that make that possible. It’s the sacrifices of people like you, people in your parishes who give so selflessly of their time to build up, support and to strengthen this local Church so that the Good News of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed,” he said.
“The people of God are the riches in the life of the priest and hopefully the priest is the source of riches in the lives of his people, so thank you,” said Father Schmitz in closing. “Thank you for sharing your riches with the Church so that the Good News of Jesus Christ might be boldly proclaimed here in this Church in the Diocese of Crookston.”
At the end of the event Bishop Hoeppner shared a few parting words and a blessing.
“We live in an exciting and challenging time, as Pope Francis keeps reminding us, and we know it and can feel it – there are so many people out there hungry and eager for the encounter with Jesus,” he said. “Thank you for the work that you do that keeps that happening and possible to happen in this local Church.”
If you are interested in learning more about the 2018 Diocesan Annual Appeal, visit: www.crookston.org/daa