CSA 2021: Helping parishes become centers of mercy, charity


This is part of a series of articles about the impact diocesan ministries supported by the Catholic Stewardship Appeal (CSA) have on local parishes and schools.

Parish and Charitable Services staff helped parishes organize disaster response teams to respond to local needs during the pandemic.

They also helped parishes develop concrete plans for promoting the spirituality of stewardship; fostering effective co-responsibility among ordained ministers and laypeople; and helping every parish become universally recognized as a center of charity and sanctuary of mercy within the larger community.

Parish and Charitable Services also helped amalgamate those parish pastoral plans into a diocesan pastoral plan that will take effect on the First Sunday of Advent.

All the while, the Communications staff gave parishes helpful guidance for livestreaming their Sunday Masses during the pandemic and providing secure avenues for online giving.

They also began helping parishes make the transition to a powerful new system for keeping track of data throughout the diocese. This is a crucial step in helping parishioners stay connected while putting their gifts of time, talent and treasure to best use.

Planning to succeed

LeAnn Korsmeyer, director of Parish and Charitable Services, was helping parishes through the process of developing a pastoral plan when the COVID-19 pandemic reached critical mass.

She and her staff immediately shifted toward processing online applications from volunteers to serve on parish disaster response teams. This helped parishes respond quickly to needs in their communities and stay in contact with people who were affected by the pandemic and the social isolation it has brought.

Then, as parishes submitted the action items for their parish pastoral plans, she helped Bishop McKnight and his advisors identify trends and common themes that would eventually be incorporated into the diocesan pastoral plan, which the bishop intends to promulgate later this year.

Mrs. Korsmeyer will work with pastors and lay leaders to set up the organizational structures that will be needed to implement the bishop’s priorities contained in the diocesan plan.

“This pastoral plan could not come at a better time ... to invigorate local responses to the people we serve,” stated Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) members Deacon Robert and Lisa Reinkemeyer of St. Andrew Parish in Tipton and Annunciation Parish in California. “COVID has really disrupted the fabric of our families’ lives and their parish lives. Now more than ever, it is important to go that extra mile to connect with people.

“Young families want to feel that their charitable efforts can make a change in their local world and set a real example of Christian Discipleship for the next generation,” Deacon and Mrs. Reinkemeyer added.

“LeAnn is organized, efficient and dedicated to the service of God’s people,” stated DPC member Sheri Stormer of Visitation Parish in Vienna. “She was incredibly supportive and patient when I ran into challenges in communicating with parish representatives, especially after we had to rework how we managed the small parish discernment groups while dealing with COVID restrictions.”

“The efforts LeAnn and her department have accomplished over the past year with the pastoral plans have been monumental,” stated DPC member Rick Nichols of St. Pius X Parish in Moberly. “They developed a booklet with very clear and concise guidance for parishioners to define, select, prioritize, measure and execute activities that will produce important, long-range and meaningful improvements for their parish, parishioners, schools and communities, for years to come.”

He said the guidance was clear and easy to follow, and the process is working.

“There was an awaking and purpose that parishioners felt as their plans progressed,” said Mr. Nichols, adding that parishioners genuinely appreciated the bishop’s invitation to share their input.

“The pastoral plans that parishes have developed will have long and lasting benefits,” he said. “I believe the planning process even helped people divert some of their fears and anxiety away from the pandemic, whether they realized it or not.”

DPC member Earl Pabst of St. Martin Parish in St. Martins contacted Mrs. Korsmeyer several times while helping parishes work on their plans.

“LeAnn’s office did a great job helping take so many parish plans and consolidate them into common themes so that the diocese could use that input to develop a diocesan plan,” said Mr. Pabst. “Her office will now be integral in serving as a resource to help the parishes implement their plans.”

Information revolution

Having all parishes make the transition to the newly developed Blackbaud Church Management system for records and data management will have a dramatic effect on matching people’s gifts of time, talent and treasure to the needs of the people around them.

It is challenging but holy and necessary work.

“I am absolutely convinced that this is the way to better connect with and serve our parishioners,” stated Christi Garcia, bookkeeper and communications coordinator for St. Anthony Parish in Camdenton, the first parish to make the transition to the new system.

She and parish secretary Rene Magelky have been working with the diocesan Communications team and Blackbaud developers to fine-tune aspects of the system that are needed for parishes to manage the uniquely Catholic aspects of parishioner information.

“Because of our transition to Blackbaud Church Management, Rene and I have been able to update and add layers to our parishioner records,” said Ms. Garcia. “In the process of doing that, we have become much more able to meet many of them on a more personal level.”

Parishioners’ contact information, sacramental records, electronic giving, volunteer status and requirements for different positions, such as safe-environment compliance, small group membership, and religious education records — “it’s all there in one place,” she said.

“We feel that we are better able to help parishioners connect not only with the Church and the parish office, but also with each other through our website, social media, and online giving options, which will be expanding soon, and a virtual prayer wall.

“We were able to keep our parish family connected and are even better equipped to do so as we move forward,” she said.

More information about this year’s CSA can be found online at: diojeffcity.org.