The telegraph wasn’t invented yet when St. Stephen Parish’s first members arrived in the Salt River Valley.
Nearly 200 years later, their descendants are using digital communication technology to help their parishes thrive and adhere more authentically to their mission.
They do so in partnership with diocesan Chancery employees, whose job is to help all of the parishes in these 38 counties do what they do, better.
“They have been instrumental in launching our new parish websites, and they work endlessly with each parish to update and maintain these websites,” said Sally Lemongelli, secretary and bookkeeper for St. Stephen Parish in Indian Creek, of the diocese’s Communication Department.
“We were also able to implement online registration and payment for our annual Swinkey Days camp for kids and it really helped streamline the registration process,” she said.
Many Chancery departments and offices receive some or all of their funding from the annual Catholic Stewardship Appeal (CSA), allowing individuals and families in every parish to work in partnership with Bishop W. Shawn McKnight in carrying out the soul-saving mission of the Church.
“We are blessed to be able to give sacrificially in thanks to God while helping to support Catholic outreach to people in need, in crisis or without a church community,” Bishop McKnight stated.
The theme for this year’s CSA is 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 — “Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Making a sacrificial gift or pledge to the CSA is not just about giving to a need. It’s a concrete expression of discipleship and solidarity with the whole Church.
“Other people’s sacrifices, offered in love, have allowed the Good News to be preached and taught to us and those who went before us,” Bishop McKnight noted. “We are people of gratitude and will only reach the fullness of our God-given potential when we put our thanks into action.”
“Friendly and informative”
St. Stephen parish and neighboring Holy Rosary Parish in Monroe City share many resources, including their pastor, Father Greg Oligschlaeger.
“The community of the Church is a great model of how we can get along in the world,” said Fr. Oligschlaeger. “Jesus told us that!”
Mrs. Lemongelli had a lot to learn when she assumed her current role at St. Stephen last year.
But she wasn’t on her own.
“I’ve reached out to many different offices at the diocese with questions — finance, communications, chancellor, just to name a few,” she said. “They have always responded to me in a timely manner and have been both friendly and informative.”
Deacon Mike Long assists Fr. Oligschlaeger in ministering to the people of Holy Rosary and St. Stephen parishes.
He and the other 72 active deacons and others who are retired receive ongoing support and formation from the diocesan Deaconate Office.
“Having the Diaconate Office available in matters of protocol and continuing formation has been invaluable to me in furthering personal spiritual growth and also in my ability to serve the parishes of Holy Rosary and St. Stephen as well as our entire community,” said Deacon Long.
He noted that while serving as director of religious education (DRE) for the parishes, he drew extensively on resources from the offices of Youth Ministry and Religious Education.
“It allowed me to better facilitate the continuing faith formation for our youth and adults,” he said.
Donna Long, director of faith formation for St. Stephen and Holy Rosary parishes, finds the resources she receives from the Chancery invaluable for her work.
“First and foremost are our wonderful websites,” she stated. “The websites for Holy Rosary and St. Stephen are so full of information and future potential to keep people connected to our parishes’ community.”
The websites keep people connected not only to their parishes but also the diocese through a regular stream of new content.
The Communications Office also offers weekly webinars on the effective use and editing of parish websites.
“This makes my job as the parishes’ website administrator easier,” said Mrs. Long.
She added that the diocesan Office of Youth Ministry keeps the parishes apprised of the latest opportunities for young parishioners to learn and put their faith into practice.
“Their support in our youth activities has been greatly appreciated,” she said.
She’s looking forward to attending the Youth Ministry office’s upcoming fall workshop.
Likewise, Mrs. Long has found the Office of Child and Youth Protection to be extremely helpful in making parents and volunteers aware of the signs of abuse of children and young people, and of appropriate, effective responses to it.
“I have had the opportunity to work with several offices at the Chancery and find the dedication the staff has to the diocesan ministries inspiring for our parish ministries,” she said.
“There is a great deal that we enjoy in our parish ministries that we could not do without the support of the diocesan ministries in the Chancery,” she added.
Dominican Sister Suzanne Walker went to Holy Rosary School in Monroe City before entering religious life, becoming an educator and eventually returning to her hometown to teach.
Now having served as principal for 37 years, she still looks to the diocesan School Office for information and assistance.
“The School Office supports our school by providing guidance for the principal as well as programs for teachers,” she stated.
Sr. Suzanne said many individuals have grown and continue to grow in faith with the help of the many programs that are funded from yearly contributions made to the CSA.
“We may sometimes think that the programs of our parishes run independently in our own parish circles, but actually our local programs are supported a great deal from the guidance that is received from the diocesan offices,” she said.
She talked about how the Faith Formation office coordinates and supports the Cursillo Movement, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Engaged Encounter, Marriage Encounter and other programs of adult faith formation.
“The Office of Youth Ministry has been very helpful in guiding our parishes to participate in Totus Tuus, PSR programs and other youth activities,” she said.
She said the Office of Buildings and Properties is always available for consultation with building plans or building improvement projects.
“When we receive information requesting our contribution to CSA, let us realize the benefits that are available because of our offering,” Sr. Suzanne stated. “Our offering is our way of following the words of Jesus when He said, ‘Go and teach all nations!’”
As pastor, Fr. Oligschlaeger is in frequent contract with the Matrimonial Tribunal for information about processing requests for annulments and properly administering the Sacrament of Marriage in his parish.
He appreciates the guidance parishes are receiving from the Office of Faith Formation for preparing engaged couples for marriage.
“It’s nice to have that resource, to be able to call and clarify and get answers to questions a parishioner may have,” he said.
As dean of the Central Deanery, he’s excited about helping the diocese carry-out its ongoing ministry to priests.
He’s grateful to Bernadette Adams, vice chancellor, for helping clarify the territorial boundaries of parishes within the Central Deanery.
“She was a great resource for that,” he said.
Fr. Oligschlaeger noted that LeAann Korsmeyer, diocesan director of parish and charitable services, has been a terrific resource in helping the parishes discern and figure out how to implement their parish pastoral plans.
“She’s a good resource to get the documents that are needed and keep the ongoing renewal of our parish pastoral plan on track,” he said.
“Not just the pastor”
Fr. Oligschlaeger said his parishioners are becoming more familiar with the idea of co-responsibility — taking ownership of their parishes, seeing what needs to be done and working with the pastor to do it.
“And they understand especially after COVID that reaching out to fellow parishioners is essential, as far as renewing their ties and becoming active in our parish again,” he said. “They know that that must come from the laity, not just the pastor.”
He said the main objective of collaborating with other parishes and the Chancery is to make sure pastors and the faithful get what they need in order to put their God-given gifts to the best use in building up the kingdom of God.
“It’s about revealing the presence of Christ where we are and doing what we can to bring the love of Christ to each situation and trust that it will expand throughout our community, our nation and our world,” he said.
“If we do that, local Catholics will have a ripple effect of spreading Christian unity to mend our world that is so divided,” he stated.