Faithful remain united in call to ‘Walk in the Light of Christ’

August 17, 2021

Epiphany of the Lord Catholic School students ended last year in STEM with a custom, student-built Hot Wheels track that featured the teacher’s Hot Wheels Bugatti car in a race around the classroom. (Photo courtesy of Epiphany of the Lord Catholic School)

HOUSTON — The faithful in the Archdiocese remain united in support of the local Church through the 2021 Diocesan Services Fund (DSF) annual campaign, “Walk in the Light of Christ.”

In its 55th year, the DSF directly supports over 60 essential ministries that provide for the needs of thousands of people in 146 parishes and eight missions across 10 counties in the Archdiocese. Diverse programs and services provide for the needs of the poor, elderly, sick and those in crisis, as well as those that foster teaching, evangelization and worship. All donations to the DSF go directly to the 60-plus ministries, and no funds are spent on the administration of the Chancery.

Three DSF ministries featured in the 2021 campaign assist families, youth and adult populations, and those seeking a vocation to the priesthood or religious life to remain connected and growing in their faith lives, and serving the local Church however they are called.

Debra Haney, superintendent of Catholic Schools, said she is proud of the work of the various school communities that came together during the coronavirus global pandemic, which continues to be especially important due to the prolonged effects that still exist.

“We were pressed into a situation that necessitated technology to be as advanced as possible on every single campus so that virtual learning could take place effectively, and our students scored better than expected on our standardized tests due to the amazing work of their teachers and parents, working together for their success,” said Haney. “Parent conferences, increased trainings and meetings have occurred over ZOOM or other portals, opening up the opportunities for increased learning and communication. Collegiality between teachers and principals has increased as we set out into unchartered waters and had to keep the ships afloat and moving; this was only possible with the support they gained from one another and through our office.”

Haney said the DSF directly supports operational expenses related to the work of the Catholic Schools Office (CSO) to support the 45 elementary schools and 11 high schools with approximately 2,200 employees and 17,500 students in the elementary and high schools in the Archdiocese.

This includes tuition assistance to families in need that choose to provide a Catholic education to their children and make ongoing faith development a priority in their lives. The CSO also works with other Archdiocesan offices, Catholic Charities, Christus Foundation, San Jose Clinic and the University of St. Thomas, among other entities, to bring forth its mission.

“Our mission is to form disciples of Jesus Christ that will transform the world, and research shows that Catholic school students are more likely to stay connected to their faith as adults and are the more active parishioners that engage in parish ministries into adulthood,” Haney said. “By staying connected to their faith communities and sharing in the ministry of the Church throughout their lives, Catholic school students are impelling significant changes in the lives of others and are certainly achieving our mission of transforming the world, one person at a time.”

A second ministry supported by the DSF, the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization (OACE), brings the light of Christ to approximately 3,500 young people and their adult leaders each year.

By accompanying them on their journey of discipleship, various OACE programs provide dynamic speakers, powerful prayer and Liturgy experiences, and profound encounters with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration.

Despite challenges associated with the pandemic, Timothy Colbert, director of OACE, said the ministry received many blessings over the year that have moved the ministry forward in its ability to serve the local Church.

“OACE has been able to put more focus this past year on providing for the whole family unit rather than each person individually,” said Colbert. “Our ministry is moving forward with a renewed partnership with the Family Life Ministry ensuring that we continue to witness to the whole family rather than having youth in isolation from their parents.”

Colbert said meeting virtually provided the ability for staff and parish leaders to utilize technology in ministry as foundational rather than as an add-on. He also emphasized the continued need for in-person interaction that technology cannot provide.

“Our goal is discipleship, and discipleship ultimately is best served by face-to-face relationships — both with young people and their adult leaders. So the ability to gather once again in person will allow greater opportunities for accompaniment,” Colbert said. “We’ll still continue maintaining a much stronger online presence since the frequency of encounter is foundational to discipleship. We have a large and congested Archdiocese, so the ability to gather online opens up a whole new world of opportunity if utilized judiciously.”

Colbert said the DSF is instrumental in supporting the ministry work of the OACE by providing the necessary resources to maintain an Archdiocesan Youth Council of well over 100 youth, as well as critical ministry formation for parish leadership and evangelistic programing for youth and adults.

The Office of Vocations is the third featured ministry that also benefits directly from the support of the faithful through the DSF.

Director of Vocations, Father Richard McNeillie, said the Office of Vocations works with St. Mary’s Seminary to care for each seminarian while in formation, which also serves as a location for diocesan meetings, workshops and seminars to provide continuing theological education for all clergy.

Father McNeillie said he is grateful for supporters that contribute to the DSF, which is the lifeline for its ability to foster vocations in the Archdiocese through providing the personal, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation of men in discernment.

He said this helps them to become effective pastoral leaders that desire to serve the Church.

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo said he continues to be grateful for the gifts of the faithful through the DSF that allow the 60-plus important ministries in the Archdiocese to work together in carrying out the mission of the local Church.

“I thank the people of this local Church for extending our Savior’s love to those around them, and I encourage everyone to bring the light of Christ to others through their participation in the DSF,” said Cardinal DiNardo.