by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
The Acts of the Apostles described the early church in these words: “And they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to breaking of the bread and prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2: 42-47).
It is amazing how rapidly Christianity spread through the world in the first three centuries. The first Christians had no buildings, no books, no newspapers, no magazines, no technology, no social media and no programs. What they did have was the witness of their own experience with Jesus, the testimony of their own encounter with the risen Lord.
What attracted so many, so quickly to Christianity was not the preaching of the apostles, the miracles performed by his disciples nor the intellectual arguments of scholars. Tertullian, a Church Father in Carthage who lived at the end of the second century and beginning of the third century, observed how even the pagans were amazed by the Christians’ love for one another. It was the love of Christians for each other and their joy, even in the midst of persecution, that made the pagan world take notice and drew many to Jesus and his church.
Parish life is very important to Catholics. It is in the parish that we experience the ordinary events (e.g., Sunday Mass, potluck dinners, Bible studies, festivals, etc.) and the extraordinary moments (e.g., baptisms, first Communions, weddings, funerals) of our faith life.
At the same time, we are not Congregationalists. We belong to a larger church. We share faith with the parishioners in all the other Catholic parishes — not only in northeast Kansas, but in the entire world. We belong to a family of faith of more than one billion members. We have brothers and sisters on every continent.
We celebrate the same liturgy each Sunday, listen to and meditate upon the same biblical passages, and we all look to the successor of St. Peter, the pope, as our common spiritual father. At the beginning of each new calendar year in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, we observe a very Catholic moment. The annual Archbishop’s Call to Share Campaign (ACTS) is a moment when — like the Christians described in the Acts of the Apostles – we pool our resources, and we do some amazing works of charity as an archdiocese that no parish could do on its own.
Last year, Call to Share raised almost $7 million helping to fund over 40 ministries that touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with the love of Jesus Christ. Call to Share grants supported: 1) campus ministries at secular colleges; 2) Donnelly College; 3) young adult ministries such as City on a Hill and St. Paul’s Outreach; 4) youth camps at Prairie Star Ranch; 5) Totus Tuus — an evangelization program for children in parishes; 6) children’s catechesis in our parish schools of religion; 7) scholarships for Catholic school students; 8) formation for seminarians, candidates for the permanent diaconate and Catholic school teachers; 9) marriage preparation programs for the engaged; 10) retreats and enrichment programs for married couples; 11) Catholic Charities and its full range of services for the poor — such as sheltering the homeless, welcoming the refugee, feeding the hungry, adoption services, etc.; 12) pro-life efforts that include assistance to pregnancy resource centers, helping single moms, support for foster care families and providing postabortion healing and reconciliation; 13) Villa St. Francis skilled nursing home’s care for the frail elderly; 14) Catholic Community Hospice to accompany those in the dying process and assist their families; 15) social justice ministries; 16) emergency grants to parishes unable to fund necessary capital repairs; 17) Hispanic ministry; 18) evangelization initiatives; and 19) implementing in the archdiocese the national Eucharistic Revival pastoral initiative. This is by no means an exhaustive list of what Call to Share does year after year.
It is amazing what we are able to do together, when we pool our resources. Thanks to the generosity of Call to Share donors, there are miracles of love and grace happening every day through our educational, pastoral and charitable ministries. If your parish was not able to show the Call to Share video, I encourage you to go to our archdiocesan website and watch the short video that accompanies my homily for this weekend. The video and the center spread of this issue of The Leaven will give you a glimpse of your Call to Share dollars at work.
Part of living our Catholic faith is to make sacrificial gifts to support the church and her ministries. What constitutes a sacrificial gift? One way that many find helpful in discerning what is sacrificial for them is to tithe, giving away 10% of their annual income. A popular, logical and prudent way of allocating one’s tithe is to donate 5% to one’s parish, 1% to the archdiocese (Call to Share) and the other 4% to other charitable efforts for which they have a passion.
If every parishioner in the archdiocese gave 1% of their income to Call to Share each year, it would be astonishing what the church could do to proclaim the joy of the Gospel and to bring the love of Jesus to those who are hurting and struggling. Inflation is impacting us all, but it is particularly devastating to the poor. Like the early church, together we have the resources to make sure that everyone has what they need.
Jesus, on the night before his passion and death, offered a prayer for his disciples and future disciples: “I do not pray for these (his disciples) only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17: 20-21).
When we act together, united as a community of believers, we can compel the world to take notice of what Jesus is doing through his church. We can make nonbelievers today marvel, as they did centuries ago, about how Catholics not only love one another but all who are suffering or struggling. When we live the Gospel in this way, we can expect to, day by day, add new members to those who are saved.
Leave a Comment