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Through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

Heather Stewart RCIA
I felt like I had come home, Heather Stewart says about entering the Catholic Church last Easter after participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at Sacred Heart Parish in Auburn Hills.
When Heather Stewart entered the Catholic Church at the 2015 Easter Vigil, it was after months of participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at Sacred Heart Parish in Auburn Hills.

Raised Episcopalian, Heather had attended services at various denominations as well as non-denominational churches over the years. In 2011, she began spending time with a Catholic friend and their conversations about faith and religion led Heather to explore the Catholic faith. After her friend made her a rosary and taught her to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, “everything I had against the Catholic Church started to melt away, and I was more interested in finding out everything about the Church.”

Heather began the process of becoming a Catholic in September of 2014, and her friend became her sponsor. Each week until the next Easter, they attended meetings at Sacred Heart.

Sister of Mercy Georgette Zalewska explains, “For a new member who wants to come into the Church, we have a rite of the Church and that’s the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.”

Coordinated through the Department of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools and funded by gifts to the Catholic Services Appeal, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults has been growing in the Archdiocese since the early 1980s. Sister Georgette notes that the RCIA is an important evangelization effort, as it involves parishioners who walk with candidates on their journey of faith as sponsors and mentor them in what it means to be a Catholic; who spend time leading reflections on scripture every Sunday with catechumens dismissed from Sunday Mass after the homily; and who answer questions, share faith traditions, and pray for those whom the community will initiate; and who introduce candidates to the ministries of the parish.

“It’s a process, it’s a journey,” adds Sister Georgette, associate director of the Office of Worship.

When Heather’s journey concluded at the Easter Vigil, “I felt like I had come home,” she says. Now a parishioner at SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Sterling Heights, she feels that the RCIA program provided her with a good bedrock of the tenets of the Catholic faith. A year after becoming Catholic, “I can’t stop learning,” Heather adds. “The Church is so rich in history and tradition. I keep studying!”

Through Hispanic Ministries

Rojas Vazquez
Gabriela Vazquez and Lidia Rojas, Hispanic ministry coordinators for the south and northwest regions of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
A highlight of Hispanic Ministries is the annual Hispanic Women's Conference, which focuses on evangelization and spiritual growth and attracts as many as 700 women to Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Attendees are encouraged “to share in sisterhood and our faith and to reinforce our commitment in our role as Catholic women,” say Lidia Rojas and Gabriela Vazquez, Hispanic ministry coordinators for the south and northwest regions of the Archdiocese.

Gifts to the Catholic Services Appeal help fund Hispanic Ministries through the work of the Department of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools. Conferences are also held during the year for Hispanic men and youth, and religious education, adult faith formation, leadership, and catechist formation programs are offered to Hispanic families throughout the Archdiocese.

“CSA gives us the opportunity to reach out to our Hispanic and Latino communities in the Archdiocese of Detroit,” says Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda. “It gives us the opportunity to bring about the Good News of the Gospel; to let them know that they belong to us, that they are part of the Body of Christ; to be able understand and know about their blessings with our Church; to reach out to our families, to our youth, to our young adults within the Archdiocese.” 

Lidia, who is based at Holy Family Parish in Novi, says the people she ministers to in the northwest region are always enthusiastic and looking for more opportunities to serve and to learn.

“Hispanics are hungry of the Word of God and always respond to any invitation,” she says. “For most Hispanics, the Church is a second home, where they can share and live their faith.”

By supporting religious sisters, brothers, and priests

Sister Rose Marie Kujawa
Felician Sister Rose Marie Kujawa, Delegate for Consecrated Life at the Archdiocese of Detroit.
The Archdiocese of Detroit is blessed with nearly 1,100 religious sisters, brothers, and priests who are actively “spreading the joy of the Gospel and the mercy of Jesus and of the Trinity,” says Felician Sister Rose Marie Kujawa, the Delegate for Consecrated Life.

The archdiocesan Office of Clergy and Consecrated Life works to connect the religious communities serving in the Archdiocese while focusing on vocations and offering spiritual and intellectual opportunities, such as retreats, days of reflection, and workshops. The office also coordinates the annual Mass for Consecrated Life.

Some religious communities have a significant presence in southeast Michigan, which is fortunate to be home to many motherhouses and regional centers. But other communities are small, Sister Rose Marie notes, and bringing them together helps in both their ministry and mission, as well as with their spiritual development.

“We bring people together, beyond their own religious communities, to renew their religious life, share their rich prayer life, and support each other,” she says.

Thanks to CSA gifts, “this office provides the care that is needed for our priests and deacons, as well as the many religious priests, brothers, and sisters serving here, to help Archbishop Vigneron fulfill his mission as their pastor,” says Msgr. Timothy Hogan, director.

The office also assists senior priests, and coordinates the permanent diaconate program and the bi-annual Convocation of Priests. Another component of the office is dealing with issues of immigration, specifically as they relate to international priests serving in our Archdiocese as well as international students in elementary and secondary schools and at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

By engaging young adults in the mission of the Church

Alexzander Dudek
An Agape retreat last fall inspired Alexzander Dudek to become more involved with the north Oakland County young adult community. The retreat gave me the opportunity to hone myself to be a better man and a better Catholic, says the member of St. Anastasia Parish in Troy.

On the eighth of each month, young adults from across the Archdiocese of Detroit gather for Theology on Tap. These fellowship evenings for young adults feature speakers on the topics of religion and theology and allow attendees to reflect on various aspects of their faith in a fun and relaxed setting.

“Some of the things that we do focus on taking our young adults outside of the parish and going into the marketplace — going into places like the bar,” says Chris Gawel, liaison for Young Adult and Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese. “It’s a lot easier to invite somebody to a bar and invite them to a drink, especially for those who haven’t been to church in a while, or have never been to a church.”

Maria Discenna
Maria Discenna belongs to SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Sterling Heights and often participates in events of the Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office.
The Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office coordinates activities for young adults age 18 to 35, providing them opportunities to grow in faith through evangelization, catechesis, spiritual growth, liturgical formation, social events, and service.

An invitation to join a Catholic young adult soccer league while Maria Discenna was studying at Oakland Community College led to a deeper involvement with the Church. When she transferred to Wayne State University, she became involved with the Newman Center; post-graduation, she often participates in events of the Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office, like Theology on Tap. 

“Being surrounded by young adults who share your faith is pretty amazing,” says Maria, who belongs to SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Sterling Heights but is also involved with the National Shrine of the Little Flower’s Shrine Life Young Adult Group in Royal Oak. She enjoys the fellowship with others, as well as “seeing how God is working in my friends’ lives and through the new people I encounter.”

An Agape retreat last fall inspired Alexzander Dudek to become more involved with the north Oakland County young adult community. “The retreat gave me the opportunity to hone myself to be a better man and a better Catholic,” says the member of St. Anastasia Parish in Troy.

Youth ministry had been a large part of his life as a teen, but Alexzander says being involved as an adult, with a willingness and passion to grow in his faith, was different. He is now helping to plan a new bible study group, and will seek out opportunities with campus ministry when he goes away to college in the fall. “I look to the Church to provide me with people, and from there, create memories and experiences, and truly become the person God wants me to be,” Alexzander says.


By helping men discern God’s call to the priesthood

Matthew Hood seminary
Matthew Hood, a seminarian in his third year of theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
When Matthew Hood shared his vocation story with those gathered at the annual Solemn Evening Prayer and Dinner with Archbishop Vigneron last December, his goal was to “help show the men that there are young men answering the Lord’s Call, today.”

He recalls discerning his own vocation, and his fear of being the only guy in the seminary. “I thought it would be isolating,” says Matthew, who is in his third year of theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. “I came and realized there were guys here who had neat stories about God working in their lives and manifesting His will for them.”

Thanks to gifts to the Catholic Services Appeal, the archdiocesan Office of Priestly Vocations provides many opportunities for men to better understand and discern where it is that the Lord might be calling them. Besides the Solemn Evening Prayer and Dinner, the office hosts discernment overnights and weekends, discernment days for junior high and high school students, and a vocations convocation for parish vocations committees. It also provides outreach to parishes and schools and vocations literature, brochures, and prayer cards.

“The primary mission of the Office of Priestly Vocations is to help young men, first and foremost, understand that they have a vocation, and it could be to the priesthood,” says Father Tim Birney, director. “Our office has a variety of programs that help men better understand, ‘What is God calling me to do with my life?’”

For Matthew, living the life of a seminarian during a discernment weekend reinforced the call he felt to the priesthood. “I was really at peace while I was on the discernment weekend,” says Matthew, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Lake Orion who was a freshman at Central Michigan University at that point. “It gave me the additional courage to go ahead and apply to Sacred Heart.”

That was now seven years ago and, “God willing,” Matthew says, he will be ordained to the priesthood in June 2017. In the meantime, he hopes his vocation story will show men discerning their call that being a seminarian is “a joyful life, and fruitful and worthwhile.”

Through grants to Catholic schools

Sr Catherine Marie
A School Outreach Fund grant helped St. Isaac Jogues School in St. Clair Shores install a new science lab, says Dominican Sister Catherine Marie Compton, principal.
When Dominican Sister Catherine Marie Compton began serving as principal of St. Isaac Jogues School in St. Clair Shores last school year, she noticed the science curriculum was 17 years old.

“Science changes so quickly,” she notes. “Is Pluto a planet or not?”

After consulting with other sisters from her order in school leadership positions, she learned of LabLearner, a research-based, hands-on science curriculum for preschool through eighth-graders that, unfortunately, came with a hefty price tag. Sister Catherine Marie approached school families at a school auction, and raised a significant portion of the funds needed that evening. She then went to the parish, which also pledged a portion of the cost.

A School Outreach Fund grant provided the remainder of the funds. For the last academic year, the School Outreach Fund provided about $1 million in grant funding to Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit, thanks to gifts to the Catholic Services Appeal.

Schools apply for School Outreach Fund grants through the Office for Catholic Schools. Grants are designed for special projects that schools “have no other way to try to fund,” says Dr. Brian Dougherty, Superintendent of Catholic Schools.

Past School Outreach Fund grants have allowed schools to update technology, provide professional development for teachers, and develop innovative programs to ensure strong schools and quality education for Catholic school students.

The new science program at St. Isaac Jogues is now up and running, with students of all ages conducting “true experiments” in the lab outfitted with university-quality materials and equipment, Sister Compton says. “Science really comes alive for them.”

She is thankful for the many sources of the program’s funding, especially the Catholic Services Appeal. “One of the beautiful things about being Catholic is that we are never an island unto ourselves; we are part of the Catholic family,” Sister Catherine Marie explains. “These children are given to all of us to raise up as the next leaders of the world and of the Church.”