By helping men discern God’s call to the priesthood
At Sacred Heart Major Seminary, men study for the priesthood as well as for the permanent diaconate, and women and men prepare for pastoral ministry. Thanks to the CSA, our future shepherds and leaders have a solid foundation in theology and Church teaching.
“It’s truly humbling to know that so many people are supporting us and praying for us,” says Adam Nowak of St. Cyprian Parish in Riverview. “One of the beautiful blessings that I’ve experienced in seminary is being able to return those prayers. It’s a great joy to pray for those who I’ll minister to in the future, my future parishioners.”
Adam first felt called to the priesthood as a freshman at University of Detroit Mercy, and discerned his vocation throughout college by attending daily Mass, participating frequently in the sacrament of Reconciliation, journaling as a form of prayer, and studying the Catholic faith and the Church. Eventually, he attended a discernment weekend at Sacred Heart, which the Office of Priestly Vocations offers for men who would like to take a closer look at the diocesan priesthood.
“I was able to live the life of a seminarian for a weekend — sitting in on classes, praying holy hours, attending Mass, and socializing with the seminarians,” says Adam, who is now completing his second year of theology studies. “The prayerful attitude and the fraternity among the seminarians was a powerful example of what it meant to be a Christian man.”
A discernment weekend in spring 2009 led James Houbeck to decide to continue discerning his call to the priesthood as a seminarian. “That weekend, I felt a great sense of peace, that I was home and where I needed to be,” he says.
James entered the seminary as a collegian that fall, and will be ordained to the priesthood this year.
“I am very grateful for the support that the people of the Archdiocese of Detroit have contributed to my formation as a man of God, says James, whose home parish is St. Pio of Pietrelcina in Roseville. “I realize I can never fully pay this back, but one of the things I can do is say thank you by my faithful service, by my openness to serve, and by my willingness to minister as a priest very soon.”
A professed brother for the Order of St. Benedict, Brother Jahaunn McKenzie was in Rome at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross when he realized his calling was more pastoral in nature than life in the monastery would allow. With the encouragement of his superiors, he decided to look at the diocesan priesthood, which led him back to the Archdiocese of Detroit, where he grew us as a member of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Dearborn Heights.
After six months living at St. Louise de Marillac Parish in Warren and learning about parish life, he asked for permission to apply to Sacred Heart. “During that time, it became very clear as I prayed and reflected, that God was calling me back home to Detroit,” says Brother Jahaunn, who is thankful for the support that is helping him in his journey toward being ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 2019.
Brother Jahaunn points out that in the early Church, the Holy Spirit worked in the local people, who assisted and called a young man to the priesthood — such as with St. Augustine and St. Ambrose.
“Now, 1,700 years later, the people of this area help and assist with the formation of their priests through the CSA,” he says. “In an indirect way, through their financial support, they help us directly. And just as in the early church, we become priests for them, not just for ourselves.”
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 discernment overnights and weekends, the office hosts a Solemn Evening Prayer and Dinner, discernment days for junior high and high school students, and a vocations convocation. It also provides outreach to parishes and schools and vocations literature, brochures, and prayer cards.
Christopher Muer first felt called to the priesthood as a sophomore at Ferris State University, but decided to continue his degree in construction management while remaining open to a vocation. He felt the call again after college, while at his first job and fresh out of a relationship, and on the advisement of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s vocations director, took a year to discern.
But during that year, Christopher was transferred to Kansas for work. Once there, he sought out spiritual direction and became more involved in youth ministry and parish life, which led him to apply to Sacred Heart.
“The Lord called, and he kept calling until the time was right,” says Christopher Muer, whose home parish is St. Claire of Montefalco in Grosse Pointe Park. “It wouldn’t be possible for me to come here to discern my vocation if not for the generosity of all of the people in the Church who donate to the CSA.”
Through the Parish Empowerment Fund (PEF)
Thanks to the CSA-funded Parish Empowerment Fund (PEF), Detroit’s Christ the King Parish helps provide more than 20,000 meals each year to men, women, and children at the St. Christine Soup Kitchen.
The PEF encourages parishes to initiate or enhance evangelization efforts in their neighborhoods, and grants also fund scholarships for lay people at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Last year, more than $577,000 in PEF grants were available to parishes and vicariates.
The St. Christine Soup Kitchen serves meals on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons. “It’s like inviting your whole family over for dinner twice a week,” says Sister Magdalena Kimberly, soup kitchen coordinator. “We know each other, and we look out for each other.”
No one is denied a meal at the soup kitchen, and clients range from children after school to the homeless, unemployed, and underemployed. Volunteer groups prepare the food, as well as provide and distribute other items, such as books, personal care items, and blankets.
“It’s so much more than serving a meal — it’s caring for people and meeting their needs,” Sister Magdalena says. “Words cannot express our thanks to CSA donors for the support we receive. There are a lot of Jesus moments here.”
As a parish nurse at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Warren, Renee Heileman, RN, is “continuing the healing ministry of Christ” — as are the faithful who support the CSA with their gifts.
Parish nursing is not hands-on, like nursing in a healthcare setting, although parish nurses are registered nurses with a current license to practice. Parish nursing began in the Archdiocese of Detroit in the late 1980s; today, the ministry is present at numerous parishes where parish nurses serve as pastoral staff members as well as spiritual caregivers, health counselors and educators, and health resources and advocates.
“Parish nurses encourage whole congregations to care for themselves, thus being good stewards of their gift of life,” Renee says.
Renee has served as a parish nurse at St. Martin de Porres since 1998, and her ministry includes blood pressure screenings, flu shot clinics, and armchair aerobics classes, as well as spiritual retreats and home visits with the Eucharist. “Because I have been here so long and have facilitated so many programs, I have gotten to know parishioners in a very personal way and care deeply about them,” she says. “I feel great responsibility to serve the community in a loving and competent manner.”
She adds that many rely on the information she shares with them, and the guidance she provides on healthcare decisions. “Parish nursing allowed me to combine my professional life with my spiritual life,” Renee says. “What a gift!”
Through the Amazing Parish conference
St. Fabian parishioners who attended the Amazing Parish conference with their pastor, Father Jeff Day, were immediately inspired to apply the seven traits of a vibrant parish at the Farmington Hills parish.
“By having the CSA fund the conference, and by inviting all parishes to participate, it was a shared experience between pastors and parish leaders,” Father Day says. “The support of the CSA gave us a unifying event in the life of the Archdiocese that I don’t think I have ever seen before. This was very impactful, and was the perfect precursor to our Synod. It helped give the Synod vision and energy. I am very grateful that the CSA was able to help our parish, and our whole Archdiocese, get pointed in the right direction.”
Amazing Parish was part of an archdiocesan-wide evangelization initiative, Unleash the Gospel. The focus of the three-day conference, held in downtown Detroit in April 2016, was the revitalization and reinvigoration of parishes across the Archdiocese. Parishes that attended were represented by their pastors and five parishioners.
“I found our time together and the material presented to be a source of great encouragement and a catalyst for moving forward to fulfilling our highest aspirations for serving God's People,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron shared in a thank you letter to attendees. “For me, the conference spoke eloquently to the evangelical mission of our parishes and provided practical ways that we can improve and grow in responding to that mission.”
St. Fabian developed a three-year plan following Amazing Parish, and has already altered Mass times to focus more on fellowship and launched a new preaching series covering topics like understanding the Mass.
“Many people speak of the parish being ‘more alive’ and having a sense of the Holy Spirit being active and present,” Father Day says. “I see more joy in the faces and attitudes of people. This makes me believe in what we are doing, and makes me very optimistic for the future of the Church.”
Through grants to Catholic schools
Each year, CSA gifts help keep Catholic schools across our Archdiocese strong, innovative, and competitive for today’s students through the School Outreach Fund. At St. Clare of Montefalco School in Grosse Pointe Park, grants have been used to update technology — purchasing SMART Boards and Chromebooks for classrooms and overhauling the school’s wireless infrastructure. Funds have also been used to repair the 90-year-old building’s roof and replace water fountains.
“Since we can rely on the generosity of the School Outreach Fund for these unexpected and one-time expenses, we are able to keep our tuition prices affordable and stable for our families,” says Geoffrey Fisher, principal. “The School Outreach Fund helps schools continue Jesus’ missionary work.”
Schools apply for School Outreach Fund grants through the Office for Catholic Schools. For the last academic year, the School Outreach Fund provided $1.1 million in grants to Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit, thanks to gifts to the Catholic Services Appeal.
School Outreach Fund grants are intended for special projects that are challenging for schools to fund. Past 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.
Campus ministry helps foster college students’ spiritual growth as they take their first steps toward independence and adulthood.
“Being Catholic is not popular in college,” says Brigid Jacob, a junior at Wayne State University in Detroit. “It’s nice to have a community to fall back on when you’re on campus.”
Brigid and other Wayne State students turn to the Newman Catholic Center for weekday and Sunday Masses, the sacraments, faith studies, and social activities. Sophomore Leya Maliekal says the center is a place of solace she can always count on, whether she wants to talk to a priest, go to Confession, or simply find a peaceful place.
The mission of the Office of Young Adults and Campus Ministry is to help form communities of faith on campuses, either by incorporating and strengthening the faith of those who live on campus or by building community, forming leadership, and collaborating with area parishes on commuter campuses. The office sponsors activities and programs for students, such as one-on-one pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, social justice projects, and retreats.
“It’s just there with doors open, fresh coffee, and food in the fridge,” says Leya, who grew up as a member of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Parish in Southfield with Brigid. “All because people are willing to donate to the CSA.”
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
When Ronnie Bachman decided to convert to Catholicism, he brought his checkbook to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at Divine Child Parish in Dearborn. He was shocked to learn the yearlong program carried no fee.
“The CSA makes the RCIA possible for people of other faiths and even non-believers to find their way to Catholicism,” he says.
Ronnie’s journey, which began a dozen years ago with a personal study of the life of Jesus, concluded at this year’s Easter Vigil, when he and 995 other candidates, as well as catechumens, were welcomed into the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Coordinated through the Department of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools and funded by gifts to the Catholic Services Appeal, the RCIA has been growing in the Archdiocese since the early 1980s.
“I just found so much peace, and I was comfortable finally saying, ‘This is who I am. This is where I want to be,’” he says.
Through Hispanic Ministries
CSA support of Hispanic Ministries, especially the annual conference for Hispanic youth, “makes us feel that we matter,” says Luz Solis, a high school senior helping to plan this year’s event.
She and other first-generation children often find themselves straddling two cultures at once. “In Mexico, you don’t completely fit in. Here, you’re not always considered American because your parents are immigrants and you have a Hispanic background,” Luz explains.
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.
Last year’s first Hispanic Youth Conference gathered 1,500 teens, and the goal of this year’s event is to continue building community and to help participants grow spiritually and individually. “It was amazing to see all these teens gathered in the same place for the Church,” says Antonio Guzman, youth minister at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in southwest Detroit.
“Thanks to the CSA, we are able to continue to do this amazing stuff with youth who are in need of knowing Jesus more,” Antonio says. “It’s a blessing.”
Young Adult Ministries
Since graduating from college, Steven Stechschulte has sought ways to be more involved with the Catholic young adult community.
“Theology on Tap has been a great way for me to have an interesting experience, listen to lectures about topics that interest me, and meet other Catholics my age,” says Steven, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Lake Orion. “I really appreciate that the CSA funds this valuable ministry to the Church.”
On the eighth of each month, young adults in the Archdiocese of Detroit are invited to gather at Theology on Tap to reflect on their faith in informal surroundings. 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 and discuss them with others in a fun and relaxed setting.
The Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office coordinates Theology on Tap and other 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.
“Some programs can be geared toward children or well-established adults,” says Kristen Uitenham, who recently relocated to the Detroit area and belongs to St. Paul on the Lake Parish in Grosse Pointe Farms. “It’s really nice to have a place for us in the middle to come together.”
Black Catholic Ministries
Take Back the Night brought Black Catholic Ministries to Detroit’s most violent neighborhoods last year, where participants spent weeks praying on different street corners for five nights in a row. The evangelization effort “was very powerful,” says Patricia Dixon, a parishioner at St. Charles Lwanga Parish in Detroit. “The Holy Spirit was with us every night.”
Established in 1971, the Office of Black Catholic Ministries was the first of its kind in North America. It focuses on evangelization and the certification of lay ministers, provides worship, education, and community services, and also serves as a resource for archdiocesan offices.
The office is vital to ensuring the Archdiocese meets the needs of African American Catholics.
Cultural differences and church closings and mergers necessitate the need for a visible presence in the community, according to Patricia.
“Our Church is so big and so beautiful, it’s almost like a melting pot,” she adds. “The CSA helps all feel welcomed and included.”