That’s the best way to describe the start of the main annual development effort of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
More than 300 Catholics who will be the feet-on-the-street for the 2011 Catholic Services Appeal literally “got on board” Wednesday, Feb. 23, hopping on buses from five different directions to first see for themselves how Appeal dollars are used, then meeting at the Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Minneapolis for dinner and even more inspiration to make this year’s campaign a success.
“This is like a field trip!” claimed a pumped Archbishop John Nienstedt.
Pat Regan, who owns a bus company headquartered in Hastings, gets credit for the idea.
Pat and Mary Regan said they were “humbled and honored” when the archbishop asked them to co-chair the 2011 Appeal, which begins the weekend of March 4-5.
“When he talked to us about leading the Appeal,” Pat recalled, “the archbishop said we need to get more people on board.
“I said if you really want to get ‘em on board, let’s put ‘em on some motor coaches and show ‘em what the Catholic Services Appeal funds really do in this archdiocese.”
Seeing the good donations do
Regan donated the use of five of his Minnesota Coaches to transport Appeal volunteers from parishes in the suburbs to five sites where donations to the Catholic Services Appeal help make ministry possible.
Buses stopped at three Catholic schools — Risen Christ and Ascension in Minneapolis and Blessed Trinity in Richfield — at the St. Paul Seminary and at Catholic Charities’ Seton Services in St. Paul.
Seton’s Mary Ann Sullivan said $1 million of Appeal funds help support a pre-natal program that serves some 500 clients each year. The poor and immigrant women receive counseling and medical care, get connected to resources, baby clothing and blankets, emotional support and even post-partum care that includes education for caring for infants and help to transition back to work or school.
“We don’t advertise, and we’re completely full just on word-of-mouth,” Sullivan said. “Most of the women are from high-risk populations who come from all over the metro area, many speak little or no English, and who are pregnant and don’t know where to turn.
“Our goal is to help these women — and the dads, too — make their lives as stable as possible before giving birth so that they have healthy babies.”
And it works. Moms cared for through Seton’s pre-natal program deliver babies who gestation weight and birth weight surpasses the norm in the Twin Cities area.
Sullivan thanked the Appeal volunteers for the continuing support of Seton Services.
“These are your dollars supporting the pro-life movement in a real, practical way.”
Representatives of each of the schools toured — including several parents of pupils — told Appeal volunteers that many of the young people at their schools wouldn’t be able to attend Catholic school without the generosity of the people of the archdiocese. Seminarian Brian Park said the tuition support from the Appeal has allowed him to follow his call to the discernment about the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary.
So that volunteers could get a preview, Archbishop Nienstedt introduced the short DVD that promotes the 2011 Catholic Services Appeal. “I’m kind of famous for DVDs,” he quipped, to a round of applause. The video itself earned another round of applause, and Archbishop Nienstedt followed up by “commissioning” everyone present to be missionaries for the Appeal, urging them to be sure to share widely the brochure that tells the Appeal story.
“It’s all in here,” the archbishop said, holding the brochure aloft. “We tell you where the money is going and how it’s transforming lives. Obviously our first love is our own parish, but as a community we have obligations no one parish can meet.”
In thanking the chair-couple, the volunteers and the staff of the archdiocesan Development and Stewardship Office — including new director Michael Halloran — Archbishop Nienstedt saved a special thank you to Pat Regan’s father, Don, who underwrote the cost of the dinner for the Appeal kick-off.
That earned applause, of course, but the founder of Premier Banks and patriarch of the Regan family was the one who had earlier started a show of gratitude at Seton Services.
Having been on the bus with the rest of the crowd from White Bear Lake, Don Regan put into words what many Appeal volunteers were surely thinking after stopping at Seton and hearing of the inspiring work Catholic Charities does for poor, pregnant women and their babies.
“May we all commend you all for all you do,” he said, and the crowded room applauded in agreement.