A Commitment

September 14th, 2022

It rained hard on Sunday. We got over seven inches in twenty-four hours. It was already pouring out when we drove to the church in the morning. When we got there, I pulled up in front of the entrance to help Karin get Asher out of his booster seat. We rushed to get the little boy into the narthex. Then I parked the RAV in the lot and got soaked as I walked back to the church.

Karin and I were at the church early. We had a meeting with a lady from the parish who wanted to talk about the Milwaukee Archdiocese’s new capital campaign. This campaign is apparently a big deal. The title for this massive fundraiser is “Love One Another”. That phrase is scriptural. It is from the Gospel of John. Somehow, this command from Jesus is being translated by the archdiocese to mean “give money to the Church”. I find that irritating.

Actually, there is a lot about this capital campaign that I find irritating. By sheer coincidence, the archdiocese is cranking up this campaign just after the funeral of the former archbishop, Rembert Weakland. Archbishop Weakland admitted in 2008 that he had shredded copies of sex abuse documents and moved sexually abusive priests from church to church without warning the members of those communities. Following his coverup of the diocese’s sex abuse scandal, the Milwaukee Archdiocese was inundated with lawsuits and eventually had to file for bankruptcy. The archdiocese has spent the last decade desperately trying keep what it could of its money and property. Now, the current archbishop wants to invest in the future, and put the past behind us.

Yeah, maybe. We have short memories, but not that short.

My wife and I contribute money to archdiocese every year. We give as much as we can. We also give money to our parish church and to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. We give to the Catholic Workers. We give to these organizations because we trust the people involved with them. We know that our donations will be used properly. Especially with St. Vincent de Paul and the Catholic Workers, we know that the money will go to the poor, to those who suffer and struggle.

Do I trust the people at the archdiocese? Kinda. I suspect that most of the money from this campaign will go to worthy causes, however the archdiocese’s financial track record is spotty. I prefer to spend my money with people I know.

A couple weeks ago, during Mass, our priest showed a video from the archbishop to kick off the capital campaign. The video was slick and professional. That alone turned me off. The sales pitch was smooth and subtle. It reminded me of when I was shopping for a used car. The Church needs money to survive. I get that. Does it really need to function like a corporation? Does Christianity have to be a business?

The woman at our parish is a good person, active in the parish and strong in her faith. She was talking to us because she really wants to do what’s best for the Church and the greater community. She had a folder for us that was packed with brochures and papers that explained how the campaign worked. The archdiocese’s plans were long on generalities and short on specifics. There were a lot of buzzwords in the presentation, like “stewardship” and “time, talent, and treasure”. The lady emphasized that 60% of the funds raised would come back to our parish, St Rita’s Church. That was apparently a selling point.

I thought to myself, “I could write a check to St. Rita’s and the parish would get 100% of the money.”

Oh well, whatever.

I reluctantly listened to the entire spiel. The woman wrapped up by asking us to make a pledge to be paid over a five-year period. That was the deal breaker.

When she was done, I asked her, “What do you actually know about us?”

I sat back, holding Asher in my arms, and waited for her response. There was an awkward silence. I could hear the raindrops beating on the window.

She said that she knew we were a very family-oriented couple. She didn’t have much to say after that. The fact was that she did not know us well. Why should she? She only saw us occasionally at Mass, and we had seldom spoken. We didn’t know much about her either.

While holding Asher, I explained to her that, as of June 8th of this year, Karin and I became Asher’s legal guardians. The court made us solely responsible for his health and wellbeing. The State of Wisconsin was giving us a small stipend to help raise the lad, but that did not even come close to covering our expenses. The fact was that we already tapping into our 401K to take care of Asher. We had already made a pledge. We had committed to caring for our grandson for the next sixteen years. I made it clear that almost all of our time, talent, and treasure were being used to raise this little boy. Our spendable income was already being spent.

The lady looked shocked.

I apologized to her for being rude.

She replied, “Oh no! You weren’t rude at all! I just didn’t know any of this!”

She wanted to know if we wanted to complete a portion of the form indicating that we could not contribute at this time.

I shook my head. I said, “No, I am not filling out that form. I have no idea what we will be able to do tomorrow, much less during the next five years.”

She asked, “Do you want to take the folder and read about the campaign?”

I shook my head again. “That will change nothing.”

“Well, could you at least take a copy of the prayer for the campaign and pray it each day?”

Karin and I nodded.

We got up to leave. Mass was going to begin soon.

She smiled and asked us sweetly, “How about hugs?”

We all hugged.

She looked at me and said, “You know, when you read from the Scriptures during the service, it is very inspirational. I love to hear you speak.”

I just looked back at her and said, “Thank you.”

I understand that we need to love each other. We all play a role on building the City of God. Karin and I are doing what we can by loving one little boy. That’s the best we can do. That is our commitment.

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