Annual appeal funds more than 100 ministries, services and programs through $17.8M budget

DETROIT — When Karina Lepkowski arrived at Holy Trinity School in southwest Detroit, a technology-based education for the students was a difficult proposition.

There were no iPads. No robotics classes. No curriculum designed to help students meet the needs of a 21st century economy.

That all changed because of the Catholic Services Appeal.

“With the funds from last year, we were able to gain some new iPads, and we got laptops for the students,” said Lepkowski, interim principal at Holy Trinity, one of just four Catholic grade schools left in the city of Detroit. “It’s important that we have those dollars because otherwise our students would be left behind.”

The annual appeal, which funds more than 100 vital ministries, programs, services and nonprofits within the Archdiocese of Detroit, allows low-income students at Holy Trinity and Catholic schools across Metro Detroit have access to an education that nourishes both their minds and their souls as the next generation of Catholic leaders.

Karina Lepkowski, interim principal at Most Holy Trinity School in Detroit, smiles as she talks with students. Lepkowski said funds from the Catholic Services Appeal helped the inner-city school purchase iPads and laptops — which wouldn't be possible with the school's usual budget. (Paul Duda | Detroit Catholic)

The 38th annual Catholic Services Appeal launches this weekend, May 4-5. This year’s theme, “Opening Doors to Witness Christ,” encourages Catholics across Metro Detroit to give generously to support the mission of the Church through the many ways the Church reaches out to touch those in need, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said in a video message that will be played this weekend at Masses.

“To live fully as a disciple of Jesus Christ means following his commission to make disciples of the whole world,” the archbishop said. “Each year, when you support the Catholic Services Appeal, you answer the call to witness to Jesus. Your gift fuels the engine of the mission of our archdiocese: more than 100 ministries touching countless souls in southeast Michigan. From my heart, I thank you for your generous support of our shared mission to open doors to witness Christ.”

Over the past 10 years, the goal of the CSA has remained steady at $17.8 million — a target that has been exceeded each year through the generosity of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Detroit’s 200-plus parishes.

Each parish is given an individual target determined through a formula based on the parish’s offertory and Christmas collections, and anything raised in excess of a parish’s goal is returned to the parish for the benefit of its own programs, services and operations.

Hispanic youths gather at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in March for the Hispanic Youth Conference. CSA funds support Hispanic ministry efforts across the Archdiocese of Detroit. (Melissa Moon | Detroit Catholic)

Fr. Marc Gawronski, pastor of St. Gabriel Parish, a predominantly Hispanic parish in southwest Detroit, said parishioners respond to the CSA each year out of a recognition of the blessings God has bestowed on the parish.

“We’re not a rich parish, by any means — we’re a parish of people who live paycheck-to-paycheck and who have jobs that pay by the hour without any insurance,” Fr. Gawronski said. “Our folks live with lots of daily challenges, but they’re still very grateful to God, and they’re still very generous when it comes to CSA.”

The Catholic Services Appeal supports the education and certification of the parish’s lay ministers, catechists and clergy, who receive training through Sacred Heart Major Seminary. The parish’s vibrant faith formation program supports Spanish-language catechism instruction, which is a huge benefit for St. Gabriel’s Spanish-speaking parishioners.

If the parish raises more than its target — which it plans to do, Fr. Gawronski said — it will use the money to restore a bell in St. Gabriel’s bell tower.

“In any town in Mexico or Latin America, whenever there’s Mass, a bell rings to evangelize people, to remind people that it’s time to come to gather to pray,” Fr. Gawronski said. “It’s a sound people long to hear, so we’re looking forward to restoring that bell with the help of the generosity of our parishioners through the CSA.”

A significant portion of the Catholic Services Appeal supports the education of future priests and deacons who receive instruction at Sacred Heart — a mission that touches every facet of life in the local Church.

Deacon Derik Peterman, who will be ordained a priest in June, prays in the chapel at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, which receives a major portion of its funding through the Catholic Services Appeal. (Paul Duda | Detroit Catholic)

“I’m very grateful to God for the generosity of the people of the archdiocese,” said Deacon Derik Peterman, a Sacred Heart seminarian who is on track to be ordained a priest this June. “To have a lot of people behind me with their prayers and support really helps me. I’m not even a priest yet; I’m not doing anything to earn or deserve that. They’re generous because they love the Lord, and they know that it’s the priesthood that allows Jesus to work in his Church.”

At Most Holy Trinity, students’ ability to participate in technology-based programs was made possible through the School Outreach Fund, a program administered through the Office of Catholic Schools that provided more than $955,190 in grants for special school projects last year. The fund is paid for through the Catholic Services Appeal.

“We’re enlightening them,” Lepkowski said. “Having these items in our students’ hands is enhancing their educational growth and their understanding of what it means to be a contributing member of the community beyond our walls.”

But it isn’t just Catholic parishioners and students who benefit from the generosity practiced through the Catholic Services Appeal. The appeal also funds ministries to help the less fortunate, such as those who receive assistance through St. Christine’s Christian Services in northwest Detroit.

The soup kitchen and food pantry provides more than 22,000 hot, nutritious meals each year to men, women and children in need in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood, in addition to supplemental groceries, clothing, utility assistance and other forms of aid.

Maureen Northrup, center, speaks with volunteers and patrons at the soup kitchen at St. Christine's Christian Services. The nonprofit serves 22,000 hot meals each year to down-on-their-luck patrons, and receives support through the Catholic Services Appeal.

“It has humbled me more than I could have ever imagined and just made me grateful for every day that I can go there and serve,” said Maureen Northrup, a social worker whose position is funded through the Catholic Services Appeal. “I feel like I’m doing the work of a disciple.”

St. Christine’s is “truly a blessing to the community of Brightmoor,” Northrup said. “We practice radical hospitality by meeting people where they are — wherever that is. Be it at the street corner or at their house or in the soup kitchen or food pantry, (patrons) say that they’re happy St. Christine’s is there.

Without the soup kitchen, and the generosity of those who donate to the CSA, St. Christine’s clients “would have to make choices as to whether to feed their children or pay their bills,” Northrup added. “It’s their lifeline. It’s their hope that every day those doors are going to open at 10 o’clock, and a friendly face is going to say, ‘Come on in.’”

To donate or to learn more about the ways in which the Catholic Services Appeal helps build up the body of Christ in southeast Michigan, visit No CSA dollars have ever been used, or will be used, to settle claims of any nature against the Archdiocese of Detroit.