Roll out the buses for Appeal tour

| March 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

Mary Ann Sullivan, right, director of Catholic Charities’ Seton Services in St. Paul, greets Clara Perlinger, left, and Marlene Longpre, both of Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis, during the Catholic Services Appeal bus tour Feb. 23. she was chosen to speak at all week- end Masses at both churches. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

It wasn’t exactly the Magical Mystery Tour, but a group of five buses traveling to ministry sites in the archdiocese was a novel way of kicking off this year’s Catholic Services Appeal.

The idea started with this year’s Appeal chair couple, Mary and Pat Regan of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings. They own a bus company called Minnesota Coaches and decided to put their fleet to use on Feb. 23.

At a meeting with Archbishop John Nienstedt and Father Peter Laird, vicar general, the archbishop mentioned wanting to get people “on board” with the Appeal.

“I thought we could get people on board by taking them to the ministry sites that are benefited by the campaign,” Pat Regan said. “If you can get people to see, touch and feel the fruits of the campaign, that will generate excitement.”

Firsthand look

More than 300 donors and Appeal leaders in their parishes got on board five buses and headed to five different sites to take tours and hear descriptions of how Appeal donations make a difference. One of the drivers was Father Michael Tix, pastor of St. John the Baptist in Savage, who has done work for the Regans since age 15, when he got a summer job washing buses.

Gerry Merth and dozens of others took a bus ride to Catholic Charities’ Seton Services in St. Paul, which helps poor, unwed mothers through their pregnancies and deliveries, providing practical and spiritual support.

There, she was welcomed by director Mary Ann Sullivan, who addressed the group on site and also gave a presentation to everyone on the tour at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, the tour’s final stop where children from three Catholic schools served dinner.

For Merth, of St. Joseph in Taylors Falls, the timing of the tour couldn’t have been better. Just days after the event, she was scheduled to address parishioners at St. Joseph and near- by St. Francis Xavier in Franconia, with whom her parish is clustered. As an Appeal leader at her parish,

“I was impressed to learn about the [Seton Services] clinic,” she said. “I really was not aware of it. It’s important to bring that [information about the clinic] to our parishes so that they know where their donations go.”

Another bus stopped at the St. Paul Seminary, while three others went to Catholic elementary schools — Risen Christ and Ascension in Minneapolis, and Blessed Trinity in Richfield.

Visits appreciated

It wasn’t just the tour guests who were touched by the visits. The hosts found them meaningful as well.

“I felt a lot of gratitude that they would take the time to come and visit our school and hear our stories,” said Dorwatha Woods, principal of Ascension. “It shows the depth of dedication to the life of the Catholic schools.”

Woods brought with her someone who has been sending children to the school for the last eight years, Gerardo Escamilla. An immigrant from Mexico, he represents a fast- growing demographic group at schools like Ascension, Risen Christ and Blessed Trinity. So many of the children from these families need help with, not only English, but tuition.

“When we had the opportunity to enroll our children at Ascension School, we didn’t think twice,” Escamilla said. “We were convinced it was the best option.

“We hope they continue to open their doors for many years to come for people like our family.”

Helen Dahlman, principal of Risen Christ, put the concept in even more practical terms when she stood up to address the tour guests.

“Over 90 percent of our families live in poverty,” she said. “The aver- age annual income for families at Risen Christ is $24,945. That doesn’t leave much room for tuition. We depend on the generosity of this archdiocese and the Catholic Services Appeal to provide [Catholic] education.”

The final speaker of the night was Archbishop Nienstedt, who said the tour was “like a field trip in high school.” When he arrived as coadjutor, he felt the need to infuse more energy into the Appeal. His assessment of this year’s kickoff?

“We have put life into it tonight.”

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Category: Catholic Services Appeal