August 23, 2013
Daily Mass means standing room only for students at Bl. John Paul II University Parish and Catholic Center in Denton. About 20 people crowd into the small, renovated chapel used for liturgy, prayer, and adoration.
“We’re at our limit until we can build a new church,” explains pastor Father Kyle Walterscheid.
The parish was formally established on July 1, 2012 to serve Catholic college students, faculty, and others living near the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University. To accommodate the growing number of young people and families coming to Sunday services, four Masses are offered in rented space at different university locations.
Support from Sharing in Ministry (SIM), the annual diocesan appeal which begins the weekend of Sept. 7-8, will help the new parish purchase property for parking and the construction of a larger sanctuary.
“We are very grateful for Bishop [Kevin] Vann’s vision and Sharing in Ministry. Without support, this initiative could not be accomplished,” Fr. Walterscheid says, referring to the Diocese of Fort Worth’s former bishop.
Mass attendance fluctuates with school breaks, but as many as 200 to 300 people can arrive for worship services on a given Sunday. Making the sacraments easily accessible to college students is critical. When young people leave home and go away to college, they are exposed to other influences. Some drift away from faith altogether or join other religions.
“We have a great potential to reach out to the next generation of Catholics,” explains the pastor, who makes himself readily available to students for confession or counseling. “Universities are where the Church has needed to be for a long time.”
Helping new parishes like Bl. John Paul II establish a presence in Denton is one of the ways Sharing in Ministry furthers the mission of the Catholic Church in North Texas. This year’s campaign hopes to raise $3 million for seminarian training, operating grants to parishes and schools, Catholic Charities, educational programs for children, youth, and adults, and the marriage tribunal.
Since 1983, ministries funded by Sharing in Ministry, have served people from all walks of life in ways an individual parish could never do.
“During the past 29 years, more than $57 million has been contributed to the appeal. This helps the diocese which has grown to more than 700,000 Catholics and 90,000 households,” says Pat Miller, who works in the diocesan Office of Advancement.
A portion of the money collected is returned to individual parishes for in-house projects. Parishes receive 10 percent of donations made to the appeal and 50 percent of everything contributed over their parish’s goal. More than $258,000 was returned last year to assist parish improvements and ministries.
“The ‘parish share’ part of the campaign is an incentive,” Miller explains. “People like to know their parish will benefit, with part of the money coming back to them for local needs.”
For many rural parishes, offering a versatile, thriving youth ministry is a concern. More than 52 percent of the rural and center-city parishes in the diocese receive operating grants to supplement vital ministries and programs.
Sharing in Ministry pays the stipend for two part-time youth ministers who work at Sacred Heart in Seymour, St. Mary of the Assumption in Megargel, St. Joseph in Rhineland and Santa Rosa in Knox City.
“We would like to offer young people the same things larger parishes can,” explains Deacon Jim Novak who serves all four parishes as parochial administrator. “We like them to go to youth conferences, leadership camps, retreats, and participate in service projects to help people in our community and beyond.”
Small, rural parishes cannot pay someone to lead those activities with money from the Sunday church collection.
“We can’t manage it with normal funds, so the Sharing in Ministry grant really helps,” Dcn. Novak continues.
Providing programs that allow young people to experience faith reaps countless blessings, including the possibility of religious vocations.
“And they are our future,” the deacon points out. “Pope Francis calls youth ‘the face of the Church.’ If we don’t encourage participation, they will fall away. We want them to be active in campus ministry as college students. That’s harder to do if you don’t have programs in the home parish.”
Rural faith communities face different challenges than urban churchgoers. The ongoing drought and declining employment opportunities have taken an economic toll on the farming and ranching industry.
“We’re struggling and Sharing in Ministry is there for parishes who want to build a quality youth ministry,” Dcn. Novak adds. “Being there for a young person deciding a future vocation is definitely where we need to be.”
After a vocation is discerned, Sharing in Ministry continues to help. Educating a seminarian for one year now costs $45,000, and the cost is climbing. Generous contributions and collections totaling $770,000 cover most of the annual expense, but Sharing in Ministry dollars are needed to reduce unfunded tuition costs. The Diocese of Fort Worth currently has 34 men studying for the priesthood.
Sharing in Ministry pays for the annual convocation of seminarians, assists with tuition, stipends, and other costs involved in preparing a man for the priesthood.
“For each man, we’re dealing with costs into the tens of thousands every year,” says diocesan Vocations Director Father Jonathan Wallis. “It’s one of the costs we have in the diocese where the money is given and spent directly.”
He believes one of the great blessings of the Catholic Church is that seminarians spend so much time in formation. It’s a nine-year program for a young man entering the seminary after high school.
“That allows a long time for him not only to learn facts, but also how to integrate those facts,” Fr. Wallis explains. “The reality is that nine years is a long time and that takes money and resources. But it’s a wise allocation of resources.”
On the weekends, the Vocations director travels to four outlying parishes in Ranger, Strawn, Cisco, and Eastland to celebrate Mass. Prior to that, he served parishioners at St. Matthew in Arlington.
“So I know, very well, where the money comes from and how hard people work,” he adds. “We do not waste money when it comes to educating seminarians.”
Men studying for the priesthood are not allowed to have off-campus employment because their curriculum, which includes theology and philosophy, is so rigorous.
“All of us who have been in the seminary depend on the generosity of others,” Fr. Wallis continues.
Nine new seminarians will begin their studies this fall. Many are young, recent high school graduates. The number of local men answering a call to religious life is impressive the Vocations director says, adding, “God has answered a lot of our prayers.”
No one likes talking about fundraising, he admits, but Sharing in Ministry is one of the lifelines in the diocese.
“Things cost money. That’s the reality of the material world we live in,” Fr. Wallis reasons. “But Sharing in Ministry is one way we can take the material goods we have and turn them into spiritual gain.”
For more information about Sharing in Ministry, visit its website at http://www.advancementcorporation.org/pages/sharing-in-ministry-about.
Daily Mass means standing room only for students at Bl. John Paul II University Parish and Catholic Center in Denton. About 20 people crowd into the small, renovated chapel used for liturgy, prayer, and adoration. “We’re at our limit until we can build a new church,” explains pastor Father Kyle Walterscheid.