Inspired by priests and women religious they’ve known, laypeople step up for the Called to Serve as Christ campaign
Theresa Downs has a soft spot in her heart for women religious.
One of the people she loved and admired most, her older sister Mary Ann Ryan, spent 20 years as a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“It was considered an honor to have a family member in the religious life,” said Downs, a member of Sts. Cosmas and Damian Mission in Orting. “And I would be taught at the time by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and I remember they were hopeful that I would follow in my sister’s footsteps. I just admired her,” she said of her sister, who died in 2008.
So when the Archdiocese of Seattle announced its Called to Serve as Christ campaign to raise money for retired priests and women religious, Downs approached her pastor, Father Jerry Burns, to volunteer.
The $100 million campaign will support priest pension and medical costs, provide $24 million for women religious in Western Washington and benefit parish projects.
Through the years, Downs got to know many of her sister’s friends, some who remain in religious life. Whenever she returns to Kalamazoo, she stops to visit. It helps her appreciate what women religious are doing around the Archdiocese of Seattle, and the many challenges they face, including financially.
Downs was able to share those messages when she met with fellow Sts. Cosmas and Damian parishioners on behalf of the Called to Serve as Christ campaign.
Volunteers like Downs have an important role in the campaign. Hundreds of volunteers make personal visits to inform fellow parishioners about the campaign, give testimonials at Mass and other functions, and help at campaign events.
It wasn’t always easy work for Downs, a retired nurse living in South Prairie, but she found great satisfaction in it.
“The really big gift I got out of having been on this committee was the people that I met who go to the same church I go to every Sunday who I didn’t know,” Downs said. “And to visit with them, and hear about their story … that by far was the best thing to come out of working on the committee.”
‘Grateful for these beautiful priests’
Joy Beal, a volunteer at Seattle’s Blessed Sacrament Parish, said she and her husband Nick have been on a journey of sorts since converting to Catholicism six years ago. As they attended different parishes before landing at Blessed Sacrament, priests at each stop left a positive and lasting impact, she said.
“I’m just very grateful for these beautiful priests, and I have some friends tell me about their great priests, and it just makes me so happy,” she said.
Beal wasn’t sure what she was getting into when her pastor, Dominican Father John Marie Bingham, asked if she would chair the campaign at Blessed Sacrament, but she agreed without much hesitation.
“Whenever our pastor asks for something, my immediate answer is I want to be like Our Lady, and I said yes,” Beal said. “I’m very grateful to be part of this campaign because it’s so beautiful to engage and meet with parishioners and realize their heart for the Catholic Church, and especially this campaign and what it means for the archdiocese.”
Blessed Sacrament formed a strong volunteer team, Beal said. She personally took responsibility for meeting with nearly 20 parishioners and began making calls in September.
Beal said she was particularly touched by a conversation with a middle-aged woman who had undergone a recent organ transplant. Her message to Beal was one of gratefulness to God for all that he has done.
“She said, ‘I’m all in. What do you want me to do?’” Beal said. “And I was like, ‘Wow!’ … I was so humbled.”
‘They make you who you are’
For Dennis Carda at St. John Vianney Parish on Vashon Island, volunteering for the Called to Serve as Christ campaign helped him get to know his own pastor better. Carda and his wife Leslie — and co-chairs Robert and Diane Kajca — were among those whom Father David Mayovsky approached to bring enthusiasm and leadership to the parish campaign.
“I hadn’t really had a chance to sit down and talk with him so often,” said Dennis Carda, a Delta Air Lines pilot. “For me, I really got to know who he is as a man, and it’s quite wonderful.”
He also got to know his parish better. “I got to see how faith-based and Christ-centered we really are,” Carda said. “It makes me feel like I wasn’t really worthy to be in the crowd.”
He still remembers some of the priests from his childhood at St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn, Nebraska, where he was an altar boy, riding his bike almost a mile to serve at morning Mass. Those memories helped make the campaign personal.
“These men and women who shape you throughout your life, they make you who you are,” Carda said. “Without that faith in life and those role models, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
Carda said it was amazing to see about 15 volunteers step up at his small parish. He referred to them all as co-chairs for the work they were willing to do.
“It was heartwarming, because they really wanted to make a difference,” Carda said. “I’m very proud of them all.”
To learn more about vocations in the Archdiocese of Seattle, visit seattlevocations.com.
Editor’s note: Northwest Catholic is supporting the Called to Serve as Christ campaign by highlighting senior priests and sisters and their continuing contributions to the people of the Archdiocese of Seattle.
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