Bishop Anthony B. Taylor will deliver this recorded homily in all parishes Feb. 3-4.
Brothers and sisters in Christ. This year I celebrate my 10th year as your bishop and my heart is filled with gratitude for what a blessing it has been for me personally to serve you in this capacity.
I rejoice in the ways in which the Lord has blessed our local Church during this time and the many things we have accomplished together — much of which has been paid for through your generous contributions to CASA, our annual Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal. All of this is the fruit of your — and my — commitment to the Lord. Consider these great blessings:
• During these 10 years, with our upcoming eight ordinations this spring, I will have ordained 34 priests for the service of our diocese, plus three Benedictines, more than half of all the Diocese of Little Rock priests presently in active ministry — in just 10 years. The median age of our priests in active ministry in 2008 was around 65. Now it has dropped to 50, and your CASA donations have helped to pay for their education.
Over the past 10 years, our diocese has spent $11 million to prepare our seminarians for ordination to the priesthood. About $1 million of that came from your donations to CASA.
• During these 10 years we have built or remodeled several buildings which serve the needs of our diocese as a whole: our Catholic Charities building, our House of Formation for our seminarians, the Annex to the House of Formation where I now live and where classes are given, repairs to several buildings at St. John Center, and this year the complete remodeling of our Fletcher Hall retreat center, which is used 48 weekends out of the year for diaconate formation, Search retreats, adult religious education, Marriage Encounter; the list goes on and on.
Once Fletcher Hall is renovated, the total cost of all these projects will have been $6 million. And important to me, all of this has been financed without a diocesan-wide capital campaign, but rather through your donations to CASA over the past 10 years. With allocations from just one or two more CASA campaigns, the last of these projects, Fletcher Hall, will be completely paid for.
• But the bulk of your CASA donation goes to fund the diocesan offices and programs sponsored by these offices to build up the Kingdom of God here in Arkansas. And here I would like to take a moment to thank the staff of our diocesan offices. They give of themselves so generously in the service of the Church in Arkansas and are excellent stewards of the CASA funding they receive.
You can find more information about all the ministries funded by CASA in the most recent issue of Arkansas Catholic, our award-winning diocesan newspaper. If you are not yet a subscriber, please sign up. Subscription envelopes are being provided along with your CASA pledge card to be filled out during this Mass.
So once again I come to you asking you to be generous. In our diocese we ask you to give 1 percent of your gross income to CASA. For instance, if you earn $50,000 per year, pledge to give $50 per month for the next 10 months and that will be 1 percent of your income. Thank you for your generosity in the past and thanks in advance for an even more generous response this year.
Last fall saw the beatification of Blessed Stanley Rother, the first martyr from the United States. If you don’t know about him, I encourage you to check him out on the internet and elsewhere. All who learn about him come away very edified by his total gift of self to the Lord and the people entrusted to his care in the concrete circumstances in which he found himself in the middle of a civil war in Guatemala.
He inspires us to give ourselves more fully to the Lord in the concrete circumstances in which we find ourselves, and your donation to CASA is part of your gift of self to the Lord.
The Lord asks us to give our whole self to him, so giving 1 percent of our money to CASA should be something that practically all of us should be able to manage. Thank you so much for your generosity.
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