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‘Faith and Charity’ appeal unveiled as Diocese of Wilmington kicks off campaign with fresh approach, $5 million goal

Members of the "Circle of Honor" receive a medal from Bishop Koening and Sheila McGirl, diocesan development director. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

BEAR — There is a new name, new director, even a new bishop, but the goal remains the same: to help the Diocese of Wilmington provide the ministries and services to which its residents have become accustomed.

That was the message on Feb. 9, when a devoted group gathered at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for the first of a series of “Circle of Honor” prayer services and informational sessions about the Faith and Charity Appeal. That is the new name of the former Annual Catholic Appeal.

Bishop Koenig, the leader of the diocese since last July, is in the diocese for his first appeal, as is diocesan development director Sheila McGirl.

McGirl noted that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the appeal exceeded its goal last year, bringing in more than $4.8 million. This year, the target has increased by 2.64 percent to $5 million.

Sheila McGirl, diocesan development director, speaks to the first of several “Circle of Honor” gatherings. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

“With your participation, I know we’ll reach that goal,” she told the group.

The theme of the appeal is “Walking by Faith.”

The Faith and Charity name change for the appeal, McGirl said, “reminds us that we are all grounded in faith and called to charity. Charity is the high road on the faith journey.”

The Circle of Honor includes 3,000 members who pledge a minimum of $500 to the appeal. Those donors, along with parishioners from around Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, make it possible for people “to experience faith, hope, help and healing,” McGirl said.

Barbara Yotter, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, said she is grateful for the blessings in her life, “and I think it’s good to give back when I can to those that are less fortunate.” She attended with her husband, Richard.

Her fellow parishioner, Leanne Brown, said she and her husband, Marc, participate in the appeal as much as they can. Their son, Jacob, is very involved at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; he was the reader at the prayer service at the Circle of Honor gathering.

“This is a wonderful place for us, and it’s very important that it be able to continue to thrive. I do believe very much in the church,” she said.

“I think it’s important to help those that are in need. Not everyone who’s in need may realize it. And when they know that their church can support them, whether it’s through groups or through the pastor coming and visiting them, encouraging them to get help if they need it, I think that it’s important that that be available to them.”

Bishop Koenig addresses the “Circle of Honor” group. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

During his homily, Bishop Koenig said in the reading from Colossians, Paul writes about “heartfelt compassion,” which fit the context of the gathering and of the Faith and Charity Appeal. The letter also calls on people to teach one another.

“These two concepts really reflect what the appeal supports,” Bishop Koenig said.

The bishop also discussed the story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes. He said it is the only miracle aside from the resurrection that is included in all four gospels. Its message is really what the appeal is all about.

“It’s the story of Jesus’ teaching,” he said. “People are hungry to hear the good news.”

The early Christians, he continued, cared for one another. We are not called only to live for ourselves. This has been true through the centuries.

The Faith and Charity Appeal supports all the ministries of the Diocese of Wilmington, including schools, religious education, seminarians, marriage preparation and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and Hispanic ministry, just to name a few.

A new ministry this year is Footprints, which supports families that have suffered the loss of a child. It was one of the programs highlighted in a video that was played during the gathering. The video, with comments from several people who benefit or administer these ministries, also featured Casa San Francisco in Milton.

The challenge for us, Bishop Koenig said, is to hear Christ’s message and let it get to our hearts. McGirl noted that during her talks with people around the diocese, their generosity comes from a need to give back to the community without fanfare. The diocese, however, wanted to recognize their contributions. A dinner was not possible because of the pandemic, but each attendee received a Circle of Honor medal blessed by Bishop Koenig.