Students called to volunteer, while Archdiocese struggles financially

Posted on 16 April 2008 by Remington Tonar

Marquette’s Catholic community is, in many respects, self contained; very few students are acutely aware of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s recent financial struggles. While many Marquette students do not call Milwaukee home, it might concern some that the greater Milwaukee Catholic community of which Marquette is a part is facing serious financial crisis. The Archdiocese is projecting a multi-million dollar budget shortfall, due primarily to sex-abuse lawsuit settlements. On April 7 the Archdiocese released a massive reorganization of its central offices, which included the merging of several offices and programs, as well as the elimination of multiple positions.

Steve Blaha, the coordinator of faith formation programs in University Ministry also serves on the Vision 21 committee, an advisory group of the Archdiocese. On the Archdiocese’s recent financial challenges Blaha poignantly commented that the Archdiocese has “cut the fat, and is now starting to cut the muscle.” Blaha points out that the effects of reorganization disseminate down to the parish level, affecting how the ministries of individual parishes operate, and placing a larger burden on parish ministers and staff.

Jerry Topczewski, the chief of staff of Archbishop Dolan, stressed that the purpose of the restructuring was not to eliminate programs and services. Rather, the aim of the restructuring was to save as much money as possible, while preserving core ministries and outreach programs. “All ministries are important,” Topczewski notes. He highlights that the Archdiocese is not like a corporation that can arbitrarily cut costs, saying, “The services that are used the least are some of the most important. The marginalized are the ones that need us the most.”

While this restructuring does not directly affect Marquette, there are ways that Marquette students can assist the Archdiocese as it reshapes itself in these times of financial struggle. Students can, of course, donate financial assistance through The Catholic Stewardship Appeal, which is the primary fundraising operation of the Archdiocese. One-hundred percent of the money donated to the Stewardship Appeal goes directly to supporting ministries like Catholic Charities and campus ministry programs at UW-Milwaukee and Whitewater.

A second, more active, way that Marquette students can help is by donating their time and skills. Both Topczewski and Blaha emphasize that in the wake of this restructuring the call for lay volunteers has never been greater.

Nicole Steinmetz, a sophomore in the college of Arts and Sciences, currently volunteers her time teaching Confirmation classes at Christ King parish in Wauwatosa. “It’s been a really rewarding experience,” says Steinmetz. “Working in the parish has been great, and I feel like I’ve been able to make a difference.”

This willingness to volunteer, according to Topczewski, is going to be integral to the future of the Archdiocese. “This restructuring calls for people with skills to participate more actively,” he says.

Finally, Topczewski urges that students remember the Archdiocese in their prayers, so that the Catholic community of Southeastern Wisconsin might have the strength to walk through this valley of shadow and financial strife.

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