Swiss Guards stand at closed door of Sistine Chapel as cardinals begin conclave to elect successor to Pope Benedict at Vatican

By Stacy Dibbern
Annual Catholic Appeal Manager

With two college-age children returning home for the summer at the end of the spring semester, early May is a time of upheaval in my household: more cars than the driveway can contain, more laundry than I can keep up with, and more schedules than I can try to remember. Beyond that, it’s a time of reintroduction, of getting to know these young adults who have come back into the family fold with new life experiences under their belt. But soon enough, by coming together, talking and listening to one another, celebrating our time together, and carrying out the traditions and practices that are important to us, we regain that closeness that we once had and things start to feel “right” again.

For those of us who see ourselves as the shepherd who keeps our family pulled together, it’s difficult to imagine that in our spiritual lives, we are the absentee college student, sometimes just coming home for Easter and Christmas, staying just long enough to feel like our “laundry” is done. So how can we make things right for ourselves in our spiritual life?

Woman prays on Ash Wednesday at New York church

In a recent homily, Pope Francis said that to become closer to Jesus, we need to open three doors: prayer, celebration, and imitation. Through prayer, celebrating the sacraments, and imitating Jesus’ life through the works of mercy, we can come to truly know Jesus – not just know of him. A daily examination, according to Francis, could look like this:

“During the day, today, we can think about how the door leading to prayer is proceeding in our life: but prayer from the heart is not like that of a parrot! How is prayer of the heart? How is the Christian celebration in my life proceeding? And how is the imitation of Jesus in my life proceeding? How must I imitate him? Do you really not remember! The reason is because the Book of the Gospel is full of dust as it’s never opened! Take the Book of the Gospel, open it and you will discover how to imitate Jesus! Let’s think about how these three doors are positioned in our life and this will be of benefit to everybody.”


Sometimes the thought of trying to imitate Jesus through the works of mercy can seem too overwhelming and so we don’t move forward at all. That’s why we’ve incorporated volunteerism into this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal. The act of volunteering is so simple, yet so profound. As I’ve been mentioning over the past few months, the ACA provides financial support to local agencies that carry out the works of mercy through their programming. This year, we want to also help them build organizational sustainability by connecting them with volunteers like you.

On June 11th, the Diocese is hosting a Volunteer Fair at the Bishop Marshall Center at St. Michael’s Cathedral from 5-7 p.m. We will have on hand representatives from several of our ACA supported agencies with information about their programs as well as opportunities for folks to find out how and where they can volunteer. Light refreshments will be served. If you’re interested in learning more about this event, please email me at or call me at (413) 452.0670.