By Celine Klosterman
Father Vitolds Valainis has a ministry he said he wouldn’t give up for the world.
As one of two priest chaplains at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, he said he aims to “bring the loving presence of God” to people when they most need it. He and fellow chaplain Father Bill Kaska help the dying, minister to grieving loved ones, administer the anointing of the sick to up to 500 ill or pre-surgical patients annually, baptize about 100 ill or premature babies each year, offer the sacrament of reconciliation and celebrate the Eucharist. Year-round, one priest or the other is on call 24/7.
“I believe in this ministry — the value, the worth, the dignity,” said Fr. Valainis, 71. “This is my life. It’s not a job … this gives me purpose, a reason to go on.”
Both Fr. Valainis and Fr. Kaska appreciate all who support the Diocese of Davenport’s Annual Diocesan Appeal (ADA), which pays the priests’ salary. Kickoff is Sept. 25-26 for the appeal, which has a goal this year of $2.9 million and covers 82 percent of diocesan expenses. Fees, grants and gifts cover the remaining costs.
Unlike the diocese’s recently completed capital campaign, which addressed long-term needs, the ADA funds the annual operating expenses of diocesan programs and ministries. (See examples of ADA-supported efforts below).
As capital campaign pledges are paid, the ADA goals set for parishes may increase more slowly, according to the diocese.
Besides supporting priest chaplains at university hospitals, past donations to the ADA have benefited youths like Phoebe Yetley, 17, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City and the Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee. She spent the last week of July in Newton at the 2010 Christian Leadership Institute (CLI), an ADA-supported event designed to teach high school students skills for leadership in a parish or school youth ministry setting.
“The program not only taught me how to be a better leader, but it showed the importance of being a Christian leader,” Yetley said. “I cannot even begin to explain how much I grew in my faith in one short week.” Institute staffers were “incredible,” and fellow youths at the event became like family, she added.
“The youth who attend CLI, and the parishes that benefit from their leadership skills, are blessed by those who support the ADA,” said Pat Finan, youth ministry coordinator for the diocese. Students pay a fee to cover meals and lodging for the event. But Finan said ADA funds play a role behind the scenes, such as in the time, effort, supplies and technology needed to publicize CLI, process registrations, communicate with participants and parents, and allow a diocesan priest to celebrate Masses during the institute.
In addition to supporting youth events, the ADA also funds seminarian education and deacon formation. Deacon Steve Witt, a seminarian, said he’s “very grateful” to the diocese for the opportunity to study at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wis. “This is a wonderful place with an assortment of very qualified faculty and a real sense of welcoming. There are tremendous opportunities here to study, but also to expand my own concept of ministry.
“I have met some wonderful people here, including two seminarians from our own diocese, Bill Roush and Bob Cloos, both of whom are great signs of God’s goodness.”
Deacon Witt is also glad to have been able to serve in three Clinton parishes and, most recently, at St. Mary Parish in Grinnell. “My brother Deacon Bill Olson and I could not have had a better setting than with the good people of Grinnell to do the work that we were called to do.”
God calls all of us to share our gifts and talents with others, said Sister Laura Goedken, OP, director of development for the diocese. “Faithful stewardship is more than occasional acts of charity and service. It is a way of life, a commitment to giving of self in thanksgiving for all the blessings we have received.”
Examples of ADA-funded ministries
• Providing seminarians with room, board, tuition, books, health insurance and a monthly stipend, at an average yearly cost of $32,000 per seminarian. Nine men currently are studying to become priests for the Diocese of Davenport.
• Promoting religious vocations and offering discernment materials and retreats
• Providing ongoing formation for priests
• Offering a five-year deacon formation program, at a yearly cost per deacon of about $4,000. The diocese currently has 14 deacon candidates.
• Supporting retired priests
• The Ministry Formation Program, which educates and trains lay Catholics for Church ministry
• Youth rallies and retreats such as the Christian Leadership Institute and Catholics in Action, a service retreat
• A superintendent of Catholic schools who helps develop policies and curriculum and deals with personnel concerns and state certification
• Re-establishing diocesan Catholic Charities, including promotion and coordination for the diocese’s immigration program, prison/jail ministry, parish nurse ministry and disaster response. Budget for this effort is about $10,000.
• Marriage Preparation Weekends and an annual Mass for couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary
• A social action department that offers Catholics updates on current social justice issues, legislative matters, contact information for elected officials, Respect Life materials and, during Lent, materials for Operation Rice Bowl
• Computer training and technology services for parishes, guidance with accounting software and assistance with employee benefits
• Restoring full sacramental participation for Catholics through the Marriage Tribunal, which processes about 200 cases annually
• Parish religious education programs, 13 Catholic elementary schools and five high schools, teacher training and liturgical services
Donating to the ADA
Please consider making a pledge over a period of months. This makes it possible for you to give a larger gift. A good guideline for giving is about 1 percent of your annual income.
To give cash, make checks payable to your parish. In turn, it sends payments each month to the diocese. Contact your parish office to set up giving in other ways, such as through:
• Transfer of stock
• Grain donation
• An automatic deduction from your bank account
• Credit or debit card payments
For more information, contact Sister Laura Goedken, OP, diocesan development director, at (563) 324-1912, ext. 290, or firstname.lastname@example.org.