By Celine Klosterman
In more than two years as accounting coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport, Nancy Karn hadn’t gotten a call quite like one she received in December 2009.
Ann Ratliff, an administrative assistant at Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, was returning from vacation with her husband who had a heart attack while flying to Detroit. He underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery and spent a month in a Detroit hospital. With no one at the parish to take care of payroll, could Karn help out?
She drove to Newton to do so. Later, Ratliff’s husband Steve recovered, and Ratliff returned to Sacred Heart, where she continues to work today.
She and her parish community were grateful primarily for his health. But they also appreciated the help of Karn, one of several diocesan staffers who assist with parish ministries and operations and whose salaries are funded by the Annual Diocesan Appeal. That appeal kicks off this weekend and aims to raise $2.88 million to support the diocese’s ministries, programs and services.
Karn, now in her fifth year with the diocese, takes calls almost daily from parish staffers who have questions about accounting software and financial record-keeping required by the diocese. A few times a month, she visits parish and school offices — often to do financial reviews as a new pastor, principal or bookkeeper arrives.
“I really enjoy working with the parishes because every one is different,” she said. New questions and issues keep her job interesting.
“Nancy has been fantastic to help me,” said Mary Rae Schnedler, who works in the office at Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington. “I can email her and talk to her on the phone. She’s been a great support.”
Parish leaders at St. Thomas More in Coralville have appreciated the support of another diocesan staffer. Dan Ebener, director of stewardship and parish planning, has guided that parish in developing a long-term strategic plan.
He held four focus groups designed to discover parishioners’ perceptions of the parish’s strengths and weaknesses. He also offered structure to the strategic planning process for a team of 40 parish leaders and offered follow-up assistance to ensure they follow through on assigned tasks.
Strategic planning consultants would have charged tens of thousands of dollars to provide the services Ebener offered, said Joan Garrity, a parish council member.
“We couldn’t have done it without him,” said Bill Graf, one of the coordinators for the planning process. “We were very pleased with Dan’s assistance.”
Each year Ebener and Sister Laura Goedken, OP, diocesan director of development, provide strategic planning facilitation and leadership support for several parishes, especially those in transition.
The staffers also guide the Diocesan Stewardship Commission to promote stewardship across southeast Iowa, and offer the Stewardship Institute and Servant Leadership Institute for parishes.
Such services are one of several reasons Catholics should support the ADA, Sr. Goedken said.
“The Annual Diocesan Appeal affects every aspect of parish life,” she tells parishioners. “Your donations funded your pastor’s education. We are presently funding 11 seminarians. One of these could be in your parish some day. Maybe one of our deacons will serve your parish.
“We are promoting the Year of Faith throughout the diocese and many parishes have responded very positively.”
Other ADA-funded ministries include the marriage tribunal, hospital chaplains, social action, immigration services, lay ministry formation, technology support, liturgy office, communication and education and assistance for priests.
Sr. Goedken recommends families consider giving 1 percent of their annual income to the appeal, which covers about 77 percent of the diocese’s budget. Fees, bequests, investments and The Catholic Foundation cover the rest.
For more information about ways to donate money, stock, grain or other gifts, visit www.davenportdiocese.org or call Sr. Goedken at (563) 888-4252.
“We are all extremely grateful for your ongoing generosity,” she said.