The Foundation for the Diocese of Helena has given nearly $1,000,000 in grants to our Diocesan parishes and ministries since 2007. This year alone, we gave more than $103,000; but this grant cycle there was a twist. In previous years the grants went to everything from new hymnals to a new boiler, to roof repairs . . . and while all those things are important and critical stewardship components to our faith life, their importance dims when we are faced with empty pews in our churches.
The number of Catholics in our diocese attending Mass on Sundays dropped from 66,500 in 2000 to 45,400 in 2020. We need to throw open the doors of our parishes and invite people in. It’s time for some action! Our faith—at its core—is about helping people to experience the transformative love of our God that sets hearts ablaze! So, the Foundation’s grants program became the Faith-In-Action Grants Program with a focus on evangelization, with a focus on the heart of Jesus.
We also encouraged grant applicants to DREAM BIG and apply for an evangelization idea that is so tremendous, it’s audacious to even dare dream it! The recipient of first ourDream Big grant was St. Francis Xavier Parish in Missoula. They are creating The Voice of St. Francis podcast for the purpose of evangelization, promoting our Catholic community and furthering the formation of everyday Catholics. Collin McCormack, the Parish Administrator at St. Francis X elaborated, “The [Faith-In-Action] grant has
been critical in getting the podcast off the ground and sooner than anyone at the parish was able to anticipate. Production has been underway for several weeks with the very first podcast scheduled to be dropped on Sunday, November 26th. The podcast hopes to not only inform and entertain, but most critically to invite people to experience the gifts and graces of the Catholic faith.” If you want to tune in to this exciting new podcast you can find ‘VOX SFX’ through your favorite podcast provider and listen in on a wide array of topics about parish life, the history of St. Francis Xavier Parish, the Catholic Church in Western Montana, news from the Diocese of Helena, and events from parishes throughout the area.
Another project that was funded through our Faith-In-Action grants program was an Oktoberfest celebration at the Cathedral of St. Helena. “Oktoberfest and events like it, are a form of witness,” explained Alex Kautzky, Director of Family Life, Pro-Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Helena. “It’s a gentle, but compelling way of showing our neighbors that the Catholic Church offers a life that is deeper and more beautiful than what the world has to offer. Our ultimate goal is that these community experiences become steppingstones to a relationship with our Lord.”
But the focus on evangelization goes beyond the Foundation’s Faith-In-Action grants, it is an integral component of the Because He First Loved Us Campaign for Catholic Life. The Campaign’s goals include long-term funding for:
- Seminarian Education
- Clergy Retirement
- Parish Needs
- Cathedral Restoration
These first four goals all need successful evangelization to perpetuate our faith, not just for today, but for decades into the future. The success of this campaign has the power to transform our Diocese!
We are all called to evangelize! Evangelization is the key to filling our churches and making saints. In 2023, the number of Catholics attending Sunday Mass rose to 46,533; that an increase of over 1,000 worshippers since 2020. This proves that our parishes’ evangelization efforts our working! And the focus of the grants to bring more people to our Lord is a step in the right direction. Together we will not just repair our roofs but lift the roofs in joyful praise to our Lord! Evangelization is our focus at the Foundation to empower each of our parishes through the Faith-In-Action grants and the Because He First Loved Us campaign to make a difference in the hearts of God’s people.