Renewing Parishes, Strengthening Faith
“And he gave some…as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God..”
– Ephesians 4:11-13
“COVID-19 is acting as an accelerant for issues dioceses were already facing, like priest shortages and low parishioner engagement. Due to the financial implications of the pandemic, bishops are faced with the urgency of these questions now,” shares Deacon Steve Mitchell, Director of Parish Renewal for ACTS XXIX.
ACTS XXIX is an apostolate founded in 2019 by Deacon Steve and Fr. John Riccardo. Its name conveys the truth that the same Holy Spirit who was at work in the life of the early Church is at work right now in our lives. In fact, ACTS XXIX believes and proclaims over and over again that each of us was born for this moment in history. Its ministry is eager to unleash the power of the gospel to equip ordained and lay leaders for the apostolic time in which we live. ACTS XXIX seeks to foster a greater capacity to hear God and execute God’s blueprint for parishes and dioceses, and reclaim the Church’s missionary identity.
The Catholic Foundation recognizes that the work of ACTS XXIX is helping to meet the needs of parishes and dioceses now and for well into the future. The Foundation’s mission seeks to provide for the Church’s long-term needs and sustainability and we are proud to work with organizations, like ACTS XXIX, that share that goal.
In 2019, a generous donor established a donor designated fund at the Catholic Foundation on behalf of ACTS XXIX. A designated fund is an advised fund whose beneficiary organization is specified by the donor(s) at the time of the gift. Income from the fund, and in some cases principal, is distributed in accordance with the instructions provided at the time of the gift. Beneficiary organizations can take financial support from the fund as it is needed.
“Donors and ministries alike love donor designated funds because they are a donor-centered tool that benefit our beloved charities,” shares Angela Moloney, President and CEO of the Catholic Foundation.
The primary focus of ACTS XXIX is priestly renewal, because the team sees the health of the presbyterate as fundamental for parish transformation. One of the ways that ACTS XXIX has prioritized this is by providing retreats and workshops around the country. In these, ACTS XXIX shares what they call the “three essential principles for parish transformation.” These principles are: reacquiring a biblical worldview, it’s not enough to be a staff, and God is the Architect. In the first year of their mission, they have ministered to and equipped over 600 priests.
“Priests are often tired, alone, and working at an unsustainable pace. Fr. John has been anointed to preach the gospel in a compelling way. When they hear it, these priests are renewed and recommit to their priesthood. It is a time of incredible healing for them and God moves in a powerful way,” shares Deacon Steve.
In addition to ministering to and equipping priests, ACTS XXIX also provides an event aimed at the lay faithful in the pews. This event gives the laity an opportunity to hear the power of the gospel anew, personally respond to it, and be sent out as agents of re-creation in the world.
The net effect of these events aims to make parishes places where the gospel is proclaimed in power, the lay faithful are equipped for mission, and non-members can find what our world is so desperate for: hope, goodness, beauty, unity, justice, truth and more. “Churches are the only organizations that exist for the benefit of nonmembers. We want to help parishes become places of excellence and to welcome, or welcome back, new people,” shares Deacon Steve.
“We are a very small team and God has flooded us with work. Our partnership with the Catholic Foundation means that we can be confident that the money given by our donors is stewarded well.”
In its second year of mission, ACTS XXIX is eager to work in a more concentrated way with some pastors, deacons and seminarians in the Archdiocese of Detroit to help equip them for the current era in which we live.
The work that ACTS XXIX provides for dioceses is free, and the entire apostolate is donor-based. “What God has revealed to us through our experiences has been freely given, and freely we give it away,” Deacon Steve says.
“We are a very small team and God has flooded us with work. Our partnership with the Catholic Foundation means that we can be confident that the money given by our donors is stewarded well. It is being invested in funds that uphold our Catholic tradition. It’s one less thing we have to focus on. In that way, the Foundation is an incredible partner.” All funds at the Catholic Foundation are invested in accordance with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ guidelines for socially responsible investments.
For those who are interested in learning more about the mission and ministry of ACTS XXIX, Deacon Steve suggests visiting their website, actsxxix.org, and especially their new white paper titled Reimagining What a Catholic Parish Can Be: A Destination for the 21st Century (imaginethis.actsxxix.org). For those who wish to support ACTS XXIX’s efforts to unleash the gospel, the organization asks for both prayer and financial partners. We invite you to give today to the fund designated for its benefit.