SALT LAKE CITY — An evening of camaraderie, complete with live music and dancing, took place March 1 at St. Ambrose Parish as a celebration of the members of the Bishop’s Leadership Society.
The Bishop’s Leadership Society was established in 2004 to recognize those people who contribute significant annual gifts to the Diocesan Development Drive, the yearly appeal that helps fund various ministries, programs and services in the Diocese of Salt Lake City. The DDD provides about 26 percent of the diocese’s total annual budget. Last year, contributions by members of the Bishop’s Leadership Society comprised 37 percent of the total donations to the DDD.
At the gathering, Bishop Oscar A. Solis thanked those present for being partners in the diocese’s mission of evangelization.
“On behalf of my brother priests and myself personally, and especially those parishes and missions that rely on the funding from the Diocesan Development Drive, please know our deepest and profoundest gratitude for everything that you do in order to see to it that the ministries of the Church continue to flourish in our missions and parishes that cannot do their mission without this important, critical and necessary help,” he said.
The Diocese of Salt Lake City, which encompasses the entire state of Utah, serves about 300,000 Catholics. There are “48 churches, 41 priests, 20 missions, 17 Catholic schools, five stations, three chapels, three Newman centers, one cathedral and one awesome bishop,” said Karin Hurley, director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development.
The Bishop’s Leadership Society has a critical role in the success of the DDD “and most importantly, the furtherance of the mission of Christ to build up the Kingdom of God in Utah,” she added.
Currently, seven young men are studying to be priests for the diocese, and Bishop Solis said five others may be entering the seminary in the fall. The costs to educate each one is about $50,000 per year, he said, and “My hair has diminished tremendously for the past two years, thinking, ‘Where will I get the money?’ But I know God is going to give us what we need.”
A portion of the DDD goes to the seminarian education, so “When you give to the DDD, you are giving to a beautiful, good and noble cause – helping priests to minister to poor parishes and missions where they are needed, and educating future priests that will be a resource and an asset to our local Church in the coming years,” he said.
“It is only by God’s grace that we are able to continue our ministries in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, and you are part of God’s grace,” he added.
At the dinner, Hurley announced that this year 100 families will be recognized as 10-year members of the Bishop’s Leadership Society, while another 78 will be recognized as five-year members.
This year a new tradition was begun: that of the Cathedral Art Series. The inaugural piece in the series was an oil on board picture of the exterior of the Cathedral of the Madeleine. The artist, Jim McGee, teaches art at Juan Diego Catholic High School and is director of the school’s Academy of Fine Arts.
Prints of the painting will be given each year to members of the Bishop’s Leadership Society; the original will be hung in the diocesan Pastoral Center.