Bishop's Annual Appeal helps Catholic Charities Serve the Vulnerable (Andy Telli, Tennessee Register)

Posted 03/22/2019

Catholic Charities of Tennessee is the arm of the Diocese of Nashville that reaches out to the community to care for our most vulnerable neighbors: the hungry, the homeless, the elderly, the stranger, the hurting.

And money raised through the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries helps make that care possible.

"It's an important contribution to allow us to provide for the most basic needs throughout the community," Mark Barry, director of mission advancement for Catholic Charities, said of the agency's share of the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries.

In 2018, the people of the diocese donated the record amount of $2,616,518 to the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries. That money was used to support a wide variety of ministries, including Catholic schools, youth ministry, adult faith formation, formation for parish religious education teachers, campus ministries, and formation for the diocese's seminarians and diaconate candidates, among others.

Almost $550,000 of the Appeal money - about 20 percent of the total raised - is used to support the services provided by Catholic Charities, Barry said.

Most of the money is classified as unrestricted funds and is used to support the areas of greatest need, "often programs important to us but that don't have a government grant funding it," Barry said.

Many of them have to do with basic needs, such as the North Nashville Outreach program at the McGruder Family Resource Center, the Loaves and Fishes Community Meals program, workforce development efforts, and elements of the Pregnancy Counseling and Adoption program, Barry said.

"A woman in a crisis pregnancy can come for a variety of services and they are asked to pay nothing," and funds from the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries helps make that possible, Barry said.

"Within each category (of services) there are lots of different activities going on," Barry said.

One important Catholic Charities outreach that is supported by the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries is its Counseling Services.

Catholic Charities offers three counseling programs, two of which receive funding from the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Minsitries, the Individual and Family Counseling and the School Counseling, said Lisa McGovern, supervisor of counseling services.

"We see a little bit of everything. It's a generalist practice," McGovern said of the counseling offered for individuals, couples and families.

"We help people with anxiety, depression and other mood disorders, people dealing with stresses that can come from a variety of places, relationship issues between couples or between a parent and child, people dealing with trauma or a loss, divorce adjustments, and pre-marital counseling," McGovern said. "We can really tailor it to what the needs are of the person walking through the door."

The counselors work out of seven locations around the diocese to make the services more accessible to more people, including Catholic Charities' offices at the Catholic Pastoral Center on McGavock Pike, West Nashville, Clarksville, St. Philip Church in Franklin, St. Stephen Catholic Community in Hermitage, the McGruder Family Resource Center in North Nashville, and at the South Nashville Family Resource Center. Counseling sessions in Spanish are offered at the South Nashville location.

In 2018, 683 people received counseling through the Individual and Family Counseling Program.

Funding from the Bishop's Annual Appeal allows Catholic Charities to provide counseling on a sliding fee scale, based on the client's household income and the number of people in the household. The fee can range from $5 to $110 per visit.

"For some people, it's what allows them to come to counseling," McGovern said. "This is helpful for people who don't have insurance, or insurance that doesn't cover counseling services, or people who don't want to use their insurance."

People can ask for a reduction in the fee if the cost is still beyond their finances, even with the sliding fee scale, McGovern said.

"Because we have the subsidy, we can make it so money doesn't keep someone from receiving quality counseling," she said.

Currently, Catholic Charities contracts with seven schools in the diocese to provide counseling services. With the funding support from the Bishop's Annual Appeal, Catholic Charities can offer school counseling at about half the cost of a school hiring its own counselor, McGovern said.

The counselors are in the schools one, two or three days a week, depending on the needs and wishes of the schools, McGovern said. They provide a wide variety of services, including individual counseling with students, group counseling, classroom workshops, teaching the diocese's Safe Environment program, consulting with teachers and principals about the needs of specific students, and providing support for parents when needed.

The school counselors worked with Diocesan School Superintendent Rebecca Hammel and representatives of all the schools to implement a Kindness Campaign this school year, McGovern said.

Catholic Charities has four school counselors on staff with an opening for a fifth.

One of the benefits of using Catholic Charities school counselors is they are part of a team who can share ideas about new programs or effective interventions with their colleagues, McGovern said. And if a school community suffers a tragedy, Catholic Charities can send more than one person to offer counseling, she added.

"Our counselors are very good. I couldn't be more proud of the staff we have, their competence, their compassion," McGovern said. "We know it takes courage to talk to a stranger about the most uncomfortable parts of your life. We do everything possible to make it safe and comfortable."

The third counseling program offered by Catholic Charities is the Hope Trauma Counseling Program, which is funded by a federal grant through the Victims of Crime Act. The program, which is free, serves children ages 4-18 in Davidson County who have been affected by violent crime. Catholic Charities counselors offer individual

and group counseling to help the children learn coping skills, process their trauma, and develop resiliency, McGovern said.

The goal for this year's Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries is to raise $2.7 million from 8,500 donors. Those are slight increases from last year when the Appeal raised $2,616,518, or 105 percent of the goal, from 8,005 donors, which was 133 percent of the goal for participation.

As of March 20, pledges and donations to the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries have reached nearly $800,000 from almost 2,000 donors, said Anna Beth Godfrey, assistant director of development for the diocese.

"We're well on our way for meeting the goals for the Appeal this year," Godrey said.

People can make a pledge or gift of any amount to the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries at any time through 2019, said diocesan Director of Development Ashley Linville.

"They can give a one-time gift, a quarterly gift or a monthly gift," Linville said. "There are a lot of options for how to give. ... We're making it as user friendly as possible."

People can return their pledge cards to their parish, mail them, or pledge online at

The diocese has identified several levels of giving, including: the Society of Bishop Miles, $15,000 and above; The Shepherd's Circle, $10,000; The Society of Angels and Saints, $5,000; The Society of Stewards, $2,500; The Society of Apostles, $1,500; The Society of Disciples, $1,000; The Society of the Faithful, $500; and the Society of Sacrificial Giving, $250.

For more information about the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries, visit the diocesan website at or contact Linville at or 615-645-9768, or Godfrey at or 615-645-9769.

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