Priests make their own 'sacrificial gifts' to Beyond Sunday

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The Men In Black -- the ones with white collars -- have done their part thus far in the "Beyond Sunday" campaign.

With the campaign winding down for the first group of parishes, priests from those parishes have contributed $820,000 of about $36.5 million -- or roughly 2.2 percent -- pledged through Dec. 11.

In total, 136 priests pledged an average of a little over $6,000, significant for guys who receive a modest stipend.

"That's a real sacrifice for a priest; they truly made a sacrifice to support this," said Father Rickey Valleroy, the non-resident pastor at St. Catherine of Alexandria in Coffman -- the first parish in the archdiocese to reach and eclipse its Beyond Sunday goal. He's also resident pastor at St. Joseph in nearby Farmington.

"That's our gift to God," he said, adding that the Beyond Sunday gifts are on top of priests' tithing, "just like anybody else."

The priests' pledges mesh well with the beONE vision of the archdiocese as one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

The Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri administers the campaign with donations to be split 60-40. The 60 percent will go into the RCF's Education Fund, to finance tuition assistance for poor or middle-class families and grants for innovative programs or schools.

Father Bill Kempf, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Normandy, wasn't surprised by priests' generosity in pledging such a large percentage of their salaries.

"Priests as a whole are relatively generous folks ... and especially when we see a need," he said. "We're happy to be part of it. We've all been products of Catholic education ourselves, and recognize the value in it. We're hopeful this will foster Catholic education in whatever form it takes down the road."

According to Father Kempf, priests have made a "substantial sacrificial gift," like parishioners. The pledge process is similar for both groups, with discernment and prayer at the heart of it.

"You do your honest praying and reflecting before God, 'OK, God, you've been so generous and so good to me, here's how I can pay that forward, here's how I'm able to make a difference,'" said Father Kempf, whose parish raised 117 percent of its goal. "We may not make as much money financially (as parishioners), but the fact we've been so generous is a nice tribute to what is possible and doable."

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