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Growing ministry reach through participation and formation

“You know that saying ‘this meeting could have been an email’ – well, this Parish Engagement and Charity Event experience was totally not that.”

The Catholic Newman Center in Columbia’s Adult Faith Formation Director and Catholic Charities volunteer, Paul Crnkovich, presents at a PEACE event in Fall 2023 hosted for the Central Deanery by Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Columbia, MO.

“This PEACE event opened hearts and minds up to what God is really calling us to do – gives us the tools to proclaim the word and do works of Charity and Mercy.”


Last year, Catholic Charities took a significant step forward in engaging local Catholic parishes across the diocese in its mission. Through formation, networking, and awareness of Catholic Charities programs and services, our agency encountered over eighty parishioners, many of whom participate in their parish’s social ministry, to continue building their capacities to serve as a Centers of Charity and Mercy.

In fall of 2023, the Catholic Charities established the Parish Engagement and Charity Events (PEACE), hosted by six local parishes representing each Deanery in the Diocese of Jefferson City. Participants and presenters gathered at the parishes for a morning or afternoon of formation on Catholic social teaching, networking, and workshopping.

With high praise from the eighty-two participants representing twenty-eight parishes, the impact of these events reverberated through the hearts and minds and into the ministries of those who attended.

“You know that saying ‘this meeting could have been an email’,” said Lynn Carter, OFS, parish secretary for Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Kirksville, “well, this experience was totally not that.”

“This was such a good use of our time,” she continued, “with community members that need so much more support in our area it was great for our Social Concerns Commission members to participate in this event.”

Beginning with prayer, introductions, and then diving into an hour of faith formation in foundational teachings of the Church – namely her social doctrine – presenters shared both the reason for our faith, and the call that brings the desire to serve others into action. 

Both former Interim Executive Director and Director of Mission Integration at Catholic Charities, Sister Kathleen Wegman, SSND, and Paul Crnkovich, the director of adult formation at the Columbia Newman Center in Columbia, Missouri, and Catholic Charities volunteer, presented to participants over five meetings that traveled the diocese.

Host parishes, St. George Catholic Church in Linn, Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Ozark, Mary Immaculate in Kirksville, and Our Lady of Lourdes in Columbia provided hospitality and comfortable meeting spaces where parishioners and pastors from their deanery could network – sharing ideas and experiences from their church and area with each other.

Presentations on the Charity and Mercy grants provided by Catholic Charities to parish social ministries first unpacked logic models – system designs for services that assess the needs of individuals, identify what is needed for the ministry and the goal that ministry seeks to accomplish. It also helps plan outcomes and impact and gives a measuring tool for efficacy to help best steward resources of time, talent, and monetary support of the ministry.

Next, presenters walked through the application process for Charity and Mercy grants, with handouts and applications ready for folks to work on together or turn in later.

“In our parish, we’re doing an amazing job with direct charity requests, and collaborating with other local agencies and churches,” Carter shared, “I was so glad to take the opportunity to learn more about exactly what Catholic Charities does, and open that door a bit further to increase access to their programs.”

With over sixty active parish ambassadors enrolled with Catholic Charities, the ability to communicate, collaborate, and effectively refer those who need support is growing. As our agency networked with PEACE event attendees, we found that 76% of attendees’ parishes had a social concerns ministry, but only 52% of attendees reported receiving formation in Catholic social teaching.

“We’re focusing on formation, relationship building, and hands-on ways we can support parish ministries as we move forward in our parish engagement,” shared Ashley Wiskirchen, Sr. Director of Communications at Catholic Charities.

“Almost every attendee to our PEACE events, 93% of them, said this formation experience increased their understanding of Catholic social teaching and how it relates to their ministry in the parish,” she continued.

“Overwhelmingly, the positive response we’ve gotten from hosting these events has helped us to understand that parishes and those participating in parish social ministries have a desire to grow in their faith and collaborate more frequently with Catholic Charities,” Wiskirchen concluded, “and we’re excited to grow there.”

Five additional PEACE events are scheduled for the 2024 calendar year. You can learn more about these events, view upcoming dates and locations, and RSVP or register to attend by clicking here to visit our web page.