Bishop Loverde receives letters of gratitude, thanks

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How do you honor and pay tribute to a humble priest and bishop who has served the church and countless numbers of people for 50 years?

One way is to invite people to share their thoughts with him and honor him by ensuring that priestly vocations and caring for retired priests in the Arlington Diocese remains funded for generations to come.

Earlier this fall, and unannounced to Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, a special mailing from Oblate Father Mark S. Mealey, former vicar general, was sent to more than 50,000 diocesan families inviting them to offer reflections and gratitude in celebration of the bishop's 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination.

The mailing included a gratitude card as well as an opportunity to honor Bishop Loverde's vocation and service to the diocese by supporting the diocesan Priest Retirement Pension Fund and the Seminarian Education Endowment Fund.

To date, more than 2,500 families and individuals have responded by writing personal notes, sending pictures of their families and by contributing more than $250,000 in support of seminarian education and caring for retired priests.

The donations were matched by a gift from Robert and Laura Coleman, founders of the Seminarian Education Endowment Fund (SEEF), which strengthens the diocese's commitment to priestly vocations and retired priests. SEEF is part of the Foundation for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

"Bob and I are honored to participate in this tribute to Bishop Loverde and to celebrate his 50 years of loving priestly service by supporting two causes so dear to his heart," said Laura Coleman. "In union with the bishop, our support of the Seminarian Education Endowment Fund (SEEF) and the diocesan Priests Retirement Pension Fund expresses our devotion and gratitude to all the men who have committed their lives to God through their priestly service to the good people of the diocese."

In Father Mealey's letter, he shared that increasing vocations is an extremely important priority for Bishop Loverde.

"Over the last two decades the Catholic Diocese of Arlington has experienced tremendous growth, and while the influx of Catholics is a wonderful blessing, it also brings with it greater needs for our church: more priests, seminarians and permanent deacons," Father Mealey wrote. "Currently, our diocese is very fortunate to have 40 seminarians at various stages of formation, which is a tremendous financial investment. The overall cost for each seminarian is approximately $40,000 per year - however this is an investment that is clearly vital to the life and future of our diocese.

"In addition to seminarians, Bishop Loverde has been dedicated to supporting the well-being of our diocesan retired priests by ensuring that the Priests' Pension Fund is adequately funded, as well as his commitment to having built the St. Rose of Lima Priests' Retirement Villa," he said.

A surprise presentation was made to Bishop Loverde Dec. 1 in which he received the cards from parishioners and the news about the fundraising efforts.

Mathis is director of the Leadership Initiative.

How to help

To join others honoring Bishop Loverde by supporting the Seminarian Education Endowment Fund and the Priest Retirement Fund, visit arlingtondiocese.org/SEEFPEN or call Anne Mathis at 703/841-2516 or e-mail her at a.mathis@arlingtondiocese.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015