| By Darci Swisher

Two rural parishes find CSA is about giving and receiving

For Father Payden “Red” Blevins, the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) is a once-a-year opportunity to show his parishioners how they are connected to their local church — even in the far reaches of the Diocese of Austin.

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“I try to find ways of how I can demonstrate that the CSA and what the diocese does directly benefits our parish,” said Father Blevins, who is pastor of both St. Joseph Mission in Mason and Holy Trinity Parish in Llano. 

As the sole employee at the two parishes, he leans heavily on the diocese for assistance, as well as for ministries that small rural communities like his could not provide on their own. He also emphasizes how vocations and Catholic schools are an important investment in the future of the Catholic faith, even though no Catholic schools are present in their deanery.

“Although it may not seem like it’s directly benefiting this local community, when the diocese does well, the whole diocese does well,” he said. “We help and support each other, and I’m grateful for the instances in which representatives of the diocese have come out for different events to show that, although we’re one of the furthest from Austin, we’re still equally important and we’re still members of the Body of Christ.”

Last year, because of the CSA Parish and School Grant program, he was also able to tell his congregations: “Look, we’ve received back from the diocese more than we ever sent in.”

During the appeal, parishes earn tickets for achieving various milestones, and Bishop Joe Vásquez picks the winning tickets at a reception in their honor in October. Winners receive grants totaling $150,000 for parish operations and tuition assistance. In 2022, St. Joseph and Holy Trinity were among the 16 parishes that won and received grants of $5,000 and $2,500 respectively in the drawing for the 2021-2022 CSA.

Shortly after receiving its check, two of Holy Trinity’s three air-conditioning units went out during 110-degree weather. Having funds readily available to meet that unforeseen cost “helped tremendously,” Father Blevins said.

Overall, he believes honesty has been key to the success the CSA sees his parishes. 

“Times are hard. Everybody’s asking for money; everybody’s short on money. I ask you to just do what you can to recognize the blessings God has given you and see how you can share those with others who may be less fortunate,” he said.

Darci Swisher is a freelance writer who has worked with the Catholic Spirit for the last three years. She and her husband live in Michigan.