By Christopher M. Riggs
Most priests of the diocese don’t hang up their collars when they retire, but poor Father Jerry Beat’s collar is getting frayed from all the travel.
Fr. Beat, a priest of the diocese since 1963, retired in June – for a day or two – before getting on with the ministries he loves.
The ministry that is spinning his odometer and adding frequent flying miles to his credit card is the work he does for the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. Last weekend and several other weekends a year he also works with the diocesan Cursillo ministry and with the Kairos ministry to the incarcerated.
Father Beat first encountered CFCA in 1983 while serving at the diocesan mission in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. CFCA representatives traveled to South America from their Kansas City, Mo., base to ask about the children in the city and how they could be served.
“So we took them to the home for the mentally and physically handicapped children and young people in Barquisimeto,” Father Beat said from his apartment at the Priest Retirement Center. “The government did nothing for the handicapped so the diocese founded this home because of the urgent need – trusting that God would provide the means to sustain it. So that’s where we started. It was the perfect place.”
When Father Beat returned to the diocese in 1986, CFCA asked him to take a seat on its board of directors. He served for seven years.
After Father Beat was assigned as a hospital chaplain in 2003 he had more free weekends – free enough that he was able to begin spreading the word about CFCA for the organization at weekend Masses. “I’ve been out on 96 weekends in four years. About 26 weekends a year. Since I retired three months ago, that’s increased because I have more weekends available.”
Father Beat said the organization has seven people in Kansas City working full time calling parishes all over the country for opportunities for their 34 priests to invite the faithful to sponsor needy children in 23 countries.
“My message is to present and motivate and invite,” he said. “I tell them what CFCA is, invite them to be a sponsor and to become friends with their sponsors, and send $30 a month. I encourage them to sponsor because we are blessed – the whole stewardship message. We’re so blessed and there are others not so blessed.”
Father Beat said at one time he thought the money to help the sponsoree was the only important thing, but over the years has changed his mind. “Visiting these countries and seeing the effect it has on the child and family – it has a tremendous influence on the sponsoree and the sponsor and family.”
As a result of the relationships, Father Beat said 90 percent of the sponsors surveyed said “they had grown in their faith, they were closer to the Lord Jesus, and were more filled with his love and peace.”
“So that’s a strong selling point – that we’re giving a blessing to ourselves as well as others when we sponsor. Which is always the case in a Christian life, the more you give, the more you get, that’s the mathematics of God.
Although he is racking up the frequent flier miles, Fr. Beat said he prefers not to travel.
“But I enjoy getting to know the church over the country,” he said, as for the travel, “well, I just offer it up for the sake of giving hope to more families.”
Father Beat strongly recommended that sponsors make a mission awareness trip to visit their child, family, and project personally. “It will change your life,” he said.
What is CFCA?