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BRAINTREE -- The annual Catholic Appeal usually involves distributing envelopes for parishioners to take home, fill out, and bring back to church with donations. But in the time of the coronavirus, when the ministries and organizations that benefit from the appeal most need support, the collection will look different -- with more digital communication and less direct contact.
The 2021 Catholic Appeal campaign is to be announced in parishes on the weekend of Feb. 27-28. The following weekend, March 6-7, will be Commitment Weekend, when parishioners would typically put their donations in the collection basket at church.
The Catholic Appeal supports the archdiocese's 51 central ministries, 100 Catholic schools, and 280 parishes, as well as programs and resources available to anyone in a community.
"Especially last year, during the pandemic, parishes relied very heavily on the ministries of the Archdiocese of Boston. Whether it was a risk management team or the healthcare support they got, the ministries helped the parishes get through a very difficult time," said Catholic Appeal manager Arlene Dubrowski.
Like parishes and schools, she said, many of the archdiocese's ministries adapted their activities to online formats during the pandemic. Some have had even greater participation because people find it easier to join virtually rather than meeting in person.
"Our ministries continue. Most of them are remote, and some of them are even thriving," Dubrowski said in a Feb. 19 interview.
She said the ministries "are working as hard as ever or even harder just to make sure they're reaching out to people."
"That's why the Catholic Appeal is still so important, so that they can continue their work even though the way that they're doing their work is very different this year," Dubrowski said.
The appeal, likewise, has developed new ways to spread its message and enable participation in the campaign, despite pandemic restrictions and precautions.
"We've taken a little bit of a different approach this year, just to make sure that we're following all of the safety protocols," Dubrowski said.
Since fewer people are attending Mass in person, and using the envelopes would involve multiple people touching them, several alternative methods are being used to reach the Catholic faithful and enable them to contribute to the appeal. These include direct mail, email blasts, and online giving.
"We know parishioners are coming to Church in a different way these days. So we're trying to reach out to parishioners wherever they are," Dubrowski said.
Volunteer coordinators help pastors promote and launch the appeal in their parishes. They may do this by putting announcements in the bulletin, offering prayers for the faithful, arranging witness talks, and providing updates on the parish's progress toward meeting their goal.
Anna Marie Ferraro has been a volunteer appeal coordinator at St. Eulalia Parish in Winchester for about a decade. During Announcement Weekend, she usually thanks those who contributed to the previous year's campaign and talks about how the appeal benefits their parish through programs like RCIA, marriage preparation, and bereavement ministry.
"I think we all have a responsibility to support not only our local parish but the greater Church, the archdiocese, that through its many ministries helps everyone, including our own parish," Ferraro said Feb. 19.
Dubrowski acknowledged that many people are struggling financially due to the economic hardships of the pandemic.
With that in mind, she said, "We are asking parishioners to continue (their) support because these ministries are so vital. We ask that they give at whatever level is comfortable for them."
Dubrowski emphasized that "Even though the mechanism may be different, the message is still the same. The Catholic Appeal is so important to help fund the ministries of the Archdiocese of Boston."
More information about the Catholic Appeal is available at bostoncatholicappeal.org.