Catholic Appeal to kick-off this weekend

BRAINTREE -- The Annual Catholic Appeal, which launches its 2009 campaign at this weekend’s Masses March 7-8, will hold its goal steady at $15 million for the coming year.

The decision to keep the same target is due to the financial difficulties faced by many Catholics in the current economy and was made in consultation with pastors, lay leaders, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and the archdiocesan cabinet, said Scot Landry, the Archdiocese of Boston’s Secretary for Institutional Advancement.

For the sixth consecutive year, the 2008 appeal surpassed its goal, raising $15.1 million. Cardinal O’Malley attributed the success, despite the economic downturn, to the “generosity, faith and commitment of the people of this archdiocese.”

Nearly 50,000 parishioners contributed, and more than one third of the archdiocese’s 294 parishes exceeded their goals, said Landry.

The primary reason for the appeal’s success is that Catholics are “extremely generous” when they see people in need, he said.

Landry added, “We saw many people increase their giving at the end of last year. That gives us hope for this year’s campaign -- that Catholics, as they always have, will step up in a big way,”

Contributions to the appeal serve as the primary source of financial support for the archdiocese’s central operating fund and many of its other ministries. This includes faith formation, curriculum development for religious education and operational services to parishes, schools and agencies.

The appeal also assists those who depend on the Church for material and spiritual support, Landry said.

“So many people rely on the ministries of the Church -- both at the parish level and the central archdiocesan level -- to get them through really hard times,” Landry said.

Everyone who has not lost a job is encouraged to support the appeal at the same level they did last year, and those who were less affected by the economy are asked to consider contributing more on behalf of those who have lost employment, he said.

He added that for the second year, the appeal will launch in March -- during Lent -- which gives pastors the opportunity to relate the appeal to the Lenten themes of sacrifice and giving for the benefit of others.

The 2009 theme, “Responding to God’s Grace; Renewing Our Church,” centers on Cardinal O’Malley’s initiative to renew the Catholic Church in Boston and provides Catholics with an “invitation to respond to God’s grace,” said Patrick Gipson, manager of the appeal.

One way the archdiocese is being revitalized is through the ARISE Together in Christ program, which recently entered its second year. The parish-based program is meant to spark renewal through faith sharing.

“One of the key things we wanted to focus on is how the ARISE program is impacting the archdiocese in a positive way,” Landry said.

The appeal’s kickoff will be a Mass celebrated by the cardinal at St. Mary Parish in Dedham, and a video homily by the cardinal will be shown at about 200 of the archdiocese’s parishes.

According to Landry, St. Mary’s was chosen to represent the parishes of the archdiocese because of its active ARISE program.

“Cardinal Sean certainly thought that St. Mary’s is doing a lot to renew itself as a faith community,” he said.

Through ARISE, the parish has reached active parishioners, those who desired to be more involved and some Catholics who were not previously part of the parish. In addition, St. Mary’s has a vibrant youth ministry program. The parish’s multifaceted approach to ministry is representative of other parishes throughout the archdiocese that work hard to serve the needs of their local communities, Landry added.