Archdiocese kicks off fall round of Catholic Appeal

As the leaves begin to change and the autumn chill returns to the air, the Archdiocese of Boston prepares to kick off the second stage of its fundraising effort.

The Annual Catholic Appeal, the primary source of funding for archdiocesan programs and ministries, will begin its fall phase this weekend throughout the archdiocese.

This past spring, 262 parishes participated in the Appeal. According to Damien DeVasto, director of the Annual Catholic Appeal, the remaining 95 parishes chose to delay participation until the fall so as not to adversely impact donations to the Promise for Tomorrow Campaign — the archdiocese’s long-term capital endowment campaign.

Funds from the Catholic Appeal help fund the Office of Religious Education, Healthcare Ministry as well as Campus Ministry. According to DeVasto, the Annual Catholic Appeal “supports, in part or in whole, over 80 programs, services, ministries and agencies throughout the archdiocese,” many of which directly benefit the parishes of the archdiocese. DeVasto pointed to the Office of Religious Education as a prime example of how the funds raised by the Catholic Appeal aid parishioners everywhere.

According to Elizabeth Jennings-White, the archdiocese’s director of Development Communications, contributions have exceeded last year’s efforts.

"We are $725,000 ahead of last year's contributions, based solely on the spring numbers," she said. To date, the Annual Catholic Appeal has raised $6.6 million of its $9 million baseline target. The overall goal of the Annual Catholic Appeal was set at $14 million. The baseline target is the amount needed to adequately fund the day-to-day operations of the archdiocese for the coming year. In addition, she noted, there is an 18 percent increase in donor participation over the past year.

DeVasto praised the generosity of parishioners, pointing out that close to 35,000 parishioners have already contributed to the Annual Catholic Appeal. Also, nearly one-third of all donors are either “new or re-engaged supporters — those who had stopped giving in the past year.”

According to Jennings-White, close to 25 percent of the overall total is attributed to those “re-engaged supporters.”

"We are extraordinarily pleased with the results of the Catholic Appeal," stated DeVasto. "Despite the challenges of 2002, the work of the Church must continue to help others. This is critical. It is a part of who we are as Catholics."

"2002 was an extraordinarily painful year for the Church... the leadership of the archdiocese -- and all the members of the archdiocese -- have been centered on unity and healing... The Catholic family is coming together," said DeVasto.

In a letter sent to prospective donors, Archbishop Seán O’Malley spoke of the importance of the Appeal, as well as the need to rebuild trust after this tumultuous time.

"As a family of faith, together we ask for forgiveness for the failings of the past. The settlement offer recently made to the victims of clergy sexual abuse is a significant step in the healing process and in moving forward," he wrote. "Please know that contributions to the Catholic Appeal and to parish collections will not be used to pay for these settlements. Your gift will only be used for the mission of the Church -- caring for the poor, the sick, the alienated and the families that are new to our land."

"Through the Catholic Appeal, we educate more than 200,000 children in our Catholic schools and parish-based religious education programs. We feed the hungry, bring God's comfort to the sick, the elderly, and the marginalized through our many outreach ministries and Catholic Charities. We support those who respond to the call to serve Christ's mission as priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and laity. And we help our parishes, where community is built and our sacramental life is lived," stated Archbishop O'Malley.

"The Catholic Appeal is an opportunity for you to work as part of our Catholic family to do Christ's work on earth," he continued.

Referring to this year’s theme, “One Church Many Works,” the archbishop urged Catholics to be generous. “Now, more than ever, is the time for us to come together as One Church and reaffirm our commitment to our Many Works,” Archbishop O’Malley wrote.

To kick off the fall phase of the Catholic Appeal, the archbishop, together with Father James Rafferty, VF, pastor of St. Paul Parish, Hingham; Father Richard Clancy, director of Campus Ministry; Marina Dang, a senior at Emmanuel College; Clinton Reed, a senior at Boston University; and other representatives of campus ministry, held a press conference at Boston University’s Robinson Chapel.

According to Jennings-White, the press conference was held at Boston University because it has a “thriving Catholic campus ministry program on a non-Catholic campus” and highlighting the ministry will provide a concrete example of how their Appeal donations support the good works of the Church in Boston.

"It is important for everyone to see that the ministries these monies help fund extend into the broader community. The people being served are not only from Catholic colleges and universities, but also from the wider community," she said.