Catholics urged to support Church’s ‘good works’ at appeal kick-off

BOSTON — Encouraging Catholics to “come together in faith for the many good works the Church is doing,” Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley formally launched the 2004 Annual Catholic Appeal on April 29 at a press conference at Cathedral Grammar School in the South End.

"As Catholics, we are about community and about helping one another. As we begin our 2004 Annual Catholic Appeal, we encourage everyone to help our faith community," the archbishop said.

The press conference was held at the school in order to highlight the importance of religious education, according to Elizabeth Jennings-White, director of development communications for the Catholic Foundation, which runs the appeal.

"Religious education is one of our most far-reaching ministries," she added in an interview following the press conference. According to Jennings-White, over 146,000 children currently participate in parish-based religious education programs throughout the archdiocese, with close to 16,000 volunteers serving as their teachers or catechists.

"We are focusing much of our attention today on religious education, where faith formation takes place. It is in the schools where we begin living our faith as Catholics. Religious education provides the foundation," remarked Archbishop O'Malley.

"Our Office of Religious Education serves to support parishes in finding professional staff to work with our children," commented Catherine Minkiewicz, assistant director of the Office of Religious Education.

"[The Office of Religious Education] provides a strong theological formation for parish leaders and volunteers and seeks to create a milieu in which faith formation is lifelong. All of this and so much more happens because of contributions made to the Annual Catholic Appeal," she added.

Josette Rameau, director of religious education at St. Matthew Parish in Dorchester, agreed with Minkiewicz.

"The Office of Religious Education is the resource that all catechetical leaders go to in times of need. Their work helps to support and guide us and could not be done without proper funding. [It] is instrumental in making our faith the Church of the people and in helping make a difference in the lives of those we serve," stressed Rameau.

"For this reason, we are appealing to Catholics in Boston to provide support," she added.

Manuel Pires of St. Patrick Parish in Roxbury, Appeal Chair for the Central Region of the archdiocese, also encouraged parishioners to “add their voices to the Annual Catholic Appeal.”

"We have to support ourselves and show our appreciation for all with which the Lord has blessed us," he said. "The Church is more than bricks and mortar. It is all of us ... Together we will continue Christ's mission."

"The Annual Catholic Appeal is the financial lifeblood of our work as Church," Damien DeVasto, director of the Catholic Appeal Office, stated in an interview following the press conference. "The range and depth of the services the archdiocese provides has a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of people."

By donating to the appeal, he continued, “parishioners participate in the unique mission and collective spirit of the Catholic Church.”

The Annual Catholic Appeal is a year-long archdiocesan fund-raising effort that helps fund over 80 programs, ministries and services, among them the Family Life Office, the Vocation Office, Health Care Ministry, the Ethnic Apostolates, Campus Ministry, Catholic School Office and Religious Education. Although donations are accepted throughout the year, the bulk of contributions are given during the initial months of the appeal, according to DeVasto.

The goal for this year’s appeal has been set at $10.5 million — an increase of $1.5 million over last year — but DeVasto believes that “through the sacrificial donations of parishioners throughout the archdiocese, we will reach if not exceed that goal.”