Archdiocese launches Annual Catholic Appeal

In parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Boston this weekend, videos and talks on the important works of the Church will be presented to kick off the 2004 Annual Catholic Appeal, the principal source of funding for many programs, ministries and services in the archdiocese. The goal for this year’s appeal has been set at $10.5 million — an increase of $1.5 million over last year.

The theme for this year’s appeal is “Together in Faith.” According to Elizabeth Jennings-White, director of development communications for the Catholic Foundation, which runs the appeal, the theme was chosen to show that the Church must be united in order to accomplish its many ministries and programs.

“There is a need for us to come together and focus in our faith to do the work of the Church,” she explained. “We can fulfill Christ’s mission if we are working ‘Together in Faith,’ because those are two components that we need.”

The appeal helps to fund over 80 programs, ministries and services that serve hundreds of thousands of people. The Family Life Office, the Vocation Office, Health Care Ministry, the Ethnic Apostolates, Campus Ministry, Catholic School Office and Religious Education are among the programs funded through the appeal.

The pastor and the appeal chair of each parish have been asked to speak about the appeal at this weekend’s Masses. Jennings-White said some parishes chose to get an early start on the appeal last weekend with a presentation or video, while others have chosen to coincide their talks with the official appeal weekend, May 1-2.

The Annual Catholic Appeal is a year-long fundraising campaign that is launched each spring. Although donors can contribute to the appeal anytime during the year, the majority of donations are given around the time of the appeal weekend.

“A lot of the donations come in surrounding this time frame, because it’s when it’s talked about most,” Jennings-White explained.

For the past two years, the appeal was separated into two phases, spring and fall, to accommodate parishes that were involved in the Promise for Tomorrow capital campaign in the spring. However, this year all parishes will again participate in the appeal at the same time.

The 2003 appeal, which concluded April 15, raised over $10.3 million, surpassing its goal of $9 million. Nearly 47,000 Catholics gave to the 2003 appeal.

“We are very happy we surpassed our goal of $9 million by $1.3 million,” Jennings-White said. This year, “we hope to exceed what we raised this past year.”

Based on the 2003 results, this year’s appeal goal was set at $10.5 million because “we want to challenge ourselves a little bit more,” Jennings-White stated. She is hopeful that Catholics will continue to realize the importance of contributing to the appeal.

“The people of the archdiocese recognize the good works of the Church and that there is a real need to continue those good works,” she said. “They are very focused on making sure the works of our faith continue and are strengthened.”

Jennings-White added that the presence of a new leader in the archdiocese and the progress Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley has made have encouraged some to donate. “Archbishop Seán [O’Malley] has been a component” of the increase in giving since the clergy abuse scandal, she said. “We’re moving forward, and there’s a feeling and a sense of that.”

Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Boston who have given to the appeal in the past should also be receiving a letter from Archbishop O’Malley. In his letter, the archbishop explains in his own words that the “Together in Faith” theme was chosen “to recognize that our greatest strength is our shared commitment.”

“We have made significant progress together as a Catholic family over the past year,” the letter states. “Now we face a new challenge as we restructure our parishes to focus resources where they are most needed.”

The archbishop went on to state that although closing parishes will be “difficult and painful,” there are no other alternatives to secure the future viability of the archdiocese. The archbishop has consistently maintained that the reconfiguration process will lead to stronger parishes.

“The ultimate goal of reconfiguration is to further the Mission of the Church,” Archbishop O’Malley wrote in the letter. “And the courage and spirit with which we approach and resolve these issues together will be a witness to our shared faith, and our unity as a Catholic family.”

Despite the hardship caused by reconfiguration, the archbishop said he prayed that the people of the archdiocese would continue to respond to God’s call to help the needy. By giving to the appeal, the archbishop said donors help to support Catholic schools, religious education programs, parishes and the services of Catholic Charities.

“Just as the poor, the sick and the marginalized had a special place in Jesus’ heart, they too must be the focus of our ministry,” he stated. “The least of our brothers and sisters have a special claim on our love and our help.”

Since arriving in Boston the archbishop said he has seen signs that the archdiocese is moving forward and will continue to do so.

“People are returning to the Church. Young men are accepting the Lord’s call and studying for the priesthood. More people are supporting the Church’s works of mercy,” he said in the letter. “These are signs of a vital family, one that is determined to grow together and for each other in love of God and in commitment to His work.”