Close to goal, Annual Appeal makes final reminder

The Annual Catholic Appeal has raised almost 88 percent — over $9 million — of its $10.5 million goal despite the on-going parish-reconfiguration process, said Damien DeVasto, director of the appeal.

The appeal is bringing its final reminder to parishes during the weekend of Nov. 13-14 in hope of closing the fund-raiser’s final gap.

“Though the number of parishes has reduced, the need has not lessened,” said DeVasto. “We still have a way to go.”

So far, 51,000 parishioners across the archdiocese have contributed $9.2 million, he said. More parishioners have donated this year than in any of the last three years, which DeVasto called positive and encouraging news.

“It’s really a testament to the support the appeal is receiving,” he said.

According to DeVasto, parish reconfiguration has not severely affected the appeal. In fact, he noted, contributions from parishioners of the 82 parishes named for closure have only decreased by 25 percent compared to last year.

“It’s an extraordinary amount of support from people who are in transition,” he said.

DeVasto describes the appeal is the “financial lifeblood of our work as the Church” and “one important way for parishioners to participate and support the wider Church.”

The appeal helps support the Family Life Office, the Vocation Office, Health Care Ministry, the Ethnic Apostolates, Campus Ministry, Catholic School Office and Religious Education. In total, the appeal helps to fund over 80 programs, ministries and services that affect hundreds of thousands of people.

Each year, the appeal begins with a letter from the archbishop in the spring, and pastors and the appeal chair speak about the appeal on the same weekend.

This weekend marks the final public phase of the appeal. Although people can donate until the end of the year, each parish takes the opportunity to thank those who have already donated and to remind anyone who would like to donate but has not yet. Pastors can choose to talk about the appeal on one of three different weekends in the fall, so that it does not conflict with fundraising at their own parish.

During the past two years, the appeal has been divided into two phases — one in the spring and a second in the fall — in order to avoid conflicting with fundraising for the Promise for Tomorrow capital campaign in the spring.

In 2002, $9 million was donated to the appeal, down from $14 million raised in 2001. The drop in 2002 is attributed to an uncertain economy, the on-going Promise for Tomorrow campaign and the clergy abuse crisis.

Almost 47,000 Catholics contributed to the 2003 appeal which raised over $10.3 million, surpassing the goal of $9 million.

This year, the goal was set at $1.5 million more than last year’s target. The theme is “Together in Faith” in order to highlight the Church’s need to be united in order to accomplish its ministries and programs.

Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley sent a letter to all contributors, explaining that the theme was chosen “to recognize that our greatest strength is our shared commitment.”

That commitment includes helping the poor despite the “new challenge” of the “difficult and painful” process of closing parishes, he said.

“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,” the archbishop said. “The least of our brothers and sisters have a special claim on our love and our help.”

The need is even greater than the target, DeVasto said.

“We’ve really come down to the bone as far as resources,” he said. “So much has happened over the last three years. We’ve moved so far forward, especially in the last two years.”