Catholic Appeal ‘critical to the mission,’ says cardinal

BOSTON — The Archdiocese of Boston announced the launch of its 2006 annual Catholic Appeal, “Our Faith, Our Mission,” with a goal of $13 million at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School on May 5. Those gathered were serenaded by school children and heard from Catholics who help raise appeal funds.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley also addressed the group, saying that money gathered during the campaign allows the archdiocese to serve the needy.

“A strong annual Catholic Appeal is critical to the mission of the Church,” he said. “Our mission as Church is central to our faith. This fact has inspired our 2006 Catholic Appeal theme: Our Faith, Our Mission.”

Catholics are called to love and know God as well as to love and care for His people. Fulfilling this mission requires that all Catholics be as generous as possible, he added.

“We live our mission through programs that help people of all ages connect to their faith,” he said. “We live our mission by providing opportunities for persons with disabilities to fully participate in parish life and by training pastoral visitors to comfort people who are homebound or in hospitals.”

Cardinal O’Malley admitted that the archdiocese is in financial trouble and needs more than this year’s $13 million goal to run its programs and services. At one time the goal was as high as $17 million but dropped significantly after the clergy abuse crisis.

Damien DeVasto, director of the appeal, noted the gains the appeal has made over the last four years, saying that it has increased and met its goal each year since 2003. In 2002 the appeal collected $8.8 million, in 2003 $10.4 million, in 2004 $11 million and in 2005 $12 million.

Cardinal O’Malley said the appeal has made continued improvements over the years, rebuilding at a slow but reasonable rate.

“While we are still far from where we need to be, I see great hope in the response of Catholics who have given so generously. To all of you, we offer our heartfelt thanks. You are making possible the vital work of the Church,” he said.

Cardinal O’Malley characterized the archdiocese’s financial condition as “dire” at a press conference April 19. The 2005 Financial Transparency Report recently revealed an ongoing deficit of $46 million in the archdiocese.

The report is an important crossroads for the archdiocese. It will help to restore trust in the archdiocese as well as to prioritize its mission, he said.

“I think we’ve been able to show people that we’ve spent the money where we said we would,” he said. “We recognize the need to be responsible stewards of your contributions. We know that we must continue to earn the trust of Catholics and the wider community and to work at repairing our relationship with the faithful, particularly those who feel harmed by the Church in recent years.”

The priorities include healing and stronger unity within the Catholic community, a commitment to education and faith formation at all levels as well as works of mercy, social justice and evangelization, he said.

“Without question, we hold within ourselves the potential to strengthen our faith community, making it more vibrant than ever, a community that comforts and inspires, provides services to those in need and prepares tomorrow’s leaders, a community that continues to live ‘Our Faith, Our Mission,’” he said.

Cardinal O’Malley also thanked the regional appeal chairs, calling their leadership a gift.

“The participation of men and women from the parishes is essential to our success and is an expression of our sharing in the work of the Lord,” he said.

Dan Nelson, appeal chair of the Northwest region and deacon candidate, said that Catholics should give to the appeal because they are part of a community which is larger than their individual parishes.

“What makes us Catholic is the idea of one body, the mystical body of Christ,” he said.

In order to walk their faith, Catholics must love their neighbors as themselves and help the most marginalized people around them, including those who are homeless, single parents or without medical insurance. Catholics give because they have a living faith, he said.

Nelson also noted that many Catholics are in need of faith formation to better understand that faith. Ongoing formation is necessary for adults to obtain a deeper understanding of God.

“It is something that is important for all age groups,” he said.

Nelson said many adults desire to seek and to find more. This desire led him to pursue studies for the diaconate and at Boston College, he added.

“That’s why I went back and got a master’s at BC and my diaconate formation,” he said.