2008 Catholic Appeal exceeds goals despite economic crisis

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley announced Feb. 6 that the Annual Catholic Appeal surpassed its goal for the 2008 campaign by $500,000, raising a total of $15.1 million in contributions. The amount represents a 3 percent increase over the appeal’s 2007 total of $14.6 million.

“The success of this year’s appeal demonstrates the generosity, faith and commitment of the people of this archdiocese to sustain our ministries during these challenging economic times,” the cardinal said. The 2008 campaign, “Handing on the Light of Christ,” was launched last March.

“I am inspired by our Catholic community’s long-standing history of selfless sharing, coming together to care for each other and those around them. To all who have given of themselves so generously, thank you,” he said.

The 2009 Catholic Appeal will be launched at a March 7 Mass celebrated by the cardinal at Dedham’s St. Mary Church. The 2009 theme is “Responding to God’s Grace; Renewing Our Church.”

There are many highlights of the 2008 campaign, said Craig Gibson, board president of The Catholic Foundation.

“We have seen six consecutive years of appeal growth. Catholics in every parish of the archdiocese are engaging in the renewal efforts led by Cardinal Sean,” he said. “Despite the challenging economy, Catholics have once again raised their level of sacrifice for others. This generous spirit defines who we are as the Catholic Church.”

The leadership of our pastors and lay leaders led to the success of the 2008 appeal, said Scot Landry, the archdiocese’s Secretary for Institutional Advancement. “Achieving our $15 million goal in this economy is a testament to the love Catholics have for one another and for the mission of our Church.”

“Our archdiocese is blessed to have so many priests and parishioners that lead by example and inspire others to sacrifice for these vital ministries,” Landry said. “Their leadership resulted in nearly 50,000 contributors to this year’s campaign and a 30 percent increase in the number of parishes surpassing their appeal goals.”

“The dedication and hard work put forth by pastors across the Archdiocese has been tremendous,” said Msgr. Francis V. Strahan, pastor of Framingham’s St. Bridget’s and the chairman of the Catholic Appeal Pastors Advisory Committee.

“As families experience increasing financial pressures, pastors are called upon to do so much more to help their parishioners, parish ministries and our central ministries,” the Monsignor said.

“Once again, pastors can report that the generosity of the people of the Archdiocese of Boston has been shown to be without equal. To achieve and surpass this formidable goal of $15 million is truly impressive,” he said.

Father Walter J. Waldron, the pastor of Roxbury’s St. Patrick’s Parish, said he was surprised when his community met its goal by June. “I was shocked, just shocked. It was mind-blowing.”

St. Patrick’s led all parishes in both the percentage increase in contributions, 320 percent; increase in participants, 292 percent; and by the percentage it exceeded its parish goal, 308 percent.

The key to the parish’s success, Father Waldron said, was that the priests in the rectory committed to the campaign as a team.

St. Patrick’s is made up of three cultural communities; Cape Verdean, Spanish-speaking and English-speaking. In the past they operated as their own virtual parishes, he said. For the 2008 campaign, Father Jose A. Borja worked with the Cape Verdean community and Father Carlos A. Lopez worked with the Puerto Rican community, while the pastor worked with the English-speaking community.

Although there were three communities, all the priests emphasized the unity of the parish towards its goal, he said.

The other key was following the procedures laid out in the appeal’s manual “Parish Procedures Guide,” he said.

“Previously, I read the instructions, such as explaining the cards line-by-line, and thought it was too boring and I didn’t like talking about money in church. But, this time we showed the video and went through the explanations and the results were great,” he said.

Father Waldron said after the parish met its goal he kept reminders in the bulletin and the priests made occasional mentions at Masses, yet this was the time that two-thirds of the parish’s total was raised. “I think success begets success,” he said. “Once people realized how well it was going, they wanted to be a part of it.”

Landry said the success at St. Patrick’s was mirrored all over the archdiocese with 108 parishes exceeding their goals in support of the appeal.

Landry said contributions to the appeal serve as the primary source of financial support for the archdiocese’s central operating fund and its many central ministries.

“Services provided by the archdiocese from the central operating fund include training and faith formation for both clergy and laity, curriculum development for the religious education of children and young adults, various training, operational and financial services to parishes, schools and agencies, and ministry to over 30 culturally and ethnically unique Catholic populations throughout the archdiocese,” he said.