Annual Catholic Appeal launched

WEYMOUTH -- Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, Sacred Heart Parish in Weymouth has been reborn with the help of the Archdiocese of Boston. Archdiocesan programs, funded by the Annual Catholic Appeal, have assisted the parish in rebuilding the church after a seven-alarm fire destroyed the building on June 9, 2005, according to pastor Father Daniel Riley.

Father Riley spoke in the library of Sacred Heart School during the kickoff of the 2007 appeal, which has set a goal of $14 million that will be spent on parish services, education and the central administration of the archdiocese.

Like Sacred Heart, the archdiocese has made great strides since its own crisis. In the four years following the breaking of the clergy abuse scandal, donations to the Catholic Appeal have increased 55 percent and the number of contributors has increased by more than 30 percent. Last year the appeal raised $13.8 million, surpassing its goal by nearly $1 million.

Scot Landry, the archdiocesan secretary for advancement, said that in addition to financial goals, the archdiocese has set the objective of increasing the number of participants again this year and shortening the length of the appeal campaign.

This weekend parishes will launch the appeal by showing the 2007 appeal video, handing out brochures and inviting all Catholics to participate by giving whatever they can, he added.

“Through the Catholic Appeal, Catholics in our 295 parishes come together as one Church to pass on our faith, to care for those in need and to gather and worship together,” Landry said.

Landry said that the largest amount of the appeal, 31.2 percent, goes toward specialized services to parishes. Additionally, 25.2 percent of the funds supports education, formation and evangelization and 17.5 percent supports general and operational services.

The appeal’s theme this year is “Giving in Faith, Giving with Love.”

“The Catholic Appeal is about love,” said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at the kickoff.

The love of God and love of others is expressed in the generosity shown by Catholics who participate in the appeal, he said.

“To our many appeal participants, I extend my sincere thanks,” he said. “Your charitable giving is helping us to support the many good works of the archdiocese.”

Father Riley said that without the help of the archdiocese, Sacred Heart could not have rebuilt its church.

“We are grateful to the archdiocese and all the things funded by the Catholic Annual Appeal. Things like the office of facilities management, the office of worship and insurance. Without that we would not be building a new church,” he said.

Since the fire destroyed Sacred Heart Church nearly two years ago, Masses have been held in the auditorium of Sacred Heart School. During that time, the parish has increased attendance and the school has increased enrollment, he said.

The archdiocese also unveiled the appeal video at the kickoff. It features still images from events across the archdiocese, music, video of the Cor Unum Meal Center in Lawrence and a message from Cardinal O’Malley.

Jane Mancini Puliafico, a member of the Catholic Foundation Board who chaired the committee that designed the appeal materials, said that the video is meant to capture the good works of the Catholic Appeal.

“We wanted the materials that we designed to reflect how we as Catholics see our Church and how we want that positive view reflected in the community,” she said.

Mancini Puliafico, her husband and their children are parishioners at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Sharon.

“We want to pass on our faith to our children,” she said. “We want to pass on to them a very strong and vibrant archdiocese and a very strong Church. We believe that’s very important. A strong Church can help others, not just Catholics, but non-Catholics and the entire community.”

Following the event, one of the 20 school children gathered presented Cardinal O’Malley with one of the bright yellow hard hats worn by the Sacred Heart students at the event.

“That’s a spiffy hat,” Cardinal O’Malley said, thanking the students.

Following the appeal-kickoff media event, the cardinal was led on a tour of the new Sacred Heart Church building. The internal framework is finished and a black watertight seal has been applied to the outside. Next, the bricks will be placed on the exterior walls. Inside, the steel beams and concrete floor are exposed. A large blue tarp covers a round hole where a stained-glass window will be placed.

The construction on the new church is scheduled to be completed in December.

Cardinal O’Malley said, “We are looking forward to December, the new liturgical year and the new Sacred Heart Church.”

December 2007 also marks the beginning of the archdiocesan bicentennial celebration. Commemorating 200 years of history will hopefully be an invitation for Catholics to reconnect with the Church, the cardinal said.

Currently, 316,000 of the nearly 2 million Catholics in Boston attend Sunday Mass.

“There are many challenges out there, but the hunger for God the people have and the meaning of the sacraments in the life of a Catholic are very important factors that I think will help people to find their way back to God and to the Church,” he said.