BRIGHTON –– The Archdiocese of Boston announced that nearly 54,000 Catholics contributed $10.8 million to the 2004 Annual Catholic Appeal, surpassing its goal of $10.5 million. The annual fundraising effort, conducted last year under the theme “Together in Faith,” provides much of the central operating funds of the archdiocese.
"That we have exceeded the goal is a tribute to parishioners across our archdiocese," Archbishop Seán P. O'Malley said in a statement. "Thank you to all who responded so generously. Your support is a heartwarming sign of the strength of our Catholic family and an expression of the optimism and hope within our archdiocese as we move toward the future."
Damien DeVasto, director of the appeal, said the archdiocese is “very encouraged” by this year’s results. Over the past few years, there has been substantial evidence that people are coming back together as a community to support the archdiocese, he said.
The appeal had almost 20 percent more contributors than the previous year and more than 6,000 donors gave for the first time in 2004. In addition, many returning contributors increased their level of giving last year, DeVasto said.
More gains need to be made in the future in order to continue to support the work of the archdiocese, he continued.
"While we're very happy with the support we've received it doesn't quite yet fully meet the needs of the mission and work of the Church in the archdiocese," DeVasto said.
The appeal helps fund more than 80 programs, services and ministries serving hundreds of thousands of Catholics and non-Catholics throughout the archdiocese. It supports religious education for 140,000 students, 160 Catholic schools, youth ministry, service for the elderly, pastoral care at 70 hospitals and subsidies to parishes.
DeVasto said the 2004 results were especially significant in light of the archdiocese’s ongoing reconfiguration process.
"This was a time of transition and change with reconfiguration," he said. "The fact that parishioners came together during a time like this is a real testament to their support."
Among parishioners from parishes suppressed last year, 80 percent of those who gave to the 2003 appeal chose to give to give to the 2004 appeal as well, DeVasto added.
"We're saddened that some parishioners paused at this time, but clearly a number like that shows firsthand that while there's individual sadness from those parishioners -- and many did point out that they're giving despite the fact that they're sad -- but they saw the wider implications of reconfiguration," he said.
The appeal campaign kicked off around the same month parishioners learned their churches would close, but most contributed anyway because they recognized that the archbishop and everyone who is part of reconfiguration made this movement for future generations and the long-term viability of the archdiocese, DeVasto said.
Archbishop O’Malley also invited more lay involvement in the 2004 appeal by appointing regional appeal chairs in each of the five regions. He wanted to show that he was open to listening by communicating with the people directly, so he held three forums that thousands of Catholics attended, DeVasto said.
Improved participation in the 2004 appeal is a sign of hope for the future of the archdiocese, DeVasto said.
"When you look beyond the numbers and you see the stories, and you see the level of participation, and you hear and speak directly to people who have participated, you recognize that these are very important trends and that the people who are participating have stories to tell," he said.
"The Catholic Appeal really is one of the most important ways for parishioners to participate in the work of the Church beyond their parish boundaries," he said. "It's an important way for parishioners to demonstrate their support of the mission and of the archdiocese as a whole and results like these are very encouraging for us and for the archbishop."