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All of us in the archdiocese begin the new year with the great news that the Catholic Appeal surpassed its 2007 goal. This allows us to continue the archdiocese’s central ministries and programs. My heartfelt thank you goes out to the nearly 50,000 of you who made Appeal contributions.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my role as secretary for advancement is the opportunity to meet with many generous parishioners and extend a personal thank you on behalf of Cardinal Seán and all those who work in and benefit from these central ministries and programs. In these meetings, I often learn what motivates such extraordinary support and am inspired by my fellow Catholics.
The most common reason for supporting the Appeal involves gratitude to God and for the Catholic faith that has been handed on to these parishioners. A gift to the Appeal provides an opportunity to give back and say thank you to God and the Church. Others view a gift as a chance to ensure that the blessings of faith and vibrant parish life that they have received can be handed on to new generations of Catholics. Still others see a contribution as a central part of living their faith, part of the stewardship that Christ calls disciples to live in the Gospels. Christian stewardship involves recognizing that our blessings come ultimately from God, cherishing those gifts, sharing them with others, and returning them with increase to God through the Church.
Another frequent reason cited for giving is a desire to strengthen and renew the Church. Many of these parishioners state that they believe the Church is at a critical juncture in its history. This crossroads period provides an opportunity for Catholics to become more deeply engaged in making sure the Church can carry on its mission prophetically into the future.
Many contributors also point to the deep needs of the Church and the impact their contributions will make. One woman, a retired textile worker who lives on a modest fixed income, recently rolled over her entire IRA to the Appeal. This was by far the largest donation she has ever made. Her reason for doing so was that, “the Church’s needs are far greater than my own. I am grateful for all of God’s blessings to me. He has provided for all that I need. Yet, there are many families in our archdiocese whose needs are far greater than my own and I know the Church will find them and help them.”
A similar story comes from a couple who increased their support to the Appeal substantially, pointing to the far greater impact of donations to the Church than gifts to the universities that they have consistently supported. “We had an epiphany recently,” the husband said, “when we read that our colleges, with multi-billion dollar endowments, expressed a ‘need’ for additional funds. We’ve annually contributed to our college funds but we started to think ‘How much do our colleges really need these extra donations?’ We wondered if our donations to them really make a difference. In doing so, we considered the deep needs of the Church and we thought that increasing our contributions to our parish and to the Appeal would do much more good.”
His wife added, “Certainly the work of the great universities and hospitals in the Boston area is to be applauded. But some of the major hospitals generate more than a billion dollars in operating profit per year. Do they really need our gifts now? Some of the major universities have endowments so massive that they are only spending a small percentage of the interest on these endowments. Clearly, they don’t really ‘need’ our contributions at this time. However, it’s clear that our parish and the archdiocese need our contributions, particularly now. And it’s very clear that a donation of a few thousand dollars to the Appeal can really make an impact. So this year we gave token contributions to our colleges and gave more support to the Church.”
The husband concluded, “Our college years were fantastic. The university got us involved in supporting it immediately, as part of the senior class gift. We’ve given ever since because we believe that our experiences there helped us become who we are today and we sought to help others to benefit from that same experience. But, we realize now that our experience as Catholics also makes us who we are today. We hope that our gifts to the Appeal and our parish can help ensure that our Catholic faith can be handed on to others.”
Regardless of your reason for giving, thank you. Your financial offerings and gifts of your time and talent have made the Church stronger. You have made a difference in the lives of all those the Church serves.
Scot Landry is Secretary for Advancement and Chief Development Officer for the Archdiocese of Boston.