Catholic Charity Appeal tops $8 million, has record-setting year in diocese

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PROVIDENCE — The 2016 Catholic Charity Appeal has set a record, raising $8,072,854 — the most money in its history — to help support dozens of vital ministries providing services to thousands of individuals each year across the Diocese of Providence.

A generous donor base and diligent follow up from church pastors served as catalysts for the annual campaign, pushing the total over the $8 million goal set by the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. Of the total, the Bishop’s Partnership in Charity received a record amount in its own right, raising about $200,000 more this year than it normally does, for a total of $2,558,677 in large gifts of $1,000 or more.

“I am very gratified and encouraged by the results of this year’s record-setting Catholic Charity Appeal,” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin told Rhode Island Catholic.

“The members of our Church continue to be extremely generous, and that generosity is, I believe, a tangible expression of their faith in Christ and their commitment to the Church. I am also very proud of and grateful to our pastors for their outstanding leadership, and to our diocesan staff for their unflagging dedication to this task.”

The generosity which benefits the Appeal also allows the Church to continue walking in the footsteps of Christ by serving those in the greatest of need through such programs as the diocesan Emmanuel House homeless shelter, “Keep the Heat On,” and senior services such as those provided at the St. Martin de Porres Center.

“The needs of the Church are many and our resources are limited. Nonetheless, the Catholic Charity Appeal enables us to carry on the work of Christ in serving the poor and preaching the joy of the Gospel. May God bless and reward all those who support and promote the Catholic Charity Appeal,” Bishop Tobin said.

The 2016 Appeal was also noteworthy for another reason. It represents a significant turnaround in the decline in donors the campaign has been experiencing over the past several years.

Instead of losing an average of 3,000 donors over the previous year as had been the norm, this year’s campaign has reversed that trend, receiving more than 2,000 additional donations than it had last year.

“That was a reversal of a trend that has been going on forever,” said Robert Corcoran, director of the Office of Stewardship and Development. “We attribute that to a follow-up letter we did for each parish. We think that had an effect in terms of donor decline.”

Corcoran said that consistent follow-up is crucial to ensuring a successful campaign, and this year his office offered its assistance and expertise to pastors in helping them to remain connected with their parishioners throughout the duration of the campaign to ensure donations were being received.

About half of the diocese’s pastors availed themselves of the assistance offered, and Corcoran is hoping to have all on board for next year’s campaign.

“Our success really comes from our history with a long in-pew solicitation and Father’s excellent work in staying connected with his parishioners,” Corcoran said of the efforts of the pastors. “That is the reason why we have such a wonderful base and a great foundation. That starts us off at such a high level.”

This year, 33,138 donors contributed to the Appeal, which received a total of 36,088 gifts, with an overall average gift of $223.70.

Msgr. Raymond B. Bastia, Vicar of the diocesan Office of Planning and Financial Services, offered his congratulations to all the staff of the Stewardship and Development Office for their efforts in surpassing their goal, as well as to the parishes and pastors for their generosity in this record-setting year.

“It was a lot of hard work and it certainly reflects the fact they identify with the importance of Catholic Charities,” Msgr. Bastia said.

“It helps us to ensure we can continue many ministries that we support through the Catholic Charity Appeal, and it helps us to have confidence as we go forward that we need to meet the needs we have been serving and then to be open to any new charitable needs that we identify in our ministries.”

Michael F. Sabatino, Chief Financial Officer for the diocese, commended the efforts of pastors and the parish chairs who are instrumental in raising funds to support diocesan ministries.

“They did a phenomenal job. It really is unbelievable,” he said.

Corcoran said it has been a struggle to make goal in recent years given the steady decline in donors that seems to have reversed course this year. While the Appeal has generally come within about $150,000 - $200,000 of making goal in each of several recent years, it was becoming harder to do so with a declining number of donors.

But now, working more closely with pastors, who have the added incentive of being able to retain for their parishes any amounts received over their individual goals, and an improving economic climate, Corcoran hopes they have turned the corner in the annual campaign.

“I think the economy is shifting. I think people are feeling a little less pressure maybe by the economy,” he said.

“We had more parishes make goal than ever before,” he added noting that 79 parishes exceeded their goals. “We had more parishes raise more money than they did last year than ever before.”