Diocese kicks off 2017 Catholic Charity Appeal

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PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence began the annual Catholic Charity Appeal last month, seeking support for the more than 35 ministries around the diocese that depend on the generosity of the Catholic faithful to continue Christ’s mission of serving those in need.

In a mailing recently sent out, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin asked for the support of the people of the diocese and reminded them of Pope Francis’ call to serve mercifully as examples of Christ.

“Pope Francis says that ‘mercy is a verb, not a noun,’” wrote Bishop Tobin. “His point is that mercy has to be put into action for it to take effect. What the Pope says of mercy is also true for charity – it’s a verb, not a noun. For it to have an effect, it has to become tangible in the everyday works that make a difference and change lives.”

The Catholic Charity Appeal serves as the principal source of funding for a number of important social services and outreach ministries within the diocese, including homeless shelters, heating assistance, prolife ministry, tuition assistance for Catholic school students, seminarian education and resettlement of refugees. Each year, the diocese asks the support of the Catholic faithful in order to continue the work of these ministries for the most vulnerable in the state.

Last year’s Catholic Charity Appeal brought in a total of $8,072,854, surpassing the $8 million goal and setting a new record for donations in the diocese. In addition, about 3,000 new donors who had not previously contributed to the appeal participated in 2016, a promising trend that Office of Stewardship and Development Director Robert Corcoran hopes will continue in the new year.

“We think we’ve found a good formula and we think the faithful will respond in a charitable way,” said Corcoran. “Every gift is important. Every size gift is important.”

Corcoran attributes much of the success of last year’s campaign to the dedicated work of parish priests, who, in addition to promoting an in-pew solicitation in their parishes during the month of February, participated in sending out follow-up letters to their parishioners reminding them of the opportunity to donate toward the end of the appeal. In prior years, reminder letters had been sent by Bishop Tobin and the Office of Stewardship and Development. Corcoran thinks the direct communication with parish priests encouraged a greater number of parishioners to participate and accounted for the rise in donors during last year’s appeal.

“That’s all, we think, due to Father’s good work,” he said. “They’re great partners for us and great believers in the cause. And that’s why it goes well.”

In recent years, the Office of Stewardship and Development has also tried to increase communication with donors through email, sending out a series of E-blasts that inform recipients about the work of the ministries supported by their funds. According to Corcoran, this communication method provides an avenue through which individuals are welcome to respond and ask questions or contribute online if that is their preferred method of giving.

“We just really want to open up all opportunities for people to communicate with us,” he said.

The 2017 Catholic Charity Appeal will continue through the spring and include an in-pew solicitation during Lent, which Corcoran said typically accounts for about 80 percent of total donations. He emphasized the importance of the appeal not only for ministries that receive direct CCA funding but also for those that benefit from the freeing up of diocesan resources for other ministries.

“It’s important, but it’s more than just important,” he said. “You’re the reason there’s ministry.”