PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence began its annual Catholic Charity Appeal this month with an initial mailing to 80,000 individuals seeking contributions to support the numerous ministries around the state that depend on the generosity of donors to continue their work serving those in need.
The Catholic Charity Appeal, which takes place every year between the months of January and June, serves as the primary source of funding for a number of ministries and outreach programs sponsored by the Diocese of Providence. Contributions to the campaign allow for vital steps in areas such as education, homelessness assistance, healthcare, immigration services and pro-life ministry.
In his letter accompanying the initial mailing, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin thanked the members of the diocese for their generous support and reminded donors of their role in carrying the Church’s mission to those most in need of her assistance.
“You are a vital member of a Church that brings diverse people together in a unity of faith and purpose,” said Bishop Tobin. “It is the Church that speaks clearly of moral values in a secular world, applying the Gospel of Christ to issues of the day. And with your support, the Church serves people, lifts them up, and encourages them to fulfill their God-given potential!”
During the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to be particularly attentive to ways they may exhibit God’s mercy by serving the needs of those in their communities and around the world. In his letter, Bishop Tobin references the pope’s example as the Church embarks on a new liturgical year.
“In the leadership of our Holy Father Pope Francis, you have seen the ministry of the Church on display in a positive and public way,” said Bishop Tobin. “Pope Francis has made us proud to be Catholic and has reminded us of all we can be as a community of faith.”
The Catholic Charity Appeal, celebrating its 91st year, has served the needs of the diocese by providing vital support to its work in the community for nearly a century. Though the mission of the Appeal has not changed, over the years it has grown from a door-to-door collection to a well-managed operation that allows individuals to contribute by mail, through in-pew solicitation, online and even, this year, through email.
“We’re trying to reach people where they are and give them an opportunity to give in the way they’re most comfortable with,” said Robert Corcoran, director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development, which oversees the Appeal.
Last year, the 2015 Catholic Charity Appeal raised $7.8 million, coming within 97 percent of its $8 million goal. This year, Corcoran hopes the generosity of parishioners around the diocese will close that gap, meeting this year’s goal and giving an extra boost of support to ministries in need.
“We’re close. And that’s important to be close, because people depend on that,” he said. “The need’s here and it doesn’t stop. It continues to grow.”
More than 35 ministries around the diocese depend on the Catholic Charity Appeal as their primary source of income to fund programs assisting those in need. Among other things, contributions to the Appeal pay for scholarships for children to attend Catholic schools and summer camp, fees related to the resettlement of refugees, emergency rent and medical aid and the education of seminarians training to be priests. Though some diocesan ministries apply for outside grants, many have difficulty obtaining funding from secular foundations because of their Church status.
“So really, the appeal is it,” said Corcoran. “And the appeal is a wonderful tool. We’re in a great partnership with pastors who implement it in the parish.”
Corcoran said pastors have been instrumental in sharing enthusiasm for the campaign with their parishioners. Many donors choose to contribute through in-pew solicitation, which will begin at the end of February. Though they make their donation during a regular Sunday Mass, by contributing, donors participate in a larger effort that touches lives in all corners of the state.
“I really see giving as an extension of a parishioner’s faith. They see Church as the parish, but the Church goes beyond that,” said Corcoran, explaining that the appeal gives parishioners an opportunity to contribute to ministries they might otherwise not come into contact with, such as prison ministry or scholarships for inner-city students.
“Sometimes we pray, and sometimes we are the prayer and we have to step forward with a gift and put this faith into action,” he said.
Corcoran said the challenge facing the Appeal this year is to grow the donor base. Though the campaign receives a generous average annual contribution of $220 per person, a larger group of participants, even those making small donations, will help the Appeal reach its $8 million goal. Every size contribution goes toward assisting those in need.
Describing his office’s role in supporting Church ministry, Corcoran emphasized the idea that contributions of money and time are an important part of living the Church’s mission. Reading from a prayer card distributed with last year’s Appeal, he shared a quote from Pope Francis that has, for him, summed up the role of contributions by everyday parishioners in the work of the Church.
“You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. This is how prayer works.”
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