Today, we interrupt this column with a message from our sponsors. No, not the various ads you’ve seen posted all over Examiner.com. Rather, this week I’m going to let the Catholic Church do the talking and mention something you’ve probably heard from the pulpit during Sunday Mass. The Archdiocese of Chicago has been promoting the 2013 Annual Catholic Appeal.
In the past, you’ve probably read some criticism I’ve had about various dubious “Catholic” donations. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, for example, is notorious for giving the funds they receive to organizations that directly conflict with Catholic teaching. As I’ve mentioned before, if you’ve ever donated to such charities, stop! It’s time to rethink your donations.
The Annual Catholic Appeal is an entirely different story. It is operated directly by the Archdiocese of Chicago, the funds are for much needed local Catholic services in Cook & Lake County; any funds raised are carefully monitored and spent for only those specific purposes. So where do the funds go? Here are the biggest uses for the Annual Catholic Appeal in the Archdiocese:
- Catholic Religious Education – Money from the Annual Catholic Appeal is used to pay for grants and scholarships for Catholic schools serving economically disadvantaged communities around the Chicago area. It also funds parish ministries that provide religious education to children, youth and adults in economically disadvantaged communities. This is an essential function when many Catholic schools around Chicago are struggling to remain open.
- Family & Community - Money from the Annual Catholic Appeal helps to strengthen families and local communities around Chicago, by granting funds to parishes and schools that serve economically challenged neighborhoods in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Appeal money is also used to fund the recruitment, education and formation of lay ministers and deacons, and the continuing education and on-going formation of priests around Chicago.
- Promoting the Culture of Life – Money from Annual Catholic Appeal is used directly to fund The Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago. This office promotes and advocates for the church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life, and to educate others to respect the gift of life from conception through natural death. It promotes the cause of life through advocacy and prayer efforts. In Chicago – where there is so much killing through the use of abortion, euthanasia, and violent crime –it is essential more is done to change human hearts and minds. The Respect Life provides educational resources, a speaker’s bureau and sponsors annual conferences, retreats and rallies for adults and youth.
- Helping Friends Around the World – In addition to helping people who are struggling right here at home in Chicago, money from the Annual Catholic Appeal also serves people worldwide. The funds are used to support Catholic Relief Services, which assists people worldwide, without regard for religious affiliation. Catholic Relief Services focuses on providing humanitarian efforts for those who have been devastated by natural disasters, illnesses, wars and famines.
The theme of this year’s collection is “Love never fails” (quoting 1 Corinthians 13:8). In 2012, even in the midst of a terrible recession and busy campaign season, the Annual Catholic Appeal raised $17.5 million from lay Catholics throughout Archdiocese of Chicago and approximately 90,000 Catholic households donated to the fund. The archdiocese is hoping to top that record this year. Parishes generally have a goal of collecting 6% of their annual ordinary income; those that collect more receive the extra money back as a rebate and can use it for their own projects. Last year, more than 200 parishes exceeded their goal and received rebate checks totaling $3.8 million.
The Archdiocese asked parishioners will be asked to make pledges for the 2013 effort starting the weekend of February 2-3, and will continue to promote the Appeal over the next three weekends. In recent years, pastors have also taken the step of asking everyone in their congregations to fill out the pledge envelopes – even for people who choose not to donate or are not financially able to. Filling out a blank envelope helps the archdiocese keep track of how many faithful Catholics attend church weekly, and they have been able to make up the funds via wealthier parishioners supplementing it with larger donations. Barbara Shea Collins, the director of the Annual Catholic Appeal, noted: “In fact, many donors have called to say that they would be increasing their donations because they knew that many families who would like to continue to donate would be unable to do so due to their strained financial circumstances. Even though the Archdiocese of Chicago is large and cumbersome, this wide spread outpouring of generosity reflects the ‘small-town’ connectedness of our community that continues to inspire all of us.”
But don’t take my word for it. Watch the video included here. In a homily recorded in St. James Chapel at the Archbishop Quigley Center, Cardinal Francis George recorded a message that explains in his own words why local Chicago area Catholics should give generously to the Appeal, and he discusses the positive impact the fund drive has here in the Archdiocese and around the world.
As I’ve often said, people seem to have a false impression that Catholics are commanded to ‘tithe’ (give 10% of their income back to the church) as is stated in the Old Testament, but in reality such a command is not emphasized in Catholic teaching and few very Catholics actually do so. Rather, we give what we can afford and put the rest in God’s hands. That’s why projects like the Annual Catholic Appeal come around only once a year, so we stop to think about what more we can do to help the church. If you can afford to help, why not?
For more information, you can visit www.annualcatholicappeal.com