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Diocese of Orlando's annual fundraising appeal and reactions

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Any Catholic who has been in Orlando for a few years knows that the 2nd weekend in February is when we will see a video from our bishop about the annual bishop's appeal (in place of the usual homily), called "Our Catholic Appeal". During the episcopacy of Bishop Norbert Dorsey, this coincidence with Valentine's Day even prompted him to market the Bishop's Appeal for Service Enrichment, or BASE, under the motto "BASEd on Love" (which continues to this day).

This year, the annual fundraising appeal has been promoted with bulletin inserts detailing the work that diocesan funds support throughout the 9 counties of the diocese, including:

  • encouraging vocations
  • faith formation leading up to Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion (including 3,460 who were received into the Church this past year)
  • supporting Catholic campus ministries to help college students keep their faith during their most challenging years

While these are noble, life changing ministries, it is but a small sample of the large-scale work of the diocese, which also includes:

  • continuing education for 416 Catholic school teachers so they can continue to teach 6,583 Catholic school students in Orlando
  • sending 600 high school students to the Youth Rally for Life
  • supporting the St. Thomas Aquinas Free Medical Clinic
  • hosting Helpers Mass and Rosary Processions throughout the year to pray at area abortion facilities
  • Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat program, which ministers to those who have been hurt by abortion
  • offering resources, retreats, and an annual liturgy to help heal the wounds of divorce
  • Marriage Encounter, Pre-Cana, Natural Family Planning, and other marriage resources, both for newly engaged and married couples
  • providing family life and pastoral care resources to address the unique needs of step-families and single-parent families
  • providing funding for the San Pedro Franciscan Retreat Center
  • supporting Catholic Charities of Central Florida to care for the hungry and the homeless

However, there are faithful Catholics who have concerns about some activities funded by the pledge drives of the Diocese of Orlando. These concerns range from a lack of transparency of how diocesan funds (e.g., "Our Catholic Appeal" and "Alive in Christ") are used, to progressive lobbying and advocacy campaigns supported by the bishops (e.g., immigration reform and environmental activism), to how much is given to the questionable grants of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

Some of the faithful have contacted their pastors and/or the diocesan office about these concerns. Others have asked the bishops to preach with more clarity on political and social issues. Some have even gone so far as to write a note to the bishop(s) expressing how they are reducing their contribution to the annual fundraising by the amount their health insurance premiums have increased (due to the U.S. bishops' support for comprehensive health care reform, with the exception of the contraception mandate) and put it in the collection envelope in lieu of donations.

So this weekend, when you receive your envelope in the mail and/or from the ushers at Mass, consider all of the above - both good and bad - when you determine what to write on the blanks on the outside of the envelope (and what to put on the inside as well).

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