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Annual Catholic Appeal tops $5 million for first time in diocese history

January 18th, 2018 Posted in Our Diocese Tags: ,

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Collections for the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal topped $5-million for the first time in history for the annual campaign that helps fund ministries and offices of the Diocese of Wilmington.

By the campaign’s January 9 close, $5,037,231 was collected from pledges totaling $5,173,756 as the campaign easily surpassed the goal of $4,523,000, according to the Development Office, which oversees the campaign.

The monies support more than 35 diocesan ministries and offices that serve people in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Those ministries and offices provide services such as food and emergency assistance to the poor and to those who, because of temporary situations such as an unexpected illness or layoff, find themselves struggling to meet monthly living expenses; spiritual development for children and for adults, through Catholic schools and parish-based religious education programs; and assist parishes in preparing lay ministers who assist priests during Mass.

“I am constantly humbled by the incredible generosity of our parishioners here in the Diocese of Wilmington,” Bishop Malooly said. “Their support of the Annual Catholic Appeal is not only a testament to their kindheartedness, but it is also a reflection of their appreciation and acknowledgment of the hard work that happens every day in our parishes, schools, Catholic Charities, and all of our programs.”

The appeal is one of two major funding sources for the diocese. The other is an assessment on parish Offertory gifts.

In comparison, the 2016 Appeal had pledges of $5,037,435 and collections of $4,893,490, surpassing its target of $4,434,000.

Highlights of the 2017 Appeal:

  • Fifty-two of the 56 parishes in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore exceeded their goals in both pledges and collections.
  • The 15,500 participants gave an average gift of $333.79, up from $306.15 in 2016.
  • Circle of Honor membership (gifts of $500 and above) reached 3,113 representing an increase of 132 from 2,981 in the previous year.  Circle of Honor pledges total $3,481,475, representing 67.29% of dollars pledged and an increase over last year’s $3,242,223 by 7.38% or $239,252.  Circle of Honor membership signifies 20.08% of 15,500 total participants.
  • A special solicitation of 452 potential Circle of Honor members, who had given between $350 and $499 to past appeals, netted 399 gifts totaling $178,829. That included 202 donors who increased their giving, of whom 164 gave $500 or more.
  • Priests made 47 gifts totaling $67,572, an average of $1,437.71. That represented a 13.2 percent increase from 2016.
  • There were 1,132 first-time donors who made pledges totaling $268,472, or 5.19 percent of the total pledged.

Deborah Fols, director of the Development Office, credited the deans of the seven deaneries (geographic clusters of parishes) for vigorously working to develop realistic targets for each parish. Also credited was the support of pastors in their effort to encourage parishioner participation thus enabling parishes to achieve their individually assigned goals.

Msgr. Stanley Russell, pastor of St. Helena Parish in Bellefonte and dean of the Brandywine Hundred Deanery, agreed. Deans “took into account the circumstances of each parish,” such as population shifts including older members of those parishes who may have moved elsewhere after retirement.

All six parishes in his northern New Castle County Brandywine Hundred Deanery – St. Helena, Holy Rosary, Child, Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph on the Brandywine and St. Mary Magdalen – surpassed their targets in both pledges and collections for the first time since 2007, Msgr. Russell said.

Just as important to the Appeal’s success, he said, is the need for pastors to stress the real reason for the appeal.

“It helps when people realize they’re not just giving to an organization; they’re giving to people,” he said. At St. Helena’s, he stressed how the appeal helps train catechists for the religious education program, provides premarital programs for those getting married, helps ensue chaplains at hospitals for when one is ill or injured, and provides campus ministry for parishioners’ children while attending some of the colleges and universities in the diocese.

While the Circle of Honor recognizes persons who give $500 or more, two Circle of Honor members said such recognition has nothing to do with why they give.

“I don’t feel it is any honor at all,” said Anne Cuomo of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Salisbury, a longtime Circle of Honor member. Rather, she said, she gives what she feels she should, both at the parish level and to the diocese.

Deacon Larry Brecht, of St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin, agreed. “It wasn’t so much a motive to become a Circle of Honor member but to give generously,” he said of he and his wife’s decision on giving. He said they take the same approach concerning time and talent given to the church.

Brecht’s five-year training to become a deacon was funded in part by the Annual Catholic Appeal. He was ordained in August. As a new member of the diocesan staff, he is grateful not only for the Appeal’s success, but for what it means.

“It’s phenomenally encouraging to see so many of our faithful not only supporting our diocese but also supporting the message of the Gospel,” to reach out to the masses, he said. With most parishes exceeding their targets, “it really shows a groundswell of support from across our diocese.”

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