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Diocese of Wilmington Annual Catholic Appeal success is crucial amid challenges of COVID

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Call the Diocese of Wilmington’s Annual Catholic Appeal during the COVID pandemic a Mission: Indispensable.

It’s a mission because Appeal donors help ministries for the needy and afflicted in Delaware and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Their generosity reflects the Appeal’s call for the faithful to be “Disciples of Christ, Witnesses of Hope.”

The Appeal is indispensable because other than the annual assessment of parishes, it’s the only other major source of income that sustains church ministries every year.

Those more than 30 programs help some 100,000 people annually by feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, educating the young, counseling the afflicted, welcoming the stranger and supporting family life.

Annual Catholic Appeal solicitations are being sent to priests and the Bishop’s Circle of Honor members this month. General solicitation of diocesan parishioners will begin in April and continue through June.

The goal of this year’s Appeal campaign is $4,871,000.

Profound hope

“As we know, this is not ‘just another year,’” Bishop Malooly wrote parishioners in his letter on the Appeal. “I am mindful I am coming to you at a time that has been and remains to be challenging. And yet, as people of hope, we stand today with a profound sense of hope that we will soon be delivered from the darkness of this pandemic.”

For 45 years the Annual Catholic Appeal has embodied the “charity dedicated to supporting the Church’s mission by providing essential funding in the areas of greatest need,” Bishop Malooly wrote. “I am confident that your deep faith in the Lord and love for his people will motivate you to support this worthy cause.”

Deborah Fols, head of the diocesan Development Office, knows motivating support for the Appeal during the COVID pandemic presents new obstacles.

First, traditional Circle of Honor gatherings for loyal Appeal donors couldn’t be held this year, Fols noted, because of COVID restrictions on attendance at social events. Also, due to limits on Sunday Mass congregations at parishes (now 50 percent of church capacity), the traditional in-pew Appeal solicitation has been canceled this year.

“The only way to get Appeal information out to folks is through social media, direct mail and The Dialog issues online and in churches,” Fols said.

“We’re going to send out Appeal facts and figures to parishes and ask them to put it on their social media and in their bulletins.

“It’s going to be a challenge to get the attention of parishioners on the Appeal under these pandemic circumstances,” Fols added.

‘Everybody is struggling’

Without that attention and the historically generous response of the faithful to the Appeal, Fols said, “the 30-some diocesan ministries would be in jeopardy of being decreased or cut and no longer accessible to the people in need.”

That need has only grown during the pandemic year. Parishes have had to rely on members, who can’t attend Masses, to send in weekly offerings. Many people have lost jobs during the pandemic and some have faced increased medical bills.

All those situations make the success of this Appeal more crucial, Fols said.

“Everybody is struggling,” she added. “This campaign must succeed because so many people rely on it.”

When the COVID pandemic arrived, diocesan ministries didn’t shut down or socially isolate; they continued, Fols noted.

“Support for the Annual Catholic Appeal will enable the people of the diocese to be disciples of Christ and witnesses of hope to their neighbors in need in a time of pandemic.”

In the words of Pope Francis: “There is a different type of contagion. It’s a message that’s transmitted from heart to heart — for every human heart awaits this Good News. It is the contagion of hope.”

For more information about the ministries and services supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal as ways to support this important effort, go to www.cdow.org/annualcatholicappeal.