Parishes benefitting from strong campaign pledges

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WARREN — Two years ago, when a water pipe ruptured beneath the grounds of the annual feast at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, festival organizers were suddenly hampered in their mission to prepare the very popular Portuguese delicacies enjoyed by so many during the long-running annual event, a major fundraiser for the parish.

Father John E. Abreu, the parish’s pastor, added the repair to a list of projects that would be completed at some point in the future when sufficient revenue was available to pay for them.

This year, thanks to St. Thomas the Apostle’s very successful participation in the diocese’s Grateful for God’s Providence capital campaign, the parish will receive enough funding that will allow not only for the replacement of the broken water pipe, but also for the complete resurfacing and restriping of the long driveway and connecting parking lot that run above it.

“I was astounded at the level of support that I got from the people. It’s still coming in,” Father Abreu said of pledges to the campaign, which have exceeded the established goal for his parish by at least $15,000, with contributions still flowing in.

Parishes are given 40 percent of cash received up to their goal and 60 percent of any monies received over that amount.

St. Thomas the Apostle Parish stands to receive at least $65,000 from its active participation in the Grateful for God’s Providence Campaign.

“I supported the campaign because I thought it was a well-planned campaign in which the diocese would certainly benefit in areas where it needs funding and also my parish would benefit from it, and that’s what I stressed in the parish,” said Father Abreu, who ensured that all parishioners had the opportunity to contribute by personally translating campaign materials into Portuguese.

“People think locally, and if they think their parish is going to benefit from something then they will definitely get behind it.”

The campaign is a two-year endeavor to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Providence in 2022 by raising $50 million to support the church’s mission and maintain the viability of parish and diocesan funds to support their ministries.

“It is a tangible way of showing that we are ‘Grateful for God’s Providence,’ which we have all experienced over the years, while also creating a beautiful legacy for future generations,” said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin in launching the initiative.

Funds raised through the campaign will ensure the future of the church’s mission by bolstering endowment funds that support diocesan outreach programs to the poor and vulnerable as well as strengthen opportunities for Catholic education. The campaign will also provide for the present and future needs of priests by supporting seminarian formation and contributing to the Our Lady, Queen of Clergy Retirement Fund Endowment.

“Currently, over $15 million has been pledged to the Grateful for God’s Providence Campaign,” said Daryl Thomas, executive director of the Grateful for God’s Providence Campaign for the diocese.

“This amount has been raised from leadership gifts, planned gifts and the amount raised by three parishes that have conducted the campaign early and the Block 1 parishes. Included in the $15 million is approximately $1 Million from our active and retired priests,” Thomas noted.

According to data provided by Guidance in Giving, the organization conducting the campaign on behalf of the diocese, the 17 parishes participating in the Block 1 phase this past winter and spring have raised $4,954,584 as of July 27, with five of those meeting or exceeding their goals.

The Cathedral Parish of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence has exceeded its goal by $75,000 so far.

Cathedral Rector Msgr. Anthony Mancini said the funds his parish receives will be put to very good use. The money will help pay for needed repairs and also establish a fund to provide financial assistance to the poor living in the area.

“This is the Mother Church of the diocese, and it’s one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the country. We have to take care of it,” said Msgr. Mancini.

Replacing the entire roof, which is allowing water to leak into the cathedral, including in the area of the tabernacle, is a big ticket item with an estimated cost of $1.5 million.

While the parish pledges alone will not be enough to replace the original slate roof installed when the cathedral was opened 140 years ago, in 1872, some proceeds from the diocesan side of the collection also will be earmarked for cathedral restoration.

Msgr. Mancini said he also wants to increase the endowment for the cathedral for future repairs and maintenance, including for its grand 1972 Casavant organ, with its 126 ranks containing 7,000 pipes.

“It’s one of the best anywhere,” he said.

But in additional to structural repairs, he also wants to put the proceeds of the campaign to good use by investing in the human infrastructure that is part of the cathedral community and its environs every day.

“We want to create a significant fund for the poor and needy. In this area we get a lot of requests and we can’t fulfill them all,” he said.

The rector envisions being able to provide assistance for the families of the working poor who often come to his office for help in meeting basic expenses, such as rent.

“This campaign is about sustaining the church’s future and helping in the work of evangelization, but that takes effort, time and money as well. The diocese is one family and our goal is to preach the Gospel,” Msgr. Mancini said.

The cathedral rector said he is pleased with the response his parishioners have shown toward the effort, which included hosting educational sessions and meetings in both the cathedral hall and residence to show donors the good that can be done on both a local and diocesan level through a successful fundraising campaign.

“We invited people to come and hear our case and many of them responded very well to it,” Msgr. Mancini said.

At St. Luke Parish in Barrington, pledges have exceeded the parish’s goal by nearly $105,000.

Father Robert Hawkins, the recently retired pastor of St. Luke who oversaw the participation of his church in the Block 1 phase of the campaign, said the parish proceeds will be used to fund a combination of outreach initiatives, church infrastructure improvements and school aid.

“We’re going to provide increased tuition assistance to make the school a little more affordable to families,” Father Hawkins said.

Additional resources will also be made available to the parish’s large religious education and outreach ministry programs.

The funds will also assist in sending many young people from the parish to take part in the Mustard Seed Communities project in Jamaica and participate in the Home Mission Program in Maine each summer.

At St. Luke Church, which was last renovated 18 years ago, some of the proceeds will be used to upgrade heating and air conditioning systems.

Father Hawkins said he was blessed with a wonderful, hard-working finance committee which helped prepare him to make the presentations that resulted in such strong returns from parishioners.

He was also motivated by his wish to leave the parish in the best condition possible as he retired last month from active ministry.

He said he wanted to leave the parish in a strong fiscal position for the future and to accent some of the goals that he constantly promoted during his 13 years there, which were education and ministry outreach.

“I wanted to leave the place in good shape, and I wanted to leave that spirit of mission and outreach strong as well,” Father Hawkins said.

The Grateful for God’s Providence Campaign is being conducted throughout the diocese in four “blocks” of time over the course of 2018-2019.

Block 2 parishes are in the midst of the planning and preparatory stage for the campaign.

These parishes will begin hosting receptions from late August through September. Blocks 3 and 4 of the campaign will be conducted in 2019 for the remaining parishes.