PROVIDENCE — The 2018 Catholic Charity Appeal is underway in the Diocese of Providence, seeking to raise funds for the many charitable ministries that depend on the generosity of donors to provide services throughout Rhode Island. An initial mailing was sent out in January, and in-pew solicitation for the appeal is scheduled to begin in parishes this Saturday, February 24.
In the January letter, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin recalled the words of Pope Francis on the delight of participating in regular acts of charity: “How marvelous it would be if, at the end of the day, each of us could say, ‘I have performed an act of charity towards others!’”
“These words of Pope Francis capture a sentiment that many of us have felt at one time or another – our sincere desire to perform good deeds and help others,” said Bishop Tobin. “While there are certainly many worthwhile individual acts of kindness we can and should do each day, sometimes we’re looking for other avenues for our charity as well.”
The Catholic Charity Appeal annually raises about $8 million for the various charitable ministries and social services of the diocese, including the diocesan homeless shelter, programs for the elderly, immigration and refugee services, tuition assistance for Catholic school students, prison and hospital ministry and support for seminarians and retired priests. For most of these programs, appeal donations serve as the primary source of funding that staff and volunteers rely upon to continue their work within the community.
“This appeal allows the church to carry on its work – to bring people together into a community of faith, to preach the Gospel of Christ and to serve our neighbors in need. But if we are to carry on this very good work, we need your help,” said Bishop Tobin.
Robert Corcoran, director of the Office of Stewardship and Development, said the appeal typically raises about $6 million through in-pew solicitation and another $2 million through the direct mailing campaign. He attributes its success to the efforts of pastors and laypeople who promote the appeal among their parishioners.
“We’re blessed that we have such great partners with the pastors and the lay volunteers who assist us to raise $8 million every year,” said Corcoran.
He also commented on the high amount raised compared with expected projections for other dioceses and fundraising campaigns. Most industry professionals, he said, would expect an annual appeal to raise about 10 to 12 percent of the annual offertory collection; for the diocesan Catholic Charity Appeal, that number is closer to 20 percent.
“That really is a statement as to how much people care about their brothers and sisters here in Rhode Island. They really are generous to them,” said Corcoran.
Participation in the annual appeal has become increasingly important as donors continue to decline in a reflection of overall church demographics from about 90,000 donors in 1990 to 33,000 last year. These trends also call for prudent planning for the financial future of the diocese. Last year, Bishop Tobin announced the “Grateful for God’s Providence” capital campaign, a two-year effort that will infuse funding into essential diocesan ministries, much of it through endowment funds that will continue to provide for these ministries in the future.
“That’s just part of what’s happening in the church over decades. So you have to be wise about what the future might look like, and this is a good time with the diocese’s 125th anniversary coming up,” said Corcoran.
While the campaign and the Catholic Charity Appeal will run concurrently in some areas of the diocese, Corcoran discouraged parishioners from allowing their donations to the campaign to replace their annual gifts to the Catholic Charity Appeal, as the two efforts support different needs for the ministries they serve. He compared the difference to that of a checking account and a savings account, with one providing for ongoing operational costs and the other making a special commitment to a ministry’s future.
“The Catholic Charity account is your checking account that you pay the bills with. The [capital] campaign recognizes that can’t go on forever down the road and tries to put some money away for future needs,” he said. “It’s important every now and then to put some money into savings like we do with our own budgets.”
Parish fundraising for the 2018 Catholic Charity Appeal will begin on February 24 and 25 and continue through the weekend of March 3 and 4. To make an online donation or learn more about the ministries supported by the appeal, please visit www.providencediocese.org.