PROVIDENCE — With the last pledge on the final day of the 2020 Catholic Charity Appeal, St. Augustine Church in Providence reached its fundraising goal of $165,000.
“It was a struggle, but we made it,” said Mary Lou Trottier, the Catholic Charity campaign committee co-chair for St. Augustine Church.
Trottier credited her parish’s army of volunteer collectors who knocked on doors until the novel coronavirus pandemic gripped most of the nation in late-March. From that point on, the collectors made hundreds of phone calls and wrote letters to parishioners whom they could not otherwise reach.
“It was just a matter of perseverance and volume,” Trottier said. “We tried to hit as many people as we could, and I think that was the secret. They may not have been the biggest gifts, but every 25 dollars helps.”
The annual Catholic Charity Appeal provides the principal means of financial support for the more than three dozen charitable ministries and programs in the Diocese of Providence. The appeal began earlier this year and had a goal of $7.3 million, which was down slightly from last year’s goal of $7.6 million.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin expressed his appreciation for the generosity of so many faithful from across the diocese who supported the Appeal in such challenging times.
“The faithful of the Diocese once again demonstrated their generosity in supporting the Catholic Charity Appeal, even as they themselves had to deal with the hardships of the pandemic. Their generosity is a reflection of their faith in Christ and their commitment to the work of the Church. For this, I am deeply grateful.”
Tim McCaig, the director of the Office of Stewardship and Development for the Diocese of Providence, said the total amount pledged as of Nov. 1 was $5,166,548.00, which came from a total of 17,697 gifts. That dollar amount represents 70 percent of the appeal’s goal.
“Reaching 70 percent of our goal in such a difficult year is a testament to the generosity of our people, and the flexibility of our pastors and parish staff,” said McCaig, who added that the diocese extended the appeal until the end of October to make up for shutdowns during the pandemic.
“The unprecedented shutdown contributed to a decrease in how many people could participate in 2020, and we know this because parishes that normally reach or get close to goal, struggled this year,” McCaig said.
Roughly 7,000 donors who gave to the Catholic Charity campaign in 2019 did not give in 2020, McCaig said.
“Due to the pandemic, we were unable to take up our normal in-pew collection in the spring, which certainly affected our results,” McCaig added. “We extended the appeal into October to provide additional time to families recovering from the shutdown and immediacy of the pandemic. The extra time helped push us over $5.1 million in pledges towards our goal of $7.3 million, or 70% of goal.”
Despite the challenges related to the pandemic, 38 parishes in the diocese raised above 75 percent of their goal; six of those exceeded their goals.
Programs supported by the Catholic Charity Appeal range from social service ministries such as Emmanuel House and the “Keep the Heat On” winter fuel assistance program to diocesan operations like the Office of Vocations, Catholic Youth Ministry and the Office of Health Care Ministries.
Charitable dollars from the appeal were also put to work on the front lines of COVID-19, McCaig said.
“At the height of the pandemic, our Catholic Social Services office received thousands of calls seeking assistance, and they were able to provide Stop and Shop foods cards, heating assistance, diapers and formula to expectant mothers, and much more. Monies were also allocated to purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our priests ministering to the sick in hospitals and nursing homes.” McCaig said.
Trottier, of St. Augustine Church, said 88 parish collectors canvassed the streets in the parish boundaries, going door to door until the pandemic hit, at which point they pivoted to making phone calls.
“So they still had that personal connection,” said Trottier, who noted that five of the collectors are over age 90 and nearly half of them have been volunteering their services for almost 40 years.
“It’s the people who are generous, but it’s the workers who are willing to put in the time and keep plugging away that helped us reach our goal,” said Trottier, adding that ten volunteers were tasked with calling parishioners who lived outside the parish boundaries. ‘
Toward the end of the appeal, one volunteer called up to 20 parishioners every night who had given money last year but had not yet donated in 2020. In the end, 99 parishioners of St. Augustine Church contributed to the appeal.
“Alas, our foot soldiers,” Trottier said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”