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February 3 - 16, 2013

‘Love never fails’ theme of 2013 annual appeal $17.5 million raised last year for ministries throughout archdiocese

By Michelle Martin

STAFF WRITER

Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8) is the theme of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s 2013 Annual Catholic Appeal. Apparently, neither does the generosity of the appeal’s donors.

The archdiocese has seen more money come into its coffers each year since 2008, when the economy slid into recession, said Barbara Shea Collins, the appeal’s director.

“I think that’s phenomenal,” Collins said.

Last year, approximately 90,000 households donated about $17.5 million to the campaign, which helps fund ministries throughout the archdiocese and rebates money to parishes that exceed their goals.

Parishioners will be asked to make their pledges for the 2013 appeal at Masses the weekend of Feb. 2-3, this year’s “commitment weekend.”

A key part of the appeal process is spreading it over three weekends, starting with the introduction to the appeal that took place Jan. 26-27.

On commitment weekend, pastors are asked to walk their congregations through the process of filling out the pledge envelope, even for people who choose not to donate. The third weekend is for people who missed the opportunity to pledge on commitment weekend.

Parishes generally have a goal of collecting 6 percent of their annual ordinary income; those that collect more receive the extra money back as a rebate and can use it for their own projects.

More than 200 parishes received rebates totaling $3.8 million last year, Collins said, and the archdiocese has sent more than $19 million in rebates back to parishes since it started using this model in 2006.

In that time, it has collected more than $110 million to help support struggling Catholic schools and parishes, religious education programs and ministry formation, initiatives to foster respect for life, as well as those that promote peace and justice. Through its support of Catholic Relief Services, the appeal serves people worldwide, without regard for religious affiliation, whose lives are devastated by natural disasters, illnesses, wars and famines.

Collins said the appeal’s success is especially heartening given that many families are struggling.

“Despite the difficult economic times we have endured since 2008, more than 450,000 households have made gifts of $85 million to assist their neighbors in need during that time,” she said.

“In fact, many donors have called to say that they would be increasing their donations because they knew that many families who would like to continue to donate would be unable to do so due to their strained financial circumstances. Even though the Archdiocese of Chicago is large and cumbersome, this wide spread outpouring of generosity reflects the ‘small-town’ connectedness of our community that continues to inspire all of us.”

Collins said the Office for Stewardship and Development is particularly proud that 91 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to the schools, parishes, agencies and ministries of the archdiocese, with only 9 cents going to pay for all administrative and fundraising expenses. According to the Better Business Bureau, charities should spend more than 35 cents of every dollar on fundraising and administrative costs.

“People know the money is going to go where we say it’s going to go,” Collins said. “They know what has to be done and they’re willing to support it.”

Part of the appeal’s success, Collins said, is that pastors throughout the archdiocese have bought in to the process.

Another part of this year’s success might be the Annual Catholic Appeal’s added focus on making it easy for people to donate by, for example, accepting online gifts, and on following up and reminding people to pay what they pledged.

Online gifts have nearly doubled every year, without the archdiocese going to great lengths to promote them, Collins said. This year, mailings and other materials will include a QR code that people can use to make donations directly from their smartphones or tablet computers.

“We make an enormous difference when we support the ongoing mission of Christ’s church,” Collins said. “Our support can take many forms — prayers, financial contributions, personal witness, and giving our time to share our talents. It is in loving others that love is often returned to us.”

She said the appeal helps us better understand God’s love and express our own by supporting initiatives that serve those in need.

“All funds raised are carefully spent; it is money for God’s work, and we use it accordingly. All contributions are deeply appreciated, very much needed and make a real difference in the lives of many.”

For more information or to donate online, visit www.annualcatholicappeal.com.