Members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Harwinton watch the 2011 Archbishop's Annual Appeal video presentation on March 6. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)
The 2011 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, with the theme The Miracle of Sharing, was launched in parishes throughout the Archdiocese at Masses celebrated on March 5 and 6. In video presentations that were customized for each of the 213 parishes, Archbishop Henry J. Mansell reflected on the theme with a message that was both personal and compelling.
"The Miracle of Sharing brings to mind the Gospel story about the multiplication of the loaves and fish," said Archbishop Mansell in the video. "What a mighty miracle Jesus performed from the boy’s meager provisions."
"Just as the five loaves and two fish should have been woefully insufficient, in the Gospel story, Christ uses our concern, compassion, and generosity towards others and continues to work miracles transforming our gifts into sustenance for the less fortunate throughout our Archdiocese and communities."
While 100 percent of the funds raised through the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal are used within the Archdiocese to fund charitable, educational, spiritual and pastoral ministries, the Archbishop’s message focused primarily on charitable works. Of the $9.2 million raised in 2010, more than $4 million went to charities and supported other good works of the Church.
In the video, the Archbishop introduced parishioners to three people who directly benefited from donors’ generosity through programs established and supported by the appeal.
One was a blind man who lives on the streets and who said he is especially grateful for the House of Bread in Hartford, a safe haven that is supported by the appeal. The House of Bread is one of more than 270 local charities that in 2010 received funding of nearly $710,000 through the appeal’s Vicariate Outreach Program.
The Vicariate Outreach Program was established in 1997 to provide financial assistance to worthy community-based charities.
Another man was one of the almost 600 parishioners who received grants from the Emergency Assistance Fund, which was initiated in 2009 and is supported by the appeal. The fund, which helped people in 157 parishes with grants totaling more than $435,000, aids families who are facing financial difficulties. It is operated by Catholic Charities and administered by the parishes.
The third person highlighted in the video was a woman who became unemployed and lost her health insurance. She found help through the Malta House of Care mobile medical clinic, which began in Hartford in 2006 as a primary care service for the uninsured. Another clinic began operating in Waterbury during the summer of 2010. The Archbishop’s Annual Appeal provides major sustaining support for the clinics, which have logged more than 16,000 patient visits. More than 2,000 individuals identify Malta House of Care as their only medical care provider.
"They saved my life," the woman said in the video. "If they didn’t treat me and give me the medications I needed, I wouldn’t be here."
In addition to supporting charitable programs and the good works of the Church, funds raised by the appeal contribute to Catholic education and faith formation, including archdiocesan schools and religious education; the Archdiocese’s newspaper, radio and television stations; pastoral ministries, retired priests and programs related to the permanent diaconate. The funds also support 41 seminarians currently preparing to serve as priests in parishes across the Archdiocese.
Jim Gallagher, who directs the appeal, said that while need is on the increase, the total amount raised over the past three years has remained relatively constant, ranging between $9.2 and $9.3 million. The goal for each appeal since 2008 has been $8.5 million.
"Even though the average gift is up, the number of donors is down," said Mr. Gallagher. "We’ve been worried since the fall of 2008 when the economy was really hit."
The fund-raising efforts continue despite the economy, though.
"The Archbishop works hard on [the appeal] and I guess that’s what motivates us," said Rosemary Carr, appeal consultant. "He works hard; how could we not?"
She and Mr. Gallagher believe that several elements are key to the success of the appeal.
"It is the support of the Archbishop and the support of the parishes and pastors," said Mr. Gallagher. A strong case for supporting the need, along with accountability and transparency are also crucial, he said.
"The average gift to the Archbishop’s Annual Fund is $188. Among priests, the average gift is $1,200," said Mr. Gallagher.
Priests like Father Timothy O’Brien, Pastor of the linked Immaculate Conception Parish in New Hartford and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Harwinton, see first-hand the important difference the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal can make for their parishioners. In launching the appeal in his Harwinton parish, Father O’Brien described how it helped keep an elderly couple in their home.
"Because of an avalanche of medical bills that really took all of their savings, they were not able to pay property taxes on their house, and were in danger now, after 40 years, of losing their home," he said.
The appeal’s Emergency Assistance Fund came to the rescue. "It gave them enough money to put together with some other money to keep them in their home. They’ll be able to pay those property taxes," said Father O’Brien.
People are generous when they know how critical it is and understand that so many people depend on it, said Mr. Gallagher.
"The Archbishop’s Annual Appeal does all the things any one parish can’t do itself," he said.
Mrs. Carr said that donors appreciate the accountability and transparency of the campaign.
"It’s really nice to see where the money is going," said Mrs. Carr, a member of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Wallingford. "Too often we hear about the annual appeal, this collection and that collection. It’s nice to see what the annual appeal is doing."
While this year’s appeal is all about creating miracles, it could be said that the miracle of technology is also helping communicate the message of the appeal in a very personal way.
Each of the 213 videos shown in parishes across the Archdiocese featured a personalized introductory message from the Archbishop. In each, it appeared as though he was speaking from in front of the church, which he addressed by name.
"That’s new this year," said Mr. Gallagher. They used blue screen technology, "like they do for the weather."
They taped the Archbishop making 213 personalized introductions with a blue screen behind him and dropped church photos in behind him to create the effect, he said.