PROSPECT – Archbishop Leonard P. Blair invoked the theme of a "diocesan family of faith" when he addressed more than 400 past donors to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal at a luncheon Jan. 12 at the Aria banquet hall. The event marked the start of the 2014 appeal campaign, which has as its theme "Building Hope and Providing Help."
"We’re all in this together as members of Christ’s Church," Archbishop Blair said. "It is not for our own sake that we stay close; it is for the sake of our united and strong witness to Christ and to our Catholic faith," he added.
He said the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal is a way that individuals and families can join the archdiocesan family of faith to give a "united witness."
He said, "I’ve just been bowled over by learning, since I’ve been here this past month, just how much the annual appeal accomplishes." He said it does "a tremendous job of bringing all of us – clergy, religious and laity – together, bearing witness to Christ as a diocesan family of faith."
Archbishop Blair’s talk followed the showing of a video highlighting some of the ways the appeal benefits the community. These include Catholic Charities, seminarians and diaconate candidates, Catholic education and faith formation, retired clergy, tuition assistance, pastoral ministries, outreach to programs in the vicariates, communications and more. Appearing in the video, the archbishop said the appeal "assists thousands of neighbors throughout our archdiocese. I’m grateful to the more than 46,000 families that gave to the appeal last year, and I pray that you will continue building hope and providing help to the members of our community that need it."
Evidently still overwhelmed by the welcome he has received since his installation Dec. 16, Archbishop Blair quipped, "Yesterday, I celebrated Mass in Bristol at St. Joseph’s and I told the people coming down the aisle that I noticed three big packs of holy cards with my picture. As I was looking at those, I thought to myself, ‘Usually if your picture is on holy cards, it means you’re dead or you’re going to be canonized.’"
He drew applause when he said, "Thanks to your generosity, last year the appeal raised a record $10.3 million." He added, "And I would be very remiss as a new archbishop if I did not publicly thank Archbishop Henry Mansell, who put his heart and soul into this appeal. It became so clear to me in meeting with him how much this meant to him and how grateful he was to all of you for your support, so I want to publicly acknowledge him, as well, as we gather today." This also brought applause.
He then thanked the 240 priests of the archdiocese who last year gave a total of over $358,000 to the appeal from their own pockets.
He said, "Through the generosity of donors like you, more than 100,000 meals have been served; food pantries have been stocked; the Emergency Assistance Program has helped parishioners, maybe even your own neighbors, with grants to pay for clothing, shelter or to keep the lights on or for needed medical supplies; Catholic school scholarships [have helped] 1,700 students; the Malta House of Care health care clinic [has provided] thousands of procedures to the medically underserved."
He added that a third Malta House of Care van will soon serve the New Haven area, thanks to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.
The parish-based Vicariate Outreach Program, he said, last year provided over $716,000 in financial aid to more than 250 local charities and ministries.
Msgr. James G. Coleman, chairman of the appeal, episcopal vicar of the Waterbury Vicariate and pastor of the linked SS. Peter and Paul and St. Leo parishes in Waterbury, opened the program by reminding attendees of the recent cold snap. "As I drove the streets of Waterbury and saw people shivering, I couldn’t help but think of the people who are protected from the cold and cared for because of what the Church has done," he said.
Although the appeal raised over $10 million last year, "I never thought of it in terms of money. I thought of it in terms of someone who was shivering" and then helped to come in from the cold," he said.
Tommy Valuckas, a parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Watertown, said he has been a donor for at least five or six years. He looks forward to attending the donor gathering because, he said, "It really kind of invigorates you to get inspired for the next [appeal campaign]."
He added, "You meet wonderful people because we’re all kind of in this together. All of us are involved in different parishes with our appeal drive year after year. It’s a great way to just say, ‘Hey what we’re doing is worthwhile; it’s what being Catholic is all about.’"
Gerry and Lucia Bryson, of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Oxford, said they have been donors since before they were married 13 years ago. Mr. Bryson said, "I think that it’s important to give to those who are needy, to the poor, less fortunate than us, and our Church does a great job in doing that, certainly."
Mrs. Bryson added, "I appreciate the fact that 100 percent goes to the needy." She believes that when you are blessed, it is important to give back. She especially appreciates the appeal’s health care assistance programs and its tuition assistance to Catholic school students and seminarians. "Every charity they give to really has a meaning," she said.
Vincent Raby, of St. Thomas Parish in Southington, said he has supported the appeal for many years. "I’ve been a spokesperson for it in my parish and I believe in the good works that have been accomplished," he said.
Information about the appeal and ways to donate to it are available at https://appeal.archdioceseofhartford.org.