FARMINGTON – The campaign for the 2015 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal got off to a rousing start with a reception and dinner for past donors at Farmington Gardens Jan. 9. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair spoke on the theme of this year’s appeal, “Living the Joy of the Gospel.”
The archbishop told nearly 300 attendees that Pope Francis has said religion is not just an idea in a book and not just “philanthropy of humanism” – it is “an encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The theme of this year, ‘Living the Joy of the Gospel,’ is a manifestation of the implications of what it means to know the joy of knowing Jesus,” he said.
“Thanks to your contributions,” he told the past donors, “together with the participation of 45,745 households in 2014, the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal has raised $10,318,450.”
Archbishop Blair drew laughter when he quipped that he would have been embarrassed if the appeal had flopped during his first year on the job.
As his predecessor, Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell, used to do, Archbishop Blair praised the priests of the archdiocese for setting a great example. “Last year, 236 priests gave a total of $268,220 to the appeal,” he said.
Archbishop Blair spoke after the showing of a video prepared by the archdiocesan Office of Radio and Television. The video, which has been distributed to all parishes for viewing, lists tuition assistance, Catholic Charities, homeless shelters and the Office of Vocations as examples of how appeal money is helping thousands of people.
In the past seven years, the video states, more than 23,000 Catholic school students have received $6.5 million in scholarships so they could continue to receive a Catholic education. Through Catholic Charities, 6,000 people with behavioral and mental health problems have been counseled at 10 mental health sites throughout the archdiocese. South Park Inn and Shelter in Hartford has served more than 60,000 people over the years and has helped many find permanent housing. And money from the appeal is helping 26 current seminarians receive education, formation and training to become priests.
The Vicariate Outreach Program allows individual parishes to request appeal money to fund local charities. Archbishop Blair said that since the VOP was instituted in 1997, more than $12 million has been allocated for community-based charities. “Last year, more than $700,000 was received by 244 of these local charities,” he said.
Other important beneficiaries of the appeal include the Malta House of Care mobile medical clinics, the Emergency Assistance Fund for families in need and assistance for the health care of retired priests, Archbishop Blair said.
“So, ‘Living the Joy of the Gospel’ means that we are people of faith but we are also people of joy and that we really do provide both corporal and spiritual works of mercy to our brothers and sisters,” Archbishop Blair said. “You know, this world promises many things, but Jesus, if you read the Gospel, tells us that he has come to bring something that the world cannot give.... Ultimately, the things of this world are nothing because they all pass, and what really lasts is the investment we make in eternal life through our use of the things of this world. So I will be most grateful for your continued generosity to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.”
Debbie Fields, a nurse from St. Anthony Parish in Bristol, said giving to the appeal is sort of a one-stop charity for many things that are important to her. “It gives to Foodshare and a lot of shelters and pantries and that kind of thing. And it also supports the shelters themselves, like St. Vincent DePaul in Bristol. And the Malta van is my absolute favorite,” she said.
Robert Baldoni, of Holy Spirit Parish in Newington, said, “There are a lot of people that aren’t as well off as I am, and they could use a little help.”
Therese O’Hare, from Incarnation Parish in Wethersfield, said, “My favorite is the vans, the Malta vans. I think they’re wonderful.” She also said Cathedral Green and other public housing projects are important.
Michael Mikulskis, of St. Casimir Parish in Terryville, said, “I give because of the people who can’t afford to give anything. I have been supporting the appeal for eight or 10 years now.”
Former teacher Patty Sidlovsky, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Farmington, said, “I was director of the preschool here in Farmington for many years. The education portion of [the appeal], being able to provide scholarships, that’s very important.”
Her husband, Albert Sidlovsky Jr., said what is important to him is “the ability the church has to help people on an individual basis, so if somebody is really hurting or lost her job – the Emergency Assistance Fund. I’m on the pro-life committee at church, so that’s important as well.”
Father Ronald P. May, pastor of St. Dominic Parish in Southington, said, “It helps so many people in the archdiocese with so many needs – poor people, sick people, those who are troubled [and in need of] psychological counseling, those who also need sometimes a little bit of help financially.”