FARMINGTON — Archbishop Leonard P. Blair welcomed 255 donors to a reception and dinner on Jan. 20 at Farmington Gardens, where he thanked them for their support of the 2016 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal and asked for their assistance in making this year’s appeal a similar success.
The dinner was one of a dozen the archbishop will be attending throughout the year to thank supporters for their generosity to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, which raised a record $11,025,110 in 2016.
“Thanks to your generosity, we’ve raised the highest level of funds in the history of the appeal,” Archbishop Blair said. “Part that $11 million is accounted for from two bequests from people who remembered the appeal in their wills.” The archbishop pledged to remember those two donors in his prayers.
“Even with those two very generous bequests, if you subtract those from the $11 million,” he said, “the appeal still exceeded the previous year by over $20,000. So at every level, we’ve been very successful in 2016.”
The funds came from 43,035 donors, he said.
Among the donors were 230 priests who gave an average of $1,068 from their personal funds for a total of $245,000, the archbishop reported.
As part of the Vicariate Outreach Program, more than $1 million was then distributed to 246 local organizations and charities throughout the archdiocese, he said. Since 1997, this program has allocated more than $14 million to worthy local charities.
During the dinner in Farmington, attendees viewed a video that introduced the theme of the 2017 appeal: “Moved by Mercy.”
“Mercy was a wonderful theme for the whole year we just finished and it’s something we wanted to prolong because it’s so true,” Archbishop Blair said. “Moved by mercy, we can do great things together.”
This year’s video highlights three areas of focus for the Church: preparation of seminarians for the priesthood, addiction treatment services and programs in support of family life.
The archbishop thanked all of the supporters, especially for their donations that are helping to educate the seminarians. “You know what it costs for college and university education,” he said. “Thanks to your support, the archdiocese is able to continue preparing these young men for the priesthood.”
Archbishop Blair also addressed the recent spate of news about drug overdoses recently reported in the , including three deaths in a period of 16 hours. He also noted that one parish in the archdiocese recently lost two young people in its congregation to overdoses.
There are many causes for these tragedies, he said, including the addictive power of drugs, but he said he believes addictions are also “part of a great spiritual crisis in our society today.”
“There are so many people who don’t have a reason to live,” the archbishop said. “They really question the validity and value of their life and what it’s all about.” That’s why treatment alone is not enough, he said. “It’s not just about treatment; it’s about a fundamental spiritual question. And that’s why the Church’s efforts are so important.”
The archbishop also pledged to use appeal funds to support family life through Catholic Charities family service centers as well as through programs that uphold the institution of marriage.
Sociological studies, he said, all point to the same conclusion. “A household in which a man is the father and a woman is the mother, living in a stable home with children, over the long run is the best formula there is for human flourishing,” he said.
Donors who attended the dinner were happy to comment on their favorite ministries and charities, with many saying the funds are well-spent.
“They’re doing it right and doing a good job,” said Frank Barys, of St. Mary Parish in Newington, who attended the dinner with his wife Helen. “I think they know where the need is.”
Steven Liu, of St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hartford, who attended with his wife, Cindy, said, “We think the funds that go to all the charities here are worthwhile.”
Mrs. Liu said she especially likes to see the donations go to ministries and agencies that serve women and children for “their protection and development.”
Robert Montgomery, of St. Ann Parish in Bristol, attended with his wife Patricia. He said, “You know, what I like is that Malta medical van because a lot of people can’t get medical care.” He said he also likes to see funds spent on ministries for the homeless.
Mrs. Montgomery interjected, “I think the archdiocese does a lot with the money it raises.”
“If you read Scripture,” Mr. Montgomery added, “it’s a duty. We help people and we get blessings in return.”
Debbie Lobb, of St. Aloysius Parish in Plantsville, said she is pleased to see a good portion of the funds dedicated to Catholic education. “I believe Catholic education, with morals and ethics, gives a good foundation for life,” she said.
Joseph Blacker, of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Waterbury, said he finds it especially satisfying to see funds allocated to the Malta House of Care mobile medical clinic and to St. Vincent de Paul Mission of Waterbury. “I like to see all of the good that it does,” he said, “all of the good works.”