GLASTONBURY – During a dinner at the Glastonbury Hills Country Club, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair thanked local Catholics for generously giving more than $10.5 million in support of the 2017 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.
The Jan. 10 dinner was just one of 13 such events the archbishop has on his calendar in January and February to thank parishioners from throughout the archdiocese for their response to last year’s appeal.
During the evening event, 160 donors were treated to dinner, an inspiring talk by the archbishop and a video that highlighted several ministries and charities that were funded by the 2017 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.
“It was very successful once again under the title ‘Moved by Mercy,’” the archbishop told those in attendance. “More than 41,200 donors pledged over $10,505,000. And 190 of our priests contributed over $231,000, with an average gift of just over $1,200 each from their personal funds.”
Archbishop Blair also highlighted the popular Vicariate Outreach program, through which donated funds are distributed to local charities in each of the three vicariates.
“For a second year in a row, we’ve been able to contribute more than $1 million to 245 local organizations and charities,” the archbishop said. “Perhaps you might have seen in your local newspaper at Thanksgiving that we published the names of all of those 245 local charities so that our wider community knows that you the Catholic people, and we together as a local Church, are really making a positive contribution to the life of our state.”
Archbishop Blair also revealed the theme for this year’s appeal — “Our Faith, Our Future” — and the archdiocese’s emphasis on building a vibrant community of faith, starting with children and families.
“As we look to the restructuring of the archdiocese, we’re not talking about just ourselves as the Church,” the archbishop said. “I’m also thinking about our future in Connecticut. You heard how our needs are so great, and with all the economic turmoil in the state budget it’s going to be increasingly important for us to step up to the plate and help Catholic Charities, for example, as well as many other organizations.
“I think that it’s so important for us to be people of hope,” the archbishop stressed. Recalling the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict, he said that Catholics have “a shared hope” in Christ’s death and resurrection, yet hope in the eternal life “does not prevent us from trying to build a better life here.”
Building that better life goes beyond just material concerns, the archbishop said. “I just think my triple mantra from Pope Francis is that the world suffers not only material destitution but moral and spiritual destitution,” he said, “and we address all of that.”
Father Mark S. Suslenko, pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury and South Glastonbury, also welcomed the guests, offered a prayer and addressed the audience.
“It is a direct result of your kindness, your compassion and charity that we’ve been able to provide help to those in need around us,” he said. “Your commitment and dedication have united us as one family of faith.”
Father Suslenko enumerated the many ministries within the archdiocese and the groups of people they serve — the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the seminarians, retired clergy and those seeking faith formation or a Catholic education. He cited St. Vincent de Paul Mission of Waterbury Homeless Shelter, where he has volunteered to help the homeless, as a prime example of how funds from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal are being used to assist individuals.
“They are simply vulnerable, broken people who need the help of folks like us to make it through each day of their lives. They have hopes and dreams and stories. They have faces with names. And it is up to you and I to help to support these good works,” he said.
Father Suslenko added, “I can tell you that each of the agencies that serve the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable look forward to their gifts from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal each year so they can continue to do their good work.”
Area Catholics who attended the dinner were happy to share their enthusiasm for giving to the appeal and to the many ministries and charities they especially like to support.
“I love the Malta van,” said Rick Madej, a parishioner at St. Dunstan Parish in Glastonbury, who attended the dinner with his wife Kathy.
She was even more enthusiastic than her husband. “We like the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal because it’s so broad-based — the health care, the Catholic education, the immigrants — that we feel our money is so well spent,” she said. “And we support the mission of the Church in general.”
Kathy Madej said she also enjoyed attending the dinner itself. “It makes you proud to be Catholic,” she said. “All these people are giving and you feel the community.”
Peter Simcik and his wife Margaret of Berlin attended in place of his mother, Helen Simcik, who gives annually but was unable to attend herself. Simcik said his mother likes to support the archdiocese’s radio and television ministries. “She likes the music on WJMJ,” he said. “She also watches the daily Mass every day at 10 a.m.”
Majorie Emerick of St. Edmund Campion Parish in East Hartford said, “I prefer to see it spent on children.” She said she especially likes to see the donations go to religious education in the archdiocese and to needy children through Catholic Charities.
Norm Saucier of Divine Providence Parish in New Britain said he had no particular preference. “I don’t favor any one charity over the other,” he said. “I like everything they do and I think the archdiocese has good thoughts about what to do with the money.”
Tina Kohut of South Windsor attended the event along with her husband, Joe, and son, Justin, who was home from college on a winter break. “I love the food pantries,” she said. “I’m from North American Martyrs Parish of East Hartford and each of our churches has a food pantry. My second choice would be the Malta van.”
She added that she found the entire evening to be very inspiring. “We see the video in church,” she said, “but somehow [by attending the event] it sinks in a little bit more how much this helps.”
Several priests from nearby parishes also turned out for the dinner.
Father Thomas J. Sas, pastor of St. John Fisher Parish in Marlborough, was decisive about his favorite element of the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal — the Vicariate Outreach program and the many charities it supports within local communities.
Father Sas ticked off his favorites: “The Marlborough Food Bank; people from our parish are very involved with that organization. AHM Youth and Family Services in Andover, Hebron and Marlborough; they have a support program for children and families. Catholic Worker House; I say Mass there once a year.”
Father Sas said he also likes to see funds go to the Malta House of Care, which operates the Malta van. “I think it’s important to serve the health of the poor people and the unchurched,” he added.
Tina Poet, coordinator for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, remarked on the donors after meeting them in person at the evening event.
“The kindness and generosity of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Hartford never ceases to amaze me,” Poet said. “I truly believe that the people of the archdiocese live the teaching of the Gospel, which is to help thy neighbor.”
The 2018 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal is set to kick off in the parishes on February 24 and 25.