Generous hearts help raise nearly $14.4 million for Annual Catholic Appeal
It's a record-breaking year for the Annual Catholic Appeal.
The 2012 campaign — April 21-May 6 — raised almost $14.4 million in gifts and pledges, surpassing its $12.25 million goal by $1.4 million. (See the ACA supplement in this week's issue for the full results of the Appeal.)
This is the highest amount the Annual Catholic Appeal has raised to date.
"Our celebration of another successful Appeal is a result of your generous response to people in need," Archbishop Robert J. Carlson wrote in a letter to donors. "Because of your stewardship, and because of the tireless work of our many volunteers, the Church can respond with love to those who approach Her for help."
Donations to the Appeal assist in numerous ways, including Catholic education, assistance for the sick and elderly, protection of the unborn, services for the homeless and more. Appeal funds also go toward parishes, charitable activities and other ministries of the archdiocese.
The amount collected over and above the goal during this year's campaign specifically will go toward Catholic education, and support for Catholic parishes, the seminary and vocations. Likewise, some of the overage funding will be used for the campaign for religious liberty and charitable and mission work.
Brian Niebrugge, executive director of Stewardship and the Annual Catholic Appeal, noted that despite economic uncertainty and unemployment, almost 59,000 households gave to the appeal. That number is a drop from last year, however, Niebrugge noted that "having this many households participate in the current economic climate is a great testimony to the stewardship of the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. I talked with people who gave this year even in the midst of their own personal struggles. I pray for all of the donors to the Appeal, especially those who give despite hardships, and I am grateful to God for inspiring such generosity."
In addition to the amount raised in gifts and pledges, $701,880 was raised through estate gifts to the Perpetual Light Society Endowment, corporate matched gifts and other gifts.
Almost 150 parishes surpassed their financial goals, and more than 100 achieved a new donor goal. Seventy-one parishes improved their participation this year.
A grassroots effort
As parish ACA chairman for 17 years, Matt Kellner of St. Wencesalus Parish in south St. Louis said that those who give to the Appeal often carry with them the desire first to serve the Lord and believe in the mission of the Church, to live the Gospel message. St. Wenceslaus is one of numerous parishes that have received Appeal funding for repairs and other needs, said Kellner.
"This is one chance to help the Church at a greater level than just the parish," said Kellner, whose wife, Barb, also serves as parish co-chair.
Kellner is not one to let an unsigned pledge card get past him. He said that sometimes people might feel embarrassed to give only a few dollars, but he always reminds them that any participation, no matter how small, is important — and all donation information is kept confidential.
"I ask them to pray over what the Lord feels they should give," he said. "It's a team effort."
Parishioners at St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood exceeded their ACA goal in part because of an increased awareness of the grassroots nature of the campaign, said chairman Deacon Richard Renard.
"They see that the product of their efforts goes to the local Church, and beyond that," he said. "It really touches their hearts, and we believe contributions have grown over the years ... in all categories of giving. There's a wider awareness of the needs in the Church."
Members of Holy Trinity Parish in St. Ann also received the message that any donation, no matter how small, is critical to the Appeal. Parish co-chairwoman Sandy Hezel said that's something she and her husband, Kevin, also have impressed upon their children, who are now in college. The Hezels serve as co-chairs with fellow parishioners Tim and Chris Pratt.
Sandy Hezel noted that the new pew envelopes provided by the ACA this year made it extra convenient for people to give.
"You have to be honest with people ... to ask for whatever they feel comfortable giving," said Sandy Hezel. "We would tell people, if every parishioner would give a dollar we would have at least an extra $1,000-plus, anyway."
Father John Paul Hopping, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Ferguson, said the Appeal is an opportunity for his parishioners to show gratitude for what they've received. In the past, the parish has received assistance from the ACA through its parish viability grants.
Most recently, the parish received about $100,000 from the Appeal to go toward repairs on "a catastrophic sewer failure," said Father Hopping.
"I often say that every human being has a need inside of them to be generous," he said. "And this is a way to do it — not just to benefit someone around us or come back at us, but really, truly give without expecting (anything) in return."
A Day in the Life
This year's theme was "A Day in the Life." A special video created for the campaign focused on a 24-hour period of life in the archdiocese and included sites such as Child Center-Marygrove, St. Louis Catholic Academy, the Rural Parish Workers of Christ the King, St. Patrick Center and Cardinal Ritter Senior Services. It's their often untold works of charity, Archbishop Carlson said during the video, that are possible because of the generous help of those who give to the Appeal.
John Federer, 2012 Appeal chairman, said he believes there's a "direct correlation" between the success of the Appeal and the amount of prayer and blessings obtained through the Blessed Mother.
"The success of the Appeal reflects directly on the generosity of Catholics in our archdiocese," he said. "The success also reflects the dynamic leadership of the archbishop and his staff."
In his fifth year serving on the Appeal council, Federer noted that it's the "entire experience" of seeing the Appeal from start to finish and those who benefit from the funding that means the most to him. He cited a visit to Child Center-Marygrove, which serves abused and neglected children, as a striking example of how the Appeal helps so many.
"Seeing the young faces of people who have hope now, because they didn't have any options to go to before — now they have somewhere they can go and be loved and respected and taught that they have self-dignity and value as a person," he said.
Giving to the ACA "creates a sense of ownership that we're part of the archdiocese, we have a stake in it and we're a part of the Catholic Church," said Father Hopping at Our Lady of Guadalupe. "When they see that video they think, 'I am doing that; I am involved in that.'"
Kerry Gavrilovic, Chriss Bowman, Tiffany Calzone and Carol George are among those on the daily front lines of the Appeal. The ACA operations staff members are tasked with handling incoming phone calls and visits from parish ACA chairpeople and parish secretaries who keep tabs on parish participation and request support materials throughout the campaign.
They shared stories of dedicated parish volunteers who they've come to know throughout the campaign. "You can't get a donor card past her," Gavrilovic said of one particular parish chairperson. She cited another example of a chairperson who would come in often during the beginning of the campaign to pick up materials and personally deliver them to the parish.
"We find that everyone is just grateful," said Bowman. "It's such a pleasure working with the chairpeople. They're some of the most dedicated people we know."
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