Last weekend, parishes across our archdiocese launched their support for the 2007 Catholic Appeal -- “Giving in Faith, Giving with Love.” I enjoyed traveling to more than a dozen of these parishes to witness firsthand the way our priests and lay leaders encouraged the participation of every Catholic family.
Reflecting on the theme of this year’s Catholic Appeal, one pastor preached that the support of our Church is different from other forms of charitable giving. “Our Church is not a charity or a non-profit looking for support,” he stated. “Rather we are a people -- a people of believers in Jesus Christ. As part of living our faith, Catholics are asked to do more than simply give -- we are invited to give in faith, encouraged to give with love.” As Cardinal Seán remarked in the Catholic Appeal video, “the Catholic Appeal has always been about love -- love for God and love for others. God has given us so many gifts and He wants us to share those gifts with our neighbors, with those in need and with all those that we can help through the Catholic Appeal.”
Parishioners commented on the new Catholic Appeal video that debuted at most parishes last weekend. Many remarked how glad they were that part of their contributions helped Sacred Heart Parish in Weymouth rebuild their church after its devastating fire in June of 2005. As Father Daniel Riley, pastor of Sacred Heart reflected, “If we were rebuilding our church on our own, it would have been so much more difficult. But we had the entire support system of the archdiocese to help us -- the facilities department, the insurance department, the office for worship and so many others are supported by the Catholic Appeal. I’d like to thank the people throughout the archdiocese who have helped us through that support. On our own we couldn’t do this, with your help, it’s going great. You made it possible.”
Other parishioners, particularly those in the Merrimack Valley, mentioned to me how proud they were of the work being done at the Cor Unum Meal Center of St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence to serve the hungry. Father Paul O’Brien, pastor of St. Patrick’s, stated in the video that “most Catholics really do believe Matthew 25. Jesus says when we die, the first thing that’s brought up by Him is ‘When I was hungry, you fed me (or not). When I was thirsty, you gave me drink (or not).’ It’s very basic. When a human being is hungry, that person deserves food. So in our parish, when people have had an opportunity to actually feed people who don’t have food, they’ve been eager to do it. Not just to do it every once in a while but to keep on doing it day-after-day, week-after-week.” One of the things that stands out when you visit Cor Unum is seeing how the volunteers serve the guests at their table out of respect for their dignity. As one volunteer related to me “If Christ operated a meal center, we believe He would serve guests as we do. He taught us to wash each other’s feet. We think our guests deserve to be served at their tables.”
While there are many supporters and benefactors of Cor Unum, Father O’Brien was emphatic that “without the support of the Archdiocese of Boston, Cor Unum would not exist. The archdiocese redesigned the building for us, because our original plans were overly modest. The archdiocese oversaw a big chunk of our fundraising. The archdiocese, on a day-to-day basis, oversaw the construction of the building. The archdiocese handled our financing. The archdiocese handles things like insurance, our accounting, and our facilities consultation. These are not glamorous things, on a certain level, but without these functional things this building would not exist.” He added “to everybody that contributes to the Catholic Appeal I say thank you, because your sacrifice has made possible this ministry, this building, this happiness and this experience of the Lord that is growing in Lawrence through Cor Unum. And to anybody that is considering contributing to the Catholic Appeal, I would say please give. Without your help, there are not going to be the works of Christ expanding the way they are throughout the archdiocese.’’
Those are just two of many stories and powerful images shown in the 2007 Catholic Appeal video. If you have not seen it yet, or if you would like to see it again, I invite you to view it at www.BostonCatholicAppeal.org. There are also Spanish and Portuguese versions of the video on the Web site.
Our Catholic Appeal is more than simply a means of funding critical programs, ministries and services. It is also a sign of unity of all 295 parishes in our archdiocese. If you have participated in previous years, we thank you for your generosity and ask you to continue to help steward the Church this year. If you have not given to the appeal before, we invite you to share your gifts with others in faith and with love. All gifts --of any amount -- matter.
Scot Landry is Secretary for Advancement and Chief Development Officer of the Archdiocese of Boston.