September 12, 2017 // Bishop

ABA: Over 30 years of helping the diocese and parishes grow and thrive

Through the generous giving of people across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, during the Annual Bishop’s Appeal, various ministries — including education — can continue.

It seems that all one hears and sees in the news lately is how diversity and differences can divide people. But what Catholics must remember are the words of St. Paul in Romans 12:5: “We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”

While Catholics within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend speak different languages and have different roots, certainly everyone can come together for the common good and be a blessing to others when the focus is on faith-filled unity and sameness as members of one body in Christ.

This year, the words of St. Paul are worth remembering as the diocese enters into the season of the Annual Bishop’s Appeal.

“Our diocese is enriched by the diversity of our members, faithful of different races and cultures, ethnicities and languages,” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. “I see diverse communities and ministries throughout our wonderful diocese and the many diverse gifts that contribute to the welfare of the church. At the same time, there is a beautiful unity in this diversity, our unity in this diversity, our unity in the faith we have received from the Apostles and our unity in the love poured out by the Holy Spirit.” He noted that the Annual Bishop’s Appeal “supports the many diverse gifts that contribute to the welfare of the church.”

The ministries supported by the Annual Bishop’s Appeal include evangelization, formation and education, family and pastoral life, and charity. Every year, parishioners come together to make sure these vital ministries continue and grow.

In the past few years of the campaign, the participation rate in the Annual Bishop’s Appeal has averaged around 37 percent, or 19,900 families. Of each of these families, the average gift is $345. And almost all parishes met or exceeded their annual parish goals: As a result, the total amount of funds returned to those parishes was just under $1.7 million. 

This year, the goal for the Annual Bishop’s Appeal is $5.33 million. The hope is that “everyone participates, no matter how large of a donation, as all gifts of all sizes are needed and appreciated,” said Jeffery M. Boetticher, director of the Office of Stewardship and Development for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who added that the success of the appeal for the diocese should also equate to success for individual parishes.

History of the appeal

Before the first Annual Bishop’s Appeal, the work of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend was financed, in part, by 13 percent tax on all parish income. The late Bishop John M. D’Arcy initiated a new structure that allowed individual parishes the freedom to raise money for capital projects and other ministerial needs without the burden of a percentage going to the diocese. 

At that time the 13 percent was taken from all income, including tuition, offertory, campaigns, bequests and other items. The bishop, together with his presbyteral council and leadership team devised a two-part solution still in use today.

The first part of the solution reduced the percentage to only 6 percent, and only included offertory funds. Six percent is well below the national average of 12 percent to 15 percent for parishes.

The second part was to introduce the Annual Bishop’s Appeal. Two key components of the appeal are: 1) That every parish is assigned a mandatory minimum goal; and 2) Parishes keep 100 percent of the funds they raise above their goal.

While adopting these changes was risky, it has been “extremely successful,” said Boetticher. He noted that the number of “building projects have skyrocketed, and programs in the parishes and within (the) diocese have all increased.” In fact, many parishes now expect and budget for an annual appeal overage. “Many other dioceses are adopting similar plans to enhance not only the financial viability of their parishes, but of the diocese as well,” said Boetticher.

According to the 2016 diocesan financial audit, the Annual Bishop’s Appeal has helped to sustain parishes during its history.

“It was the hope of our lay leadership prior to the institution of the appeal that the parishes would benefit. This has become a reality,” stated Joseph Ryan, director of the Office of Administrative Services for the diocese, in the audit report. “The appeal has increased the incentive of parishes to seek funds. During the 30 years since the appeal began, our parishes have engaged in major capital fund drives. In the last 30 years, fund drives for parishes have brought in over $170,021,794 for new buildings and renovations approved by the Diocesan Finance Council. This includes parish initiatives linked to the Legacy of Faith. Also, over $195,470,970 that would have been paid to the diocese under the previous system now remains in the parishes. In addition, $6 million from the appeal has been given in grants to parishes in need.”

A comment from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, made last year concerning the Annual Bishop’s Appeal, is still relevant as the 2017 Annual Bishop’s Appeal begins. “The generosity of the faithful in our diocese in the Annual Bishop’s Appeal is a testament to their faith and love for God and His Church. I am very grateful for the sacrifices of so many to ensure that the ministries and good works of our diocese continue,” he said.

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