March 31, 2010 // Local

Annual Bishop’s Appeal attains highest total in 23 years

By Vince LaBarbera

The 23rd Annual Bishop’s Appeal in support of the ministries and services of the Catholic Church throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has resulted in a total collection of $5,745,113 — the highest amount ever raised in the history of the campaign.

Despite the poor economy and a decrease in the total number of gifts, the 2009-10 appeal realized an increase of $176,600 from the previous year. In addition, the annual fundraiser was 128 percent over the goal of $4,500,000. This means if all pledges are kept, $1,745,113 will be returned to parishes.

Bishop John M. D’Arcy said, “The annual appeal has always been parish centered and that is the big reason for its success — that and our priests. I have always believed that the parish priests make it all possible. People here love their priests and follow them.”

“Credit for the 23rd Annual Bishop’s Appeal all goes to Bishop D’Arcy,” said Harry W. Verhiley, director of the diocesan Development Office in charge of the annual campaign. Speaking of the bishop emeritus of the diocese, Verhiley continued, “The generosity of our diocese to his last appeal is an expression of gratitude to Bishop D’Arcy’s selfless service to us.”

“John and I believe the amazing outcome is the result of a combination of things,” added Julie Kenny. She and her husband, John, served as general chairpersons of the recent campaign. “First and foremost is the love and support people in the diocese have for Bishop D’Arcy. It was a way of saying ‘thank you’ for everything he’s done. Second, Catholics who could give gave more realizing there were likely many who couldn’t donate this time due to the economy. … The faithful here are incredibly generous in sharing their gifts for the Lord’s work.”

The highest appeal previous to the 2009-10 campaign was the 2003-04 appeal amounting to $5,623,163 followed by the 2008-09 appeal which raised $5,568,513.

The local diocese consists of 80 parishes comprising 57,345 households in 14 counties. A total of 22,473 families contributed to this year’s appeal — a 39 percent rate of participation. Most families participate by pledging an amount and then making payments, related Verhiley. “Pledging is the best way to double, triple or quadruple a one-time contribution,” he said.

Any amount pledged and paid by parishioners over and above the parish’s assigned goal is rebated back to the parish over a period of time as payments come in, Verhiley explained. Appeal funds are distributed to four major areas: education, family and pastoral assistance, evangelization and charities. Some ministries benefit parishes directly, especially when money is used for the training of future priests and for the care of retired priests and religious. Other diocesan programs that also benefit parishes include Catholic school support, religious education, Catholic Charities, Hispanic ministry, youth ministry, weekly television Masses for the homebound, crisis pregnancy assistance, and many more.

The average contribution was $255.65, an increase of $10.69 from the 2008-09 appeal and the highest average gift amount in the appeal’s history. The largest gift received was $75,000 and the smallest was one dollar. A total of 1,692 advanced gifts were received prior to the beginning of the Appeal in most parishes last September — an increase of 252 donations from the previous drive. The average advance gift amounted to $1,430.25, a decrease of $88.58 from last year’s appeal.

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