Catholic Appeal to kick-off this weekend

BRIGHTON -- The Archdiocese of Boston is set to kick-off its 2008 Catholic Appeal, “Handing on the Light of Christ,” during the weekend of March 1 and 2. It is the first time the archdiocese’s annual fundraising effort has been launched during the season of Lent.

Packets of information including a brochure, pledge card and letter from Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley have been provided to parishes and previous donors in advance of the kick-off weekend.

“Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus sent his disciples to go and witness to what they had seen and heard,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote in the letter. “They shared what they had with their fellow disciples and often endured persecution and martyrdom. Because of their witness, the light of Christ was handed on to successive generations.”

The brochure cover features a woman lighting a candle held by a child and inside emphasizes how supporting the appeal helps Catholics throughout the archdiocese. Nearly half of the funds raised go toward specialized services to parishes, and another one-fifth goes to education, formation and evangelization. More than 80 percent of the archdiocese’s central operating fund comes from the appeal.

The 2008 goal is $15 million up from last year’s $14 million goal, which the archdiocese surpassed by garnering $14.5 million. The archdiocese has exceeded its appeal goal for the last five years and continues to steadily increase the goal by $1 million each year. Donations during that time have increased by nearly 65 percent.

Scot Landry, the archdiocese’s secretary for advancement and chief development officer, said the information packets were sent out a week before the appeal launch because the archdiocese wanted parishioners to reflect on what they will give this year and drop their pledge cards in collection baskets on the kickoff weekend.

Landry also told The Pilot that the earlier kickoff date was a response to requests from pastors. About 70 percent of parish priests supported the move.

By starting early, The Catholic Foundation hopes to close the appeal by June 30. In past years, the campaign has been launched in May. Parishes often found it difficult to collect money during the summer and so would finish the appeal in the fall, which often conflicted with their own grand annuals, he said.

Landry also noted that Lent is a great time to kick-off the appeal and that the campaign will continue through Easter and past Pentecost. It now encompasses the central events in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar, he added.

Also for the first time this year, appeal’s annual video is a prerecorded homily by Cardinal O’Malley that will be viewed in parishes throughout the archdiocese.

In that homily, recorded by CatholicTV, the cardinal talks about the call of Christians to teach the Gospel and build up the body of Christ.

“Lent is a time of special sacrifice as we strive to deepen our baptismal faith and commitment to discipleship. Your contributions help us as a Catholic community to pass on the faith,” he said. “I am here today to ask every one of you to be generous to the annual Catholic appeal, a collection that allows our faith community to carry on the mission that Christ entrusted to us. Every gift matters.”

The press conference for the 2008 appeal kickoff was to be held at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington on March 1 at 3 p.m. A vigil Mass, celebrated by Cardinal O’Malley, will follow.

Landry said that pastor Father Brian Flatley has told him that the parish could not have succeeded in many projects without the help of the archdiocese.

St. Agnes is a “strong” parish and was chosen by the cardinal in consultation with the administrative cabinet particularly for its ministry to young Catholics, he added.

“We wanted to pick a parish that is doing so much to pass on the faith,” said Landry.

Children at the parish begin religious education at three years old. The class explains the Mass to them and a chance to experience what they are learning about by having a child-sized altar, chalice and other items. The instruction complements what parents teach at home and gets the children excited about coming to Mass, he said.

The parish also has an elementary school with 400 students, is the site for Arlington Catholic High School with 800 students, and has a faith-based youth center called Fidelity House. The center runs preschool and after-school programs for over 1,000 youth each week, he said.

Landry added that this weekend’s launch is a critical event in Boston that brings together parishioners from across the archdiocese.

“The appeal is more than just a way to fund the central and shared ministries of the archdiocese. It also is a sign of unity of Catholics in every parish across the archdiocese with the work of the Church,” he said.