In my previous week’s column I tried to lay the groundwork for this year’s Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal. Some of you read between the lines and recognized the fact that I was a bit concerned about this year’s Appeal. Why? Well, last year’s Appeal was cancelled in order to devote all our time and energy to promoting the capital campaign where the focus has been on some long-term needs in critical areas of archdiocesan ministries and services. Because of that decision we lost more than $3 million dollars which has regularly been collected in the ACA to support operational expenses for the following fiscal year. This fiscal year 2011-2012 has not been the easiest because of that decision, but we did direct some of the campaign funds as was announced, to fund much of this year’s work. The ACA we are promoting now will provide operating funds for a variety of ministries and services in fiscal 2012-2013.
For this year’s Appeal we have decided to highlight three of the important on-going services here in the archdiocese. They are our Office for People with Disabilities, our Campus Ministry outreach on various college campuses and our widespread work throughout the archdiocese to educate children in a way that fully incorporates our faith life, particularly in our Catholic schools. These are very important for our efforts to teach, bless and serve in the name of Jesus Christ. Allow me to tell you a little bit about each one of these good and important works that we are able to accomplish with your help.
Our Office for People with Disabilities is an important resource for families who sometimes don’t know where to turn when a child is born with Down syndrome or some other physical affliction. Dorothy Coughlin has been on the job for 31 years faithfully responding to the needs of parishioners here in western Oregon. In this way we give a very concrete witness to our respect for the life and dignity of every human person.
When I was in Madrid last summer for World Youth Day, I was so impressed with the young adults from all over the world who participated enthusiastically, prayed devoutly and rejoiced with amazement at their experience of solidarity with Catholic sisters and brothers from all over the globe. On the campuses of our public and private non-Catholic universities, campus ministry provides that kind of spiritual oasis for the young adults pursuing degrees as graduates and undergraduates. As one young woman observed about Catholic campus ministry at her university, “We form a Catholic family and we hold each other accountable, have fun and live each day together.” A highlight for these gatherings, of course, is the regular celebration of the Eucharist and the teachings of the faith provided by campus ministers as well as peer ministers.
Catholic education is a very important part of the work we do here as a Catholic Church in western Oregon. We have to provide more assistance to Catholic families who choose to send their children to a Catholic school. Costs keep increasing and unless we do more to help families, we will soon make it practically impossible for families of ordinary means to provide that kind of education for their children. When I was a youngster growing up in the 1940s, my mom and dad paid $1 a month for my Catholic education at our parish school. Times are clearly very different. Back then the teachers who were mainly religious practically provided their service gratis. Our salaries still don’t match those in the public schools, but we are doing better and we need to continue doing so. In this respect your support for Catholic education helps families provide Catholic schooling for their children and also allows the church to be just in compensating the faculty members.
Many other ministries and services depend upon the ACA. Laundry lists aren’t always the best tools of communication, but you need to know that many ministries are supported by the Appeal, in addition to the three I described earlier. They include Evangelization, family life grants, Hispanic ministries, Justice and Peace Office, Ministry Formation for lay leaders, Ministry to the Deaf, Oregon Catholic Conference, support for parishes in need, Vocations Office and Youth Ministry. In addition to funds collected through the Annual Appeal, all parishes make a contribution to the services of the archdiocese by offering a portion of their annual offertory collections. We also receive a generous grant from Oregon Catholic Press.
In any undertaking whereby we are doing the work of the church, prayer is always important. Certainly we want to pray together for the success of this year’s campaign. For those who cannot make a donation, there is always an opportunity to say a prayer for its success. This year we are praying through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II, beatified by Pope Benedict back on May 1st, 2011. He was an experienced beggar for Christ, frequently visiting the United States to seek support from Polish communities across this nation to help the church in Poland in its recovery after World War II and throughout the bleak days of Communist rule. Since it was Blessed John Paul II who appointed me here as Archbishop of Portland, I am not at all hesitant to ask him for help in this all-important endeavor.
As an archdiocese we do our best to live within our means. Delay in making pledges doesn’t help us in our efforts to prepare a balanced budget for the coming fiscal year. I ask all our pastors and people to do their best to complete the work of this year’s Appeal in a timely fashion. I am hopeful that every parish will have reached its goal by Easter Sunday, April 8th. Is that wishful thinking? Yes, I admit it is. But hope counts. It has often been said that past success is the best predictor of future success. My friends, we have done it before. We can do it again. With you, all the angels and saints, and especially Blessed John Paul II on our team, how can we fail? Together let’s make sure it is possible that this local church will continue in the coming year to teach, bless and serve as best we can.