Most Rev. John Vlazny Archbishop Emeritus of Portland
The days after Easter, right from the very start, have always been very heady ones for the followers of Jesus. Just this past Sunday we heard an amazing passage from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. In describing the early Christian community, the sacred writer said: “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they would distributed to each according to need.” Obviously over the past 2,000 years the attitude about sharing our resources has changed considerably among the followers of Jesus the Christ. But that ideal proclaimed from Scripture still belongs to us. Even though we tend to look upon it nowadays as excessive, it is nevertheless a very serious and important reminder that concern for the needy around us is still an important aspect of our life as Catholic Christian people.
Let me share some good news. You all know that the archdiocese has been actively engaged in a capital campaign, Sharing our Faith, Shaping our Future, for some two years. Our goal was to achieve a $50 million increase in the financial resources of the archdiocese over a five-year period. Thus far we have received pledges of approximately $30 million. We are still working hard to come a lot closer to the goal and, if possible, to exceed it. But that will require much work and a “never say die” attitude among parish leaders and pastors. Some of the parishes postponed their involvement in the campaign because of their own projects which had been delayed during the hard days of bankruptcy. But a number of them are now engaged in the capital campaign and some others are still planning to kick things off this summer. Some pastors and I are still active in pursuing major donors who have thus far eluded our efforts to speak with them. You may recall that we promised that every undesignated dollar contributed to the campaign would result in a 25 percent return to the parish of the donor. Last fall $921,744 was returned to parishes and this spring $694,190 is likewise being made available to our parishes. There were 129 parishes and missions who received these funds. As someone commented, this is “not exactly what some might call chump change that the parishes are receiving for ministry.” The total of $1,615,935.54 is both noteworthy and laudable. I am grateful to the parishioners who supported the campaign and thereby assisted with the needs of the archdiocese as well as those of their parishes. Donations to the parishes will continue to be distributed every fall and every spring, based on cash received.
Likewise we are in the middle of the 2012 Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal. You may recall that the Appeal was cancelled in 2011 to allow for concentration on the capital campaign. At the end of the fifth week of this year’s Appeal, back in late March, we had achieved 62.45 percent of our goal. This translates into $2,240,190 pledged with a goal of $3,640,000. Nearly 15 percent of the households of the archdiocese have made a pledge. This is well below the normal participation rate of 30 percent to 35 percent. We obviously have a long way to go. I find it interesting that parishes that were successful in the Campaign seem to be very successful in the Appeal. Parishes that stumbled during the Campaign seem to keep stumbling in the Appeal.
Donations to the Annual Appeal are very important for next year’s fiscal budget here in the archdiocese. I am counting on the full cooperation of pastors and parish leaders. I would hope that every parish could achieve 100 percent of the financial goal and 40 percent participation on the part of parishioners. Thus far the parish with the highest achievement is a newcomer to such success stories. I am referring to St. James Church in Molalla which has already reached 171 percent of its parish goal. St. James also wins the highest participation rate with 49 percent of parish households that have made a pledge. Congratulations to Father Ted Prentice and his parish leaders!
Another very important responsibility of Catholic stewardship also requires our attention and personal sacrifices this spring. I am referring of course, to the annual appeal of Catholic Charities and its member organizations, which is now underway. Parish announcements of the campaign are being made this year on the weekend of April 28-29 and a collection is to be taken up in every parish on the weekend of May 5-6. Many people contribute to the appeal through the mail. Either by way of the mail or the parish collection we have another opportunity to exercise good stewardship in making sure that there is indeed “no needy person” among us who is ignored or refused assistance.
Member organizations of Catholic Charities include Catholic Charities of Portland, Catholic Community Services of Lane County, Catholic Community Services of Mid-Willamette Valley, Catholic Charities of Southern Oregon and CYO/Camp Howard. This year’s appeal reminds us that “we all need a Good Samaritan.” The appeal materials spell out some of the very particular ways in which we Catholics have been able to assist needy people across western Oregon. Even though there are leaders in government who seem to look upon the work of Catholic Charities and its member organizations as less than Catholic because we serve those who are not members of our church, we know that what we are doing is very much in keeping with the preaching and example of Jesus during his life and ministry among us.
One of the concrete ways in which we do assist some of our needy folks is through our Catholic Charities Housing Transitions Program. So often there are people among us who have no housing or inadequate housing. But with the help of case management from Catholic Charities many of these folks have been able to learn how to become better renters and to access some of the very basic needs most of us take for granted, like a warm shower and a place to wash our clothing.
Another way in which we help out is through Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program. A particular family highlighted in this year’s brochure recently escaped rebel attacks in south Sudan. The family found assistance from us through Catholic Charities and now lives in a furnished apartment here in the archdiocese. The children are assisted in after-school programs to catch up with the other kids their age.
It’s a true act of charity, very much in the spirit of the Good Samaritan. Catholic Charities Pregnancy Support and Adoption Services is another vehicle whereby we are able to reach out and help young mothers in our communities who find themselves without the resources they need to give their children the proper care. Because of these services you and I have been able to give rental assistance, diapers and formula to help a mother and child, not only survive but thrive.
It is important for all of us to make concrete effort to assist our needy neighbors as Jesus taught and to follow the example of the Good Samaritan. I encourage you to be generous in this year’s Appeal. We Catholics look upon all our neighbors as children of God, worthy of respect and endowed with the same human dignity. May there be “no needy person” among us who is refused our care.