A New Name for Annual Appeal
Among Changes in Fund-Raiser after Tough 2003

By Rita Ciolli
January 16, 2004

Reflecting the discontent among Long Island Catholics and their unease with Bishop William Murphy, the Diocese of Rockville Centre is restructuring its major fund-raising campaign, including eliminating the word bishop from the name as well as any funding for his administration.

Since 1978 Catholics have been asked to contribute to "The Bishop's Annual Appeal." In the campaign set to start next month, the fund - raiser is named "The Catholic Ministries Appeal" and the emphasis will be on funding charities and diocesan programs. "With the word bishop in there it sounded like he was getting all the money. It is not going into anybody's back pocket; it is going to the ministries," said Joanne Novarro, spokeswoman for the diocese.

Besides the name change, this year's goal has been reduced from last year's $15 million, though the diocese is no longer releasing an overall target. Instead, individual parish goals are being rolled back to the levels set in 2001, before Murphy arrived to head the diocese. In that year, the goal was $12 million.

Last year, contributions to the appeal were $9.3 million, the first time in its 26 years that the campaign failed to meet or exceed its target. There were fewer donors, 46,419, a drop from approximately 71,812 givers the previous year, the diocese said.

To address the stumbling 2003 campaign, Murphy hired Jeff Turocy, a development specialist he worked with in the Boston archdiocese. "It was time to rethink the entire process and name change was part of that process," Turocy said recently. In Boston, where Murphy was second in command for eight years, "The Cardinal's Appeal" was renamed "The Annual Catholic Appeal" last year.

Some of the priests and donors who met with Turocy said they told him that Catholics kept their checkbooks shut because of the priest abuse scandal as well as concern that their money was being used to settle claims or for legal fees. While Murphy and pastors repeatedly emphasized that costs related to abuse cases were being handled out of a separate insurance fund, they failed to dispel those views, pastors said. Other donors were unhappy that Murphy spent more than $1.1 million to renovate the top floor of a former convent for his residence.

The Rev. Tom St. Pierre, co-pastor of St. Anne's in Brentwood, welcomed the name change, the more generous formula for sharing funds with the parishes, and the decision to end funding for the financial and administrative offices. "The new name is good. It lets people know that the money goes to different ministries and not for the upkeep of the chancery and its offices," he said.

Novarro said that funding for the administration would now come from part of the Sunday collection each parish sends to the diocese. In audited statements released by the diocese for the 2002 appeal, about 17 percent of the $15 million raised went for administrative costs.

Charles Zech, a professor of economics at Villanova University, said changes in Rockville Centre "would only be cosmetic" unless there is a genuine effort to be specific about how money is spent. "One of the by-products of the abuse scandal is the laity has realized that there is a lot they don't know about church finances that they should know."

Zech said that most dioceses have not had trouble with their campaigns. The "Annual Stewardship Appeal" in the Diocese of Brooklyn was $1.2 million over its goal of $4.4 million last year. In the Archdiocese of New York, the "Cardinal's Appeal" has a $15 million goal. Contributions have exceeded $15 million for the past couple of years.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.