Catholic Giving Increases

By Bill Zajac
Republican [Springfield MA]
November 10, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - With fewer donors but larger gifts, the 2004 Annual Catholic Appeal of the Springfield Diocese has raised $2.9 million - about $250,000 more than a year ago.

The appeal's success seemed to even surprise diocesan officials, who kicked off the campaign last spring two months after the past bishop, the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre, left his position amid allegations of sexual abuse of two minors.

"I really am delighted about the people of the four counties of Western Massachusetts. To do something like this, despite the fact there was trouble, despite the fact there was turmoil, they realized what this is about - helping those most in need," said the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, who succeeded Dupre as bishop.

Virginia M. Webb, the campaign's director and a campaign leader for about seven years, praised local Catholics' generosity.

"To be honest with you, I have seen the remarkable, awesome work that people do in this particular diocese. But I will tell that around February, March and April, I held my breath more times than I care to admit," Webb said yesterday at a press conference at the Bishop Maguire Pastoral Center announcing the campaign's results.

Forty-one agencies will receive campaign grants, including four agencies that had never before received any campaign money. They are: the Pro-Life Office; the Mont Marie Child Care Center in Holyoke; Take & Eat, a meal service for shut-ins in northern Berkshire County, and Life's Choices, a Springfield-based home for young, unwed mothers.

Maria Rodman of the Montague Catholic Social Ministries said at the press conference that her agency serves people who may otherwise not receive help.

Montague Catholic Social Ministries, which received $28,000 from this year's appeal, offers a variety of services, including a summer camp, food and basic products for families with children under 5 years old, a drop-in center for young parents and children and support groups.

"Our agency serves some of the poorest residents of our state," Rodman said.

Campaign results showed some dramatic donation shifts amid continuing changes in how the campaign is conducted.

The average campaign gift increased from $78 to $95 from the previous campaign and overall has increased 40 percent over two years. Meanwhile, the number of donors has dropped, but Webb didn't have those exact figures.

She added that major donors, those giving a minimum of $750, rose in the past year.

Webb and McDonnell said many disgruntled Catholics bypassed the annual appeal and gave directly to agencies.

Church officials have often said campaign money is not used to cover costs incurred by clergy sexual abuse complaints and suits.

McDonnell said the appeal has had long-term success despite a 31 percent drop in the four counties' Catholic population from 351,000 in 1980 to 242,000 in 2004.

He said it reflects the overall loss of population in Western Massachusetts, which, he said, has lost many manufacturing jobs without gaining in other well-paying job sectors.

"I think we are dealing with an economic and a demographic situation here," McDonnell said.

During the last two years, the campaign has been changed from a parish-centered event to a more centralized, diocesan-run fund-raiser.

"Parishes can now concentrate more on what the campaign is for instead of how it will be conducted," McDonnell said.


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