Local Diocese Exceeds Goal for Donations
Parishioners Pledge $3.6 Million to Fund 23 Catholic Ministries
By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
July 1, 2006
Less than one year after it emerged from bankruptcy, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson has received a record amount of donations in its Annual Catholic Appeal.
During "Amen Sunday" services this weekend thanking parishioners for their donations, parish priests will announce that the annual fund-raiser had collected $3.6 million in pledges by the time it ended Friday. That's the most the campaign has ever raised. The goal was $3.1 million.
The appeal funds 23 Catholic charities and ministries, including a seminarian-education fund, a lay-ministry training and formation program, the diocese's Marriage Tribunal and Catholic schools administrative offices, as well as the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Clinic, which gives medical care to people without health insurance.
"I think the parishioners feel good about this bishop. He has an ability to communicate more broadly, and a level of trust is developing," said Thomas Q. Smith, director of the local appeal. "He's very visible in the parishes, so people like him for that, and he speaks about transparency a lot."
Thirty-five percent of Cath-olics in the diocese donated this year — a significant increase from prior years. The figure also is higher than the national average of 29 percent reported by a study released in April by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The study's numbers were based on percentages from 2005. Last year, the rate of participation in the local appeal was 32 percent.
The Diocese of Phoenix, which has about 478,000 Catholics and a wealthier population, so far has a 29 percent participation rate in its annual appeal, which ends July 10 and has a goal of $10.2 million.
The Tucson diocese includes about 350,000 Catholics, but participation rates are calculated based on the number of registered families, which is 49,000. St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in the Foothills, as of last week, had collected the most pledged money — $273,623. The largest number of donors at any church was at Our Lady of the Valley in Green Valley, where 900 parishioners donated a total of $179,036.
"This generosity demonstrates to me the great commitment that our Catholic people have to the mission of their diocese," Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas wrote in his Monday Memo to parishioners this week.
The donations to the local appeal came in spite of a public-relations disaster for the diocese that began in 2002 with the surfacing of a scandal involving priests sexually abusing children, primarily in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Facing a mounting number of lawsuits, the diocese filed for federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in September 2004.
Parishioners, such as longtime appeal contributors Veronica Filaseta and her husband, Bart, say their giving wasn't affected by the sexual-abuse crisis or the bankruptcy because they knew the funds would go toward programs that benefit the community, not legal settlements.
"We gave quite a bit last year and gave more this year," said Veronica Filaseta, a retiree who attends St. Thomas the Apostle. "We just feel that we have an obligation."
She wasn't certain of the exact amount her family gave this year but said it was more than the average pledge of $211.
Two other U.S. Catholic dioceses — the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon and the Diocese of Spokane in Washington — also have declared bankruptcy but are reporting successful appeals this year. Both dioceses continue to litigate their cases.
The Spokane diocese, which includes about 95,000 Catholics, had a goal of $1.7 million and collected $2 million in pledges, said Deacon Mike Miller, the diocese secretary for business affairs.
The Archdiocese of Portland's Archbishop's Catholic Appeal goes through November and has received $3.3 million in pledges — already surpassing the goal of $3.1 million. The archdiocese includes about 390,000 Cath-olics.
The Georgetown study, which tracked American Catholics' reactions to their church since the 2002 clergy-sex-abuse scandal, showed the percentage who gave to their annual Catholic appeal declined from 38 percent in 2002 to 29 percent in 2005.
In Tucson, the opposite is true. Participation levels rose from 23 percent in 2001 to 35 percent this year, said Smith, noting that part of the reason for that may be that the diocese in 2003 created the Charities and Ministries Fund Inc., a separately incorporated arm that administers the appeal. The office was created 11 months after the diocese reached a $14 million settlement with 10 men who said they were sexually abused by four local priests.
Some local Catholics, such as retiree Kenn Block, became disillusioned by the church in 2002 and stopped donating to the annual appeal and the Sunday collection. Block, who attends Santa Catalina Parish and St. Odilia's Catholic Church on the Northwest Side, says he is still upset the church wasn't immediately forthright about the abuse cases. He still wants to see more accountability for the local church's finances, including more detailed financial statements parishioners can see.
"It surprises me that giving is up this year," he said. "But there are a lot of pray, pay and obey guys who no matter what send their envelope in, and maybe that's where all the cash is coming from."
Smith said an added incentive to donate this year was a new program that allows parishes to receive back 50 percent of any pledges over their goal. For example, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tombstone, which had a goal of $5,558 but collected $12,736, would receive $3,589 to put into the parish.
• Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at email@example.com. Go to www.azstarnet.com/faith for other recent religion coverage.
To learn more
• To see how individual parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson did in achieving their goal for the 2006 Annual Catholic Appeal, go to www.diocesetucson.org/acaparishrpts2K6.html
Diocese of Tucson 2006 Annual Catholic Appeal (ended Friday)
| Goal: $3.15 million
| Pledged: $3.6 million
| Participation rate: 35 percent
| 350,000 Catholics
Diocese of Phoenix 2006 Charity and Development Appeal (ends July 10)
| Goal: $10.2 million
| Pledged: $10.1 million
| Participation rate: 29 percent
| 478,000 Catholics
Diocese of Gallup 2006 Diocesan Services Appeal (ended Friday)
| Goal: $400,000
| Pledged: Nearly $300,000
| Participation rate: N/A
| 65,000 Catholics
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