Catholic Charities appeal ends far short of $11 million target

By Jay Tokasz
Buffalo News
July 2, 2019

The 2019 Catholic Charities appeal finished more than $1.5 million short of an $11 million goal, as the Buffalo Diocese struggled to overcome dismay over its handling of clergy sexual abuse claims.

The Catholic human service agency did not have a final tally of the amount raised, said spokeswoman Rose Caldwell, adding that a full announcement would happen in mid-July.

But, she said, “To my knowledge, there hasn’t been any major significant change that would put it over goal.”

Sunday was the final day of the annual appeal. A progress tracker at the Catholic Charities website shows the appeal raised $9,251,843. The final tally might end up being more, but Caldwell she was not aware of any large last-minute gifts that would have closed the gap.

It was the first time since 2010 that the appeal fell short of goal.

Also this week, Dennis C. Walcyzk, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, announced to agency staff in an email that he will be retiring at the end of 2019.

Walczyk was on vacation this week and unavailable to comment, said Caldwell.

Walczyk’s email said the executive committee of the Catholic Charities board of trustees will serve as the search committee for his successor. The committee was in the process of hiring an executive search firm to assist in the recruit, according to the email.

“This will be an open search process; there are no pre-selected candidates,” Walczyk said in the email.

Walczyk also said a “formal, more public announcement” of his retirement will be coming soon.

Caldwell said it was too early to tell if programs and services would need to be cut because of the appeal results. The annual appeal helps support 70 programs at 61 sites in eight counties.

“Our department directors were asked to look at scenarios and prepare in case there was a need to try to look for opportunities for cost efficiencies and things like that,” she said. “Obviously, we’ve been looking at that. I don’t think it’s truly been determined whether there’s a need to go through with any changes.”

The diocese’s clergy abuse scandal, which began unfolding in 2018 with accusations of abuse from decades ago against dozens of area priests, angered many Catholics who had been led to believe that the Buffalo Diocese did not have the same problem with covering up for abusive priests, as happened in other U.S. dioceses where abuses had been kept secret for years.

Bishop Richard J. Malone said at the January launch of this year’s appeal that he hoped donors would look past the clergy scandal and the agency’s controversial decision last year to end its foster care and adoption services programs. He also assured donors that none of their gifts would be used to pay settlements as part of the diocese’s program to compensate childhood victims of clergy sex abuse.

Each year, about 40 percent of appeal funds raised went directly to the diocese, which traditionally uses the money for campus ministry, diocesan communications and seminary training, among other programs.

To distance itself from the diocese’s scandal, Catholic Charities took the unusual step in this year’s appeal of allowing donors to choose an option designating their entire pledge to the human services agency, instead of the gift being split with the diocese.

Nearly half of donors opted to have their money go exclusively to Catholic Charities and not be split with the diocese.


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