Amid fiscal challenges, Rochester Diocese begins annual funding drive
Diocesan officials are stressing the ongoing need to maintain vital programs, services and ministries amid one of the most challenging periods in the Diocese of Rochester’s 151-year history.
The 2019-20 Catholic Ministries Appeal is getting underway just weeks after the diocese filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, in response to nearly 50 lawsuits filed against it since New York’s Child Victims Act took effect Aug. 14.
At the start of the CMA promotional video — available for viewing at https://www.dor.org/cma — Father James Schwartz said he understands the anger of potential CMA donors over the priestly sexual-abuse crisis, yet he urges them not let the many good works supported by the CMA suffer as a result.
“I ask you not to give up on your church. The church, your church, needs you now more than ever,” remarked Father Schwartz, pastor of St. Joseph and Holy Spirit parishes in Penfield and Webster.
The 39th-annual campaign is beginning in parishes across the 12-county diocese and will run through May 31, 2020. This year’s CMA theme is “I Am the Vine, You Are the Branches.”
Bishop Salvatore R. Matano concludes the six-and-a-half-minute CMA video by reiterating the campaign theme, saying, “Your donation to the appeal is a way of sharing the fruits of your labor, to make a difference for your sisters and brothers in Christ, for your parish, and for our church. I humbly ask you to pray for your parish, the diocese and the Catholic Ministries Appeal. Your support and prayers are needed and greatly appreciated. May God bless all our efforts to serve our sisters and brothers in the family of God.”
This year’s campaign goal is $6.725 million, the same as in 2018-19. Colleen Brade, CMA coordinator, said appeal proceeds fund approximately 57 percent of the $11.9 million diocesan budget, fully or partially supporting initiatives parishes would greatly struggle to afford on their own.
Among CMA supported ministries are: faith formation for children and adults; young-adult ministries; Catholic schools; sacramental preparation; youth and campus ministries; diocesan Catholic Charities and its 10 regional offices and agencies; information technology; chaplaincies; social-ministry efforts; support of deacons, pastoral leaders and vocations, including formation and education through St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry; parish support ministries; the operations and services of the diocesan Pastoral Center; and the ministries of the Vatican, the U.S. bishops and Bishop Matano.
Brade acknowledged that the diocese’s uncertain financial picture presents fundraising challenges. However, she emphasized that CMA funds have never been used for the settlement of legal cases. She noted that answers to frequently asked questions pertaining to the bankruptcy filing are available on the CMA website, along with an annual report and breakdown of CMA allocations.
Brade expressed strong hope for a successful 2019-20 appeal, noting that last year’s CMA brought in the second-highest total in campaign history, even as public attention focused on the abuse crisis. She reported that pledges from 24,400 donors totaled $6.294 million — more than 93.5 percent of the CMA’s goal — with 44 parishes in the 12-county Diocese of Rochester surpassing their assigned goals and another 20 parishes achieving 90 to 99 percent of their goals. She added that last year’s average CMA gift exceeded $250, the appeal’s highest average ever.
“The result of last year’s campaign truly does give us hope,” she said. “We are really humbled by that generosity. It’s almost overwhelming that so many people care for their church.”
“Our mission as a church must continue; the purpose and necessity of the CMA is really unchanged,” Brade remarked. “We are responsible for carrying on the church’s mission in good times and in bad, even throughout this reorganization.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributions to the CMA can be made by mail using parish-provided envelopes, or online at https://www.dor.org/cma. Checks (made payable to the Catholic Ministries Appeal), credit cards, electronic-fund transfers and appreciated securities are all accepted. Gifts are tax deductible. For details, contact Colleen Brade at 585-328-3210, ext. 1326, or col firstname.lastname@example.org.