Parishes throughout the Rochester Diocese have embraced Bishop Salvatore R. Matano’s request for second collections to aid those struggling with heating costs.
In announcing the appeal Feb. 4, Bishop Matano wrote in a letter to pastoral leaders, "You are all aware of the physical and financial hardship brought on many of our families by the brutal cold we have been experiencing this winter. There has been a particular burden on those financially stressed families who simply cannot pay their heating bills."
Bishop Matano noted that the diocese’s seven regional Catholic Charities agencies provide direct financial assistance to families, both through the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and from charitable giving. However, the bishop stated that Catholic Charities is currently unable to keep pace with requests due to cutbacks in federal funding combined with high demand due to the cold. For example, he pointed out that in the previous two months, 33 families in Tompkins County, 140 in Cayuga County and 150 in Monroe County were denied financial help.
"To assist these families in need, I am inviting your parish to take up a voluntary second collection," Bishop Matano wrote. "The funds collected will be forwarded to the Catholic Charities agency serving your county and will be used solely to provide direct assistance to families in need of heating assistance."
Doug Mandelaro, diocesan spokesman, said that parishes’ initial response to the bishop’s plea has been strong.
"While we do not have precise numbers as yet, in the end the outpouring of support for those struggling to pay their heating bills will be phenomenal," Mandelaro said.
"Catholics in our diocese are always willing to lend a helping hand to their neighbors in need, whether they be thousands of miles away or right next door," remarked Jack Balinsky, diocesan director of Catholic Charities. "This winter has been a hardship on everyone, but most especially the poor. I am grateful for any help people can provide."
Contributions are still welcomed from those who did not contribute through their parishes. Mandelaro asked that checks be sent "in a timely fashion" to Diocese of Rochester Finance Office, 1150 Buffalo Road, Rochester, NY 14624 with "Catholic Charities Heating Fund" in the memo field.