Regular weekly collections alone sometimes fail to meet parish needs, acknowledged Father Robert Schrader, pastor of Rochester’s Peace of Christ Parish. Thus, he calls for a few special offerings during the year to cover such costs as buildings-and-grounds upkeep and winter heating expenses. In addition, the parish held a one-time collection last May to make up a shortfall in the parish’s Catholic Ministries Appeal tally.
"And it worked," Father Schrader noted, saying those proceeds enabled Peace of Christ to meet its CMA goal.
As is the case at Peace of Christ, parishes across the diocese rely on their parishioners to help fill collection baskets beyond the weekly envelope count. Special collections may be earmarked for local, diocesan national or international causes and generally can be invoked by three entities:
* The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: Special collections mandated by the USCCB take place approximately once per month to support a number of organizations and causes in the U.S. and abroad. Beneficiaries of standing collections listed in the 2012 USCCB schedule are: the evangelization of U.S. blacks, native Americans and Hispanics; Catholic Relief Services; the Holy Land; various missionary efforts; emerging churches in countries where Catholicism is in the minority; the pope’s emergency fund (also known as Peter’s Pence); the Catholic Communication Campaign; the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Catholic University of America. The USCCB sets up national collections for specific dates. However, dioceses are permitted to alter those dates to avoid conflict with local special collections.
*The local bishop: Diocesanwide collections generally address emergency situations. Recent examples occurred in September 2011, when Bishop Matthew H. Clark ordered a collection to aid victims of severe flooding in the Southern Tier; and in November 2011, when he implored parishes to support famine- and drought-relief efforts in Africa.
Parishes forward proceeds from diocesan and USCCB special collections to the diocese, which then forwards them on to the intended recipient. "We ask parishes to remit second collections within 30 days," noted Mary Ziarniak, diocesan director of financial services.
* A parish leader: Special collections scheduled by a pastor/pastoral administrator can cover such areas as fuel/utilities, building maintenance, insurance costs, Catholic schools and debt reduction. Or, they may support community endeavors. St. Mary Parish in Honeoye, for example, held a collection Dec. 11 to purchase Christmas-basket hams for the local food pantry. Funds from parish-based special collections go into the parish’s operating account rather than being forwarded to the diocese. However, if the collection is intended to support a cause outside the local community, permission for the collection must first be obtained from the diocesan bishop.
Although there is no hard and fast limit on the number of special collections per year, Ziarniak said no more than one should be scheduled on any given Sunday so as to avoid donor fatigue. On the other hand, Father Schrader said he hopes that parishioners will consider all collections important and support them accordingly.
To ensure this happens, Father Schrader suggests a tithing model whereby a family commits 10 percent of its income to charitable giving — 5 percent to church initiatives and the other 5 percent to secular charities.
Yet how should parishioners divide the 5 percent for church giving among regular weekly collections and special collections, not to mention the CMA and other church-related fundraising? Ziarniak said it really comes down to personal choice, stating that people should let their social-justice values guide them.
"It’s all up to the individual," she said.
Father Schrader observed that parishioners respond more favorably when ample justification is given for special collections. For instance, he has told Peace of Christ members that a monthly buildings-and-grounds collection averts the necessity of a capital campaign, and that winter heating collections help offset the sharp rise of fuel prices in recent years.
Donors appear to respond favorably to diocesan emergency appeals as well. This past fall’s collection for Southern Tier flood relief has netted $185,000 thus far, according to Doug Mandelaro, diocesan spokesperson. He said local proceeds totaled some $535,000 to assist with recovery from the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
"People are very generous in this diocese," Ziarniak said.