ST. FRANCIS — Donations to the annual Catholic Stewardship Appeal are slightly down this year, but it’s not too late to help the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s biggest fundraiser, a major source of support for the services that benefit the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin.
This year’s theme, “Hope Starts Here,” reminds Catholics in the 10-county archdiocese that hope is rooted in Jesus Christ who tells us he will be with us always.
At $757,070 shy of its $7,650,000 goal, Debra Lethlean, development director for the archdiocese, cites the depressed economy as a probable reason for decreased giving. Despite grim reports of a possible “fiscal cliff” that the U.S government could face at the end of the year, those who have not contributed to the appeal have not used that as a reason for a lack of donations, according to Lethlean.
“No one has indicated that they aren’t giving because of the ‘fiscal cliff,’ Lethlean said, adding, “In general, people are comfortable giving more to charity in stable
economic times. The recession and slow economic recovery has hurt many non-profits and the appeal has felt the impact as well.”
While the number of those giving gifts is down by 296 this year, the average gift has increased each year – including this year.
“This year, the average gift is $189.18, a $9.13 increase from 2011,” said Lethlean. “The appeal accepts donations through Dec. 31, so there’s time to make a gift before year-end.”
Funds from the annual appeal benefit four areas of ministry: serving families, strengthening parishes, supporting schools, and forming priests and parish leaders.
Gifts to the appeal are used solely to support these ministries and are kept separate from other assets in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“The largest recipient of funding from the appeal is Saint Francis de Sales Seminary for priestly formation, and the second largest recipient is Catholic Charities,” said Lethlean.
Of the funds raised, $3,156,535 is slated for forming priests and parish leaders, $2,203,493 for serving families, $1,721,301 for strengthening parishes, and $568,671 for supporting schools.
“The appeal provides expertise and guidance to our 118 Catholic schools, and training for staff and volunteers involved in many ministries, such as business managers, parish councils and committees, parish liturgists and music ministers,” said Lethlean. “Training is also provided to those involved in ministries such as Rite of Christian Initiation, bereavement ministry, engaged and married ministry, young adult ministry, and Christian formation programs that serve more than 40,000 children and youth across the archdiocese.”
Catholic Charities’ community outreach works with parishes and other Catholic and non-Catholic organizations to provide outreach to the poor, including social worker outreach, collaborating with parishes to address social justice issues and community needs, and consultation and education programs aimed at filling gaps in social service networks. Every year, the charity helps thousands of homeless mothers and children, transient men, senior citizens, the developmentally disabled and those in prison.
“Appeal-funded ministries provide the foundational infrastructure that supports Catholic life in southeastern Wisconsin,” said Lethlean. “In that, they support and train staff and parish leaders in our parishes and schools, and provide for the faith formation of our future priests.”