Catholic parishes large and small are being pummeled by a series of financial hits not seen in living memory.
After measures taken to contain COVID-19 shut down in-person Masses, attendance has not returned to normal because many are still fearful of attending in person. Donations are down and also down are fundraisers such as festivals, spaghetti dinners and other fall events.
With the season of giving upon us, there is much uncertainty when it comes to advent fundraisers and collections for those who are struggling. Despite this, many parishes continue to reach out to provide for those in need during this unprecedented time.
Each Advent, St. John the Evangelist Parish in Greenfield promotes its popular calendar raffle as a fundraiser for the home and school association. Each calendar sells for $20 and has a total payout of $11,775. All proceeds from the calendar go to benefit St. John school.
According to Kim Kelly, a home and school association member, there is a drawing each day for 365 chances to win.
“If you win once, your name is put back into the raffle barrel,” she said “Like so many other parishes this year, we did not have our annual summer festival, our standard fish fries or our fall craft fair. We started selling the calendars at our summer festival with good success. We are selling them after Masses but, because of COVID-19, attendance is down. School families are also responsible for selling an assigned amount. A certain number needs to be sold by Dec. 30. Some of our committees have been brainstorming ideas to help sell and promote the calendars.”
The calendars are available at St. John the Evangelist parish rectory, 8500 W. Coldspring Road, Greenfield, 414- 321–1965, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday or Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon. The prices range from $25-$250. Holy days and Sundays have the higher cash prizes.
St. Vincent Pallotti Parish is hosting a giving tree this year to support the Holy Assumption Food Pantry. Volunteers are asked to donate food, sweatshirts, gifts for men and women, along with money for the purchase of hams for food baskets.
According to Cathy Healy, of the human concerns committee, thanks to the generosity of their parishioners and several other parishes and private businesses, such as a farm, farmers market and other agencies, they are able to provide non-perishable food plus fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and milk throughout the year.
“The food pantry serves an average of 750 individuals per month that consist of 350 families, 150 elderly and 15 homeless in the West Allis, Wauwatosa, Milwaukee and West Milwaukee areas. The numbers are growing due to COVID-19 and they are expecting up to 400 families in December,” said Healy. “Two angels, Janet Frey and Kate Borchardt, run the program along with dedicated volunteers. Their caring doesn’t stop with food baskets and helping those who come to the center. They also help families with special needs and save food that they need for newborn babies, illnesses, and a child with a feeding tube that needs baby food. They are known for making home deliveries under certain conditions. The motto, ‘We’re here to serve you in your time of need,’ fits the Holy Assumption Food Pantry.”
To help the Holy Assumption Food Pantry, visit 1533 S. 71st St., West Allis, or call 414-774-3010.
According to Diane Nowinski, director of administrative services at St. Catherine of Siena in Ripon, the parish collaborates other community groups to help with the Santa Club through one of their fifth Sunday collections.
“This is a community group that provides Christmas gifts for families who cannot afford it,” she said. “A lot of the volunteers are parishioners of the parish. This year, they are going to utilize more gift cards so people don’t have to go out and shop; maybe the families can go online and order the items they need.”
In addition, Selma Brophy said they are also collecting gifts for their Christmas Tree.
“We have stars on the tree instead of ornaments with the age and gender of a person as well as the gift desired. We ask that if you pick a star, you buy a gift for the one who is listed on the star,” she said. “We then deliver the gifts to those in need in the community.”
Anyone who wishes to help with the Santa Club or the giving tree, please contact St. Catherine of Siena Parish, 920-748-2325.
At St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Geneva, Fr. Ray Guthrie explained the parish will be doing several projects for those in need throughout the Advent season.
“We will be helping out Twin Oaks, Lakeland School, some daycare centers, New Day Women’s Clinic and Saint Francis de Sales Seminary,” he said. “Our school will be having a drive for the needs of our sister parish in Tanzania.”
Donations can be dropped off at the parish or those interested in making a financial contribution can do so through the parish website, www.sfdslg.org, or via check: St. Francis de Sales, 148 W. Main St., Lake Geneva, WI 53147, 262–248–8524.
“For Advent, we normally will ask for cash donations but this year we are asking for laundry detergent, diapers, wipes, formula and feminine products,” said Fr. Guthrie. “We are also asking for snacks, such as graham crackers, fruit snacks, goldfish and animal crackers. In addition, gas cards, razors, shaving cream and men’s toiletries will help.”
St. Sebastian Parish in Sturtevant participates in Santa in a Shoebox. The program began 12 years ago and was founded by Diana Higgenbottom. The program, which consists of a wrapped shoebox filled with new items for men, women, children, veterans, the elderly and more, began in Racine and spread to Kenosha and now Milwaukee Counties.
Higgenbottom learned about Operation Christmas Child, where the gifts go overseas but she wanted to do something to help out those in southeast Wisconsin.
“I started with 80 boxes and I used the local newspaper to advertise but now here we are 12 years later in over three counties and we send out thousands of boxes for Christmas,” she said. “Word really traveled and many approach me now with names of individuals who could use a box for Christmas.”
This year, the need is even greater with so many being out of work or dealing with furloughs from COVID-19. Higgenbottom said she does not send the boxes to those who already receive assistance but those who often fall through the cracks.
Higgenbottom said that if individuals are not able to donate a box filled with gifts, she could use anything such as toothpaste and toothbrushes. The drive ends Dec. 13 to allow for gift wrapping and delivering the shoeboxes. Contact Higgenbottom at 262-939-7375 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.