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CURRENT ISSUE:  April 11, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Easter initiates new people into the Catholic faith
Rally draws 1,000 young people
Eucharistic renewal at heart of implementation of new missal
Bishop’s Appeal tops
$1.5M mark, nearing goal

People in the Diocese of Oakland have responded with more than $1.5 million in gifts and pledges to the annual Bishop’s Appeal. As of March 30, about six weeks after parishioners were asked to make a pledge, the appeal has reached 72 percent of its goal of $2.1 million.

Donating online: ‘exciting way’
for people to give to the Church

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Within a decade, collection baskets may be collecting more dust than checks as more Catholics switch to electronic giving. “I think it is an exciting new way for people to give to the Church,” said Michael Murphy, executive director of the International Catholic Stewardship Council. “We are beginning to explore a new catechesis in our Church.” The Washington-based council provides educational resources, networks and information to promote Catholic philanthropy and advance the ministry of stewardship in parishes and dioceses.

With the checkbook becoming obsolete and more people shopping online, the Catholic Church and its related charities are learning about spending habits, said Murphy. Online giving has increased donations for many nonprofit organizations. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a study of 600 charities that used such a system showed that 79 percent of them raised more in 2010 than they did in 2009, while 21 percent raised less.

Another study showed that nonprofit organizations that have an annual budget of more than $10 million saw donations increasing more than 55 percent with online giving. Those with an annual budget of less than $1 million saw a 22 percent increase, and groups with an annual budget between $1 million and $10 million, there was a 16 percent increase. “I believe we are on the verge of this growing tremendously in the next decade,” Murphy said.
Last year’s appeal, which also sought $2.1 million, ended with $1.6 million.

Nineteen parishes have exceeded their 2011 goals, with an additional 16 at the 75-percent mark or more.

“People are always generous here,” said Father Brian Joyce, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill, which was the first large parish to meet its Bishop’s Appeal goal in 2011.

Parishioners’ gifts and pledges totaled $73,808.34 — 126 percent of the goal of $58,595. Last year parishioners contributed $57,764.80, about 98 percent of the goal.

The pastor said he saw the response to the appeal as just one expression of the generosity of the parishioners.

“I think we’ve cultivated an atmosphere of people helping people,” he said. “Our mission here is to hear the Gospel and make a difference. We come back to that.”

An example of their generosity was seen in contributions that flowed to a basket in the church marked for Japan relief. With little fanfare, $11,000 made its way to help victims of last month’s earthquake and tsunami.

“That’s why the appeal was so successful,” he said, “the culture we’ve already developed of helping people.”

He said he had used the suggestion the bishop gave at meetings with pastors and parish leaders in January: Ask those who have given in the past what they have given in the past; for those who are making less income now, give less, for those making more, give more.

And for those who had never made a pledge, Father Joyce suggested 10 percent of one’s monthly income, divided into pledge installments. That’s the pledge he made.

At Church of the Assumption in San Leandro, Father Vincent Scott described his 1,200-family parish as “really, really generous.”

Although they have a speaker who talks about the appeal most years, it was the pastor who spoke about the appeal. “I told the parishioners, ‘I can’t ask you to do something I wouldn’t do myself.’” He also talked about the needs throughout the diocese that the appeal funds.

“I issued a challenge,” he said. If the parish met its goal and received a rebate, “We’d give 10 percent toward the tuition of a worthy seminarian.”

“In typical fashion, our people responded,” Father Scott said, “and turned around and gave $6,400 to Japan relief.”

Parishioners gave $25,510 — or 122 percent of their $20,830 goal — by March 30.

The parish, by the way, isn’t waiting for the rebate check to arrive before making good on its promise to assist in a seminarian’s tuition.

Among the other notable numbers from this year’s appeal: The number of online gifts jumped from six in 2010 to 38 so far in 2011. There are 162 gifts of $1,000 or more, up from 132 a year ago. And gifts from clergy have doubled from 16 to 32.

Not all parishes have completed their Bishop’s Appeal efforts. Some parishes collect monthly for the appeal.

Pledges and gifts can be made online (www.oakdiocese.org/development) or through parishes.

The Bishop’s Appeal will move into its next phase later this spring, when letters will be mailed to households that have not made a contribution.

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