The Diocese of Oakland's Bishop's Appeal, the annual fund-raising effort to assist Catholic services, has hit a record $2.8 million in donations and pledges.
"We exceeded our goal of $2.5 million with $2.808 million raised, 12 percent over goal, and a 40 percent increase from 2012," said Ken Hokenson, diocesan executive director of mission advancement.
"The cooperation and collaboration of the pastors, parish staffs and Bishop Barber's commitment to transparency and accountability, encouraged more people to contribute larger contributions," he said.
"In my short time here in the Diocese of Oakland, I have been impressed by the depth and scope of the genuine faith that propels our Catholic community in its love of God and passion for the Gospel. … Your gifts to the 2014 Bishop's Appeal, and those of your diocesan brothers and sisters, provide the means for essential ministries and programs, which serve thousands throughout the East Bay," Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, wrote in a letter thanking donors.
"I have found the faith community of the East Bay to be filled with the fire and spirit of service and mission to each other and the greater community. …With your gift, we are truly able to live out our mission to know Christ better and make Him better known."
The appeal helps pay for programs critical to the life of the diocese, including seminarian education, priest retirement, Catholic education, emergency parish repairs and social services.
It should not be confused with the current diocesan Capital Campaign — Reclaiming Christ's Mission Together.
"The Capital Campaign is about major capital undertakings or endowment building," Hokenson said. "The appeal is the annual operating cash for central administration ministries."
More than two dozen ministries and programs in the Diocese of Oakland depend on the support of generous donors to the annual Bishop's Appeal. Catholic Youth Organization, for example, builds Christian sportsmanship in tens of thousands of young people involved in school and parish-based teams in sports including basketball, cross-country, volleyball and track and field. And an emergency fund to support local parishes can save the day when the roof leaks or plumbing breaks down.
One area of seeming overlap between the appeal and the Capital Campaign, Hokenson said, is the priest retirement benefit trust. "It needed a cash infusion because it is unfunded as are most pension plans and the priests are living longer than projected when the trust was set up."
The daily operations of ministries and programs supported by the Bishop's Appeal will be funded through the Capital Campaign in 2015, with $4 million of its $65 million goal directed toward them. The Bishop's Appeal will return in 2016.
The 2014 Bishop's Appeal drew 12,808 donors, about 9 percent of the registered families in the diocese, with an average gift of $219.25.
On a national average, dioceses similar in size to Oakland raise $5 million in their annual appeals, about double what Oakland raises, with greater participation, about 21 percent of their registered members.
Capital Campaign moves into second phase of parish meetings
The second phase of the diocesan "Reclaiming Christ's Mission Together" Capital Campaign involving about 45 parishes has begun with a series of 175 local receptions that will explain the purpose of the campaign.
At a kick-off to the second phase at the Cathedral Event Center in Oakland on Jan. 22, attended by about 200 parish volunteers and clergy from Block 2, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, thanked the attendees for "responding to the call of the Lord."
Campaign Chair Steve Wilcox explained the $65 million campaign priorities: to strengthen parishes and parish life, to expand social services and support our ministries, promote Catholic education and to stabilize the diocese's financial situation.
The campaign began last year and will continue through this summer. Donors generally pledge an amount over four years.
"We've had some good success," Wilcox said, citing results from the 32 parishes in Block 1 hitting 70 percent of their goal. "But why not better?"
"The issue is participation. We believe when people have heard the message of the campaign, they've given and given generously," Wilcox said, thanking the volunteers.
That some people may be reluctant to commit is a "question of trust," said Bishop Barber, noting the diocese has had four bishops in the last 10 years.
"When I met with the Holy Father in Rome," the bishop said, Pope Francis assured the bishop he was here for the long haul.
"We have a cathedral," he said. "Come and see the cathedral. It is being used for the purpose it was built," he said, noting diocesanwide events such as the annual pilgrimage for Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mass for Catholic school eighth-graders and priest ordinations.
"A lot of Catholics think the church is rich, and they don't have to give" Bishop Barber said. But that's like people who go out to dinner with you and never pick up the tab.
"We rely on people's generosity. We need the participation of every family in our diocese," he said.
"We can always share something," Bishop Barber said. Make a sacrifice each week of a cup of coffee — it will add up. "Will you buy Jesus a latte?" the bishop asked.
Kelly Storrs, an executive with Guidance in Giving Inc., the firm helping conduct the Capital Campaign, explained the process volunteer leaders follow to approach parishioners:
Every parishioner should be invited via phone call, mail and at Mass to a reception, where they are informed what the campaign is about. Volunteers will follow up, making as many efforts at personal contact as possible.
Father Larry Young, pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Rodeo, shared his experience as a Block 1 pastor. St. Patrick exceeded its parish goal of $652,883, raising $710,790. More than 300 parishioners made pledges or gifts to the campaign.
Father Young spoke about the initial concerns expressed by some: "If they have complaints, let them express it and get over it."
Priests must participate or people will say, "'Father doesn't care.' The people need to have you there. They want to know we (the clergy) are invested in it," he said.
Volunteers need to feel loved, needed and wanted, he advised, and "they'll produce."
"If you have a school, every parent, Catholic or not, should get a letter." At St. Patrick School, even school kids raised money, and felt good about being a part of the campaign effort, Father Young said.
"The enthusiasm of the parish depends on if you buy into it," Father Young advised. "Don't underestimate the need for food," Father Young said. "Send thanks to everyone. And don't be afraid to answer questions and explain the local impact" of each parish getting back 25 percent of the money raised.
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