Bishop’s Annual Appeal Strengthens (Andy Telli, Tennessee Register)

Posted 01/27/2017

The 2017 Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries, which raises money to support a wide variety of programs in the Diocese of Nashville that help those in need and support people on their faith journey, will begin in February.

"We encounter Jesus in those we serve: the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, the children, the elderly, those seeking a closer relation-ship with God and in those who show us mercy," wrote Bishop David Choby. "The Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries provides to us a way to serve those in need and gives us opportunities to be merciful. By supporting the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries, we support our local ministries and programs that serve others. It allows us to encounter God's goodness, love, and grace when we serve others, through acts of mercy, service, and sacrifice.

"As in years past, the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries will continue to support service to the poor and vulnerable, pastoral outreach, social service, youth ministry, Catholic education, evangelization efforts, and more," the bishop added. "You make these great works possible for our diocese. Your efforts have impacted countless lives for Christ. Together we participate in advancing the Church's mission here in Middle Tennessee."

The appeal will begin at weekend Masses on Announcement Weekend, Jan. 28 and 29. Pastors will inform parishioners about the needs that the appeal helps to meet, and that they will be receiving a mailing in the coming week explaining the appeal.

Pledge Weekend, when parishioners will be asked to make a pledge to the appeal, will be held Super Bowl Weekend, Feb. 4-5, said Bill Whalen, chief financial officer of the diocese.

Follow-up Weekend will be held Feb. 11 and 12 to collect pledges from parishioners who were unable to turn in their pledge the previous week.

Among the ministries that the appeal helps support are:

• General Ministries, which includes: a diocesan assistance fund, Calvary Cemetery, Camp Marymount, the Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission and prison ministry.

• Campus Ministries, which includes serving the spiritual needs of students at Austin Peay University, Belmont University, Fisk University and Meharry Medical College, Lipscomb University, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University and Vanderbilt University.

Catholic Charities Programs, which includes: adoption counseling, adoption support and preservation program, Adult Day Program/Elder Care, Caring Choices, family counseling, pregnancy counseling.

• Chaplain Ministry, which serves the needs of people at Fort Campbell, Middle Tennessee area hospitals, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, and the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Nashville.

• Church Ministry, which includes support for the Coptic, Korean and Vietnamese communities, parish assistance and rural parishes.

• Religious Education, which includes: adult formation, catechetical formation/catechist training, engaged couples formation, lifelong catechetics, religious education and the Totus Tuus catechetics program.

• Youth Ministries, which includes: Catholic school assistance, CYO-Youth ministry, Saint Mary Villa Child Development Center, schools athletic office, Scouting program and SEARCH.

Catholic Charities is one of the largest recipients of support from the appeal. The money helps Catholic Charities support young mothers with unplanned pregnancies, help homeless families with children secure housing and provide them support for at least a year as they become self-sufficient, counsel children in Catholic schools who are struggling with problems at home, support families and children who are victims of abuse, and support frail elderly persons sustain their ability to live independently in their own home, said Bill Sinclair, the agency's executive director.

"Catholic Charities is grateful to the Bishop's Annual Appeal," Sinclair said. "These funds enable us to provide a critical safety net to thousands of our neighbors who are poor and vulnerable."

The goal for this year's appeal is $1.9 million, Whalen said. "The need is significant," he said.

The goal for the 2016 Appeal, which officially closes on Jan. 31, was $1.8 million but is trending to raise $1.7 million, which is the latest in a string of several years of the appeal falling short of its goal, Whalen said.

"In 2007, which was our high water mark, the diocese raised $2.3 million," from about 7,200 donors, Whalen said. But after the financial crisis of 2008-09, the appeal fell to $1.5 million from about 2,800 donors, he added.

"It's risen now back up to $1.7 million with the support of about 3,200 people," Whalen said.

The number of donors pledging larger amounts has remained constant, Whalen said. "Where I've lost is people who give $10, $20, $50," he said. "We're not necessarily asking people to give more, we're trying to ask more people to give."

An increase in the amount raised through the appeal will help the diocese avoid painful cuts to funding for ministries in the future, Whalen said.

Each parish has a goal based on the parish's past performance in the appeal, the number of registered families, and its financial strength, Whalen said. "The goal is designed to be reached," he said.

"Approximately 50 percent of parishes hit their goals," Whalen said. In 2015, 35 out of 55 parishes in the diocese reached their goal, which helped create an increase in the amount pledged from the previous year. In 2016, the number of parishes meeting their goal will drop to 29 while the total amount pledged will also drop.

When people ask how much they should pledge, Whalen suggests they pledge to give every month an amount equal to what they contribute to the weekly collection at their parish, he said.

Some prefer to make a one-time donation and others to pay quarterly, Whalen said, but more typical are monthly payments. "It's designed to be collected over a 12-month period," from February through the following January, he said.

Anyone who pledges to give monthly or quarterly will receive periodic statements from the diocese.

"Our ministries and programs depend on your support to be able to serve our community in Middle Tennessee," Bishop Choby wrote. "In considering our own acts of mercy and our response to God's gifts in our lives, we must think about God's goodness and mercy toward us.

"There are more than 50 of these programs and ministries in the diocese and the Bishop's Annual Appeal supports many of them. These ministries and programs depend on your support to provide for those in need," he added. "Through your support of the Bishop's Annual Appeal for Ministries, you provide resources for the ministries and programs that provide for the redemptive work of Jesus."

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