Shrinking participation in the Bishop’s Annual Appeal for Ministries and the falling donations that have followed threaten to put a crimp in many ministries provided throughout the Diocese of Nashville, including reaching out to the poor and bringing the good news of the Gospel to all.
“We have half the participation in the Appeal that we had eight years ago,” said William Whalen, chief financial officer for the diocese.
Diocesan officials hope to reverse that trend with the 2015 Bishop’s Annual Appeal for Ministries, which will be launched on the weekend of Jan. 24-25, Announcement Sunday.
“We encounter Jesus in those we serve: the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, the children, the elderly and those seeking a closer relationship with God,” Bishop David Choby said in a letter encouraging people to donate to the Appeal. “It allows us to encounter God’s love when we serve others, through stewardship, service and sacrifice.”
In 2007, more than 7,600 people made donations to the Appeal, but that number fell to about 3,500 in 2013, with most of the losses coming among people who give donations of $99 and less or $100 to $499.
The other giving categories are holding steady and the largest donors, those who give more than $5,000, actually have increased the total amount given from $306,987 to $319,328, Whalen said.
The total amount of money collected from the Appeal has fallen from $2.3 million in 2007 to $1.65 million in 2013.
Last year $2,082,000 was spent on ministries, including Catholic Charities of Tennessee’s North Nashville Outreach Program, prison ministry, campus ministry, religious education, St. Mary Villa Child Development Center, youth ministry, rural parishes, communities of ethnic Catholics such as the Korean, Vietnamese and Coptic Catholic communities, among others.
Only about $1.6 million was collected from the Appeal, which meant the diocese had to make up the difference of about $500,000, Whalen said. By comparison, the Diocese of Knoxville, which is a smaller diocese than Nashville, raised $2.26 million in its annual appeal, Whalen said.
The amount the diocese can afford to spend on ministries has decreased as collections from the Appeal have fallen, even as the needs are greater, Whalen said.
The goal is for the Appeal to raise enough money to pay the full cost of all of the pastoral ministries of the diocese, Whalen said.
“If we had more … it would be used to provide more assistance” for elementary school tuition, helping the poor through Catholic Charities’ programs, campus ministry, religious education and child day care, as well as other ministries, Whalen said.
“We’re trying to improve communication about how the Appeal money is used, and maintaining the focus and transparency so people understand why it’s collected and the good it does for the Catholic community,” Whalen added.
The campaign will be launched at Masses the weekend of Jan. 24 and 25 with Announcement Sunday, when parishes will announce this year’s goal and talk about the thousands who benefit from the services the Bishop’s Annual Appeal of Ministries helps to fund.
Pledge Sunday will be the weekend of Jan. 30 and Feb. 1, when parishioners will be asked to fill out their pledge cards to support the Appeal. A message from Bishop Choby will be read at all the Masses.
Catholics throughout the Diocese of Nashville will be asked to participate at a level comfortable to them.
There will be a Follow-up Sunday the weekend of Feb. 7-8 for those who need more time to consider their pledges.
The Diocese of Nashville Office of Stewardship and Development will mail monthly envelopes and a statement of account directly to donors to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal for Ministries, whether they are pledgers or monthly or occasional donors. Those who choose a quarterly contribution option will receive their mailing of a statement and contribution envelope in March, June, September and December.
Also, envelopes for contributions will be included in the monthly envelope packets. Those parishes that use box sets will be provided envelopes to make available to their parishioners.
The diocese is continuing a program it began last year to help parishes. If a parish exceeds its goal for the Appeal, the extra money collected will revert back to the parish to use as it wishes, Whalen said.
For more information about the Appeal or assistance in making a pledge, contact Sandra Jordan, diocesan director of grants and annual giving at (615) 783-0267 or Sandra.firstname.lastname@example.org.
A group of high school students joins hands in prayer at a SEARCH retreat weekend offered by the Catholic Youth Office of the Diocese of Nashville. The Catholic Youth Office, SEARCH, Scouting, and similar programs are some of the youth ministeries sponsored by the Diocese of Nashville that provide the basis on which to build strong parishes through leadership development, faith formation, and community outreach.