The Archdiocese of Baltimore is challenging Maryland Catholics to surpass last year’s record-setting fundraising in the annual Archbishop’s Lenten Appeal.
The name of the benefit – formerly known as the Cardinal’s Lenten Appeal from 1995 to 2007 – was changed to reflect the rank of Baltimore’s new prelate, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien. This year’s fundraising goal is $6.5 million.
Last year the Lenten appeal exceeded its $6 million goal by more than $200,000, marking the first time the Archdiocese of Baltimore met and surpassed its annual fundraising benchmark since it was established in 1992.
The appeal was set up to provide crucial funding for education, outreach to the poor, and many Catholic ministries and special programs in the archdiocese.
Bishop Denis J. Madden, urban vicar, gathered pastors and parishioners of Baltimore City churches Jan. 30 to strategize and inspire local Catholics to dig deeper into their pockets during the season of Lent, which is a time of almsgiving.
“It’s providential that we are called to serve this way to help our brothers and sisters who are in need,” Bishop Madden said. “Everything we have is a gift from God. It never was ours to begin with. We are just stewards.”
In the past, parishes have employed creative techniques in soliciting Lenten Appeal contributions from fellow Catholics, he said.
For instance, St. Leo, Little Italy, holds an annual dinner, during which time patrons are urged to be generous to the campaign.
“We have a meal every Wednesday during the season of Lent as a way of coming together socially,” said Father Joseph G. Bochenek, pastor of St. Brigid, Canton. “We take that opportunity to let people know about the Lenten Appeal and to encourage them to contribute.”
Parish Lenten Appeal leaders routinely organize volunteers to call church members, talk to parishioners after church and hold group meetings to show the video message produced by the archdiocesan development office. The video highlights programs that benefit from the drive, said Robert J. Brown, director of development for the urban vicariate.
Some 180,000 letters were mailed in the beginning of February to remind area Catholics the Lenten Appeal has commenced and to urge a generous response.
“Since its inception in 1992, the Lenten Appeal has raised over $62 million and this generosity has had an incredible impact in the lives of thousands of people,” Archbishop O’Brien said in the letter.
The new archbishop of Baltimore will follow up his appeal to Catholics with a personal message from the pulpit during the 11 a.m. Mass Feb. 17 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Homeland. He will repeat this plea at the 9:30 a.m. Feb. 24 Mass at Our Lady of the Fields, Millersville, and the 10:45 a.m. March 2 Mass at St. Ann, Hagerstown.
In the next few weeks Maryland Catholics will begin receiving packets in the mail demonstrating the importance of participation in the Lenten Appeal and the options parishioners have in donating – be it online, through the mail or from envelopes handed out in their churches.
Though large gifts are always welcomed, organizers stressed small contributions fuel the campaign.
Last year 25,300 gifts were offered, with an average contribution of $243.
“We post our Lenten Appeal progress on our bulletin board, so everyone can see it as they enter the church,” said Monsignor Damien Nalepa, pastor of St. Gregory the Great, Baltimore. “It’s a constant reminder to our parishioners. We also hope it sparks their competitive spirit.”
Last year’s Lenten Appeal funds were given to archdiocesan schools – mostly for tuition assistance, outreach programs for the poor through Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, and pastoral endeavors, including prison ministries, Hispanic ministries, deaf ministries and housing ministries.
In 2008 the archdiocese hopes to add a $20,000 donation to Camp GLOW (God Loves Our World) in Sparks, a weeklong camp for adults who are developmentally disabled, Mr. Brown said.
“May this Lenten season draw you near to our Lord Jesus in his way of profound love and selfless giving,” Archbishop O’Brien said in his appeal letter. “Let us keep each other and the individuals and families we seek to serve in our prayers.”