At least that’s the way it was when it was started by Archbishop John F. O’Hara in 1958, with John Connelly as the charity drive’s chairman.
Corporate fundraising began in March but Sunday, May 4 was the day an army of volunteer solicitors in every parish visited every registered Catholic household. Back then the final collection was approximately $2 million and that was wonderful considering the goal was $1.6 million.
Today solicitation tends to be year-round, which is reasonable considering the needs are year-round. This year the goal is $12.5 million, according to Gina DeColli, director of marketing and communication for the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia, which conducts the drive.
To put the goal in perspective, according to inflation calculators that $2 million raised in 1958 would be $17.5 million in today’s money, so that $12.5 million goal is certainly reasonable.
What the drive is really about is hope, as Archbishop Charles Chaput stressed in a special message for the Catholic Charities Appeal.
“The gift of hope is a precious treasure especially for those on the verge of despair,” he said. “It is the hope of the homeless person that the world has not completely forgotten him. It is the hope of a mother that a quality education is possible for her special needs child. It is the hope of the immigrant struggling with a new language in a new land. It is the hope of the church herself for new priestly vocations.”
That army of Holy Name Society and Knights of Columbus members ringing doorbells in a single day is no longer available so fundraising has to be a bit imaginative — a little here, a little there, and it does add up.
For example, a drive conducted in the Catholic schools netted $46,600 thanks to dress-down days and other fun enticements to stimulate donors.
Top contributor for the high schools was Bishop Shanahan, Downingtown, with $3,500 and for the elementary schools Our Lady of Calvary School, Philadelphia came in with a very nice $5,000.
“We have a great school community and our parents and families are extremely generous especially to those in need,” said Jeanne Costello, assistant principal at 920-student Our Lady of Calvary.
As a matter of fact, the school raises funds for different causes almost every week, with other recent collections being juvenile diabetes and autism, according to Costello. And yes, the students will get a dress down day for their generosity to the Catholic Charities drive.
“Catholic School Students for Catholic Charities Appeal is a powerful double blessing,” said David Ripsom, the chair for the 2017 Catholic Charities Appeal who is a member of St. Cornelius Parish in Chadds Ford and retired president and CEO of Nuclear Electric Insurance Ltd. “The special needs schools received significant and much-needed funding. Equally special is the wonderful blessing experienced by all the participating school students in the power of giving to others and learning that at a very formative time in their lives.”
The Catholic Charities Appeal has a number of levels of offering. A new one begun last is year is Partners in Hope, which asks for a donation of $365 a year, or a dollar a day. (No, you are not expected to write a separate dollar check every day, but you get the idea.)
”We’ve been promoting this to donors as a way to make an impact all year round,” DeColli said. “We ask that they donate $1 a day to support virtually every aspect of Catholic life for enrichment and improvement.” Some of the causes it could support include meals for the homeless, baby formula for infants, summer programs for kids and equipment for schools for kids with special needs, just to mention a few of the beneficiaries of the Catholic Charities Appeal’s outreach.
Another initiative that raises an amount of money in itself, but also promotes the message of the appeal, is a “Night at the Phillies,” which this year will be held on June 14 as the Phillies host the Boston Red Sox. A highlight of the night will be young people benefitting from Catholic Charities participating in various ceremonies.
By the way, this is the first of only two games between the Phillies and the Red Sox in Philly this year. Last year the Sox finished first in the AL East and the Phillies finished fourth in the NL East. This year the Sox aren’t doing quite as well, but the Phillies appear to have improved. Charity aside, it should be good game. But win or lose it is a great cause.
Tickets are in Pavilion 301-305, Pavilion 201-205 and Outfield, ranging in price from $20 to $35 with a substantial portion going to the Charities Appeal.
For more information on Partners in Hope, a list of all of the beneficiaries of the Catholic Charities Appeal or to purchase tickets for the Phillies-Red Sox game see CatholicCharitiesAppeal.org.