An usher uses a collection basket during Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Patrick's Pro-Cathedral in Newark, N.J., March 1. Almsgiving, or donating money or goods to the poor, is one of the three pillars of the church's Lenten practices along with prayer and fasting. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) See LENT-ALMSGIVING March 3, 2017.

(CNS file photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Several national collections taken up last year at local Catholic churches showed the generosity of Philadelphia archdiocesan parishioners.

The National Religious Retirement Office expressed its gratitude to Archbishop Charles Chaput in a letter dated March 20 for the archdiocese’s contribution of $106,449 for the Retirement Fund for Religious collection in 2017.

Since 1988 when the collection began, Philadelphia archdiocesan parishioners have contributed $4.3 million to the collection. The money raised supports 32,000 elderly sisters, brothers and religious-order priests and their religious congregations in the United States.

“Proceeds offer much-needed support for medications, nursing care and other day-to-day necessities,” wrote Sister Stephanie Still, P.B.V.M., executive director of the fund, in her letter to the archbishop.

A portion of the appeal also underwrites long-term retirement planning which helps the religious communities to “reduce costs, enhance eldercare and identify additional sources of income,” Sister Stephanie wrote.

She added in a handwritten postscript: “Thank you to you and your parishioners for this very generous support of our mission.”

The religious retirement office is sponsored by the national leadership of women and men religious and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Parishioner support also extended overseas as evidenced by the local support for the annual Peter’s Pence collection in July 2017 that contributed $398,162 to the pope’s work to respond to human suffering from war, oppression, natural disasters and disease around the world.

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, an official with the Vatican Secretariat of State, wrote in a letter to Archbishop Chaput that Pope Francis offered his thanks for the contribution and “is aware of the sacrifice this collection entailed and that the faithful were motivated by love of Jesus Christ and fidelity to the See of Peter.”

The pope imparted his apostolic blessing, according to Archbishop Becciu, upon Archbishop Chaput “and the clergy, religious and laity of the archdiocese (and) grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The next Peter’s Pence collection is scheduled to be taken up in archdiocesan parishes this year on the weekend of June 23-24.

Also in 2017, Philadelphia-area Catholics contributed $275,224 to the collection for the church in Latin America, sponsored by the USCCB.

The funds benefit the Catholic Church’s efforts to share the faith with residents in more than 23 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a letter to Archbishop Chaput by Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, MSpS, chairman of the collection office.

The collection for this year was taken up last January.

Finally, although a smaller amount than the national collections, a contribution by the Philadelphia Archdiocese in the amount of $5,317 was acknowledged by the Archdiocese of Onitsha in Nigeria for the Missionary Cooperation Plan.

Many U.S. dioceses participate in arrangements with overseas dioceses in which foreign missionaries speak in local parishes to raise missionary awareness among parishioners. Their donations in turn help the missionary organizations in their work of evangelization and to maintain their local congregations, seminaries and convents.

Archbishop Valerian M. Okeke of Onitsha thanked Archbishop Chaput in a letter expressing hope that the relationship between the two archdioceses “will continue to grow stronger and better in the near future and will extend to other possible areas.

“We pray God to be gracious to you all, now and always,” Archbishop Okeke wrote.