By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – The country’s economic recession has not prevented Catholics from contributing to the archdiocesan capital and endowment campaign, “Heritage of Faith – Vision of Hope.”

At press time, $48 million had been raised in gifts and pledges through parish campaigns and leadership gifts toward the $200 million goal.

Sacred Heart Parish in Phoenixville, Chester County, has raised $316,000 to date, exceeding its goal of $295,000.

“I just took a deep breath and said, ‘We did it,'” said Father Michael W. Rzonca, pastor of Sacred Heart.

With its share of the money, the parish plans to refurbish the church’s wooden front doors and repaint the church’s interior.

“They are good people who respond to the needs,” Father Rzonca said of the parish’s 650 registered families. “This is another way that they said, ‘We want to keep things going and we stand by the church.'”

Thirty-five cents of every dollar raised in a parish will remain with it. As cash payments are received on pledges up to the parish’s established goal, proceeds will be shared: 35 percent to the parish and 65 percent to the Archdiocese. Money raised above a parish’s goal will be shared 65 percent to the parish and 35 percent to the Archdiocese.

The key to running a successful campaign, Father Rzonca said, is reinforcing that “we are all a part of the Church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. As long as we participate and work hand-in-hand, our future is going to be a good one.”

St. Philip Neri Parish in the Queen Village section of Philadelphia has raised $198,000 to date, exceeding its goal of $190,000. The parish has 411 registered families. “Our parishioners have been very generous, even during these difficult times,” said Father James M. Oliver, pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish.

With its share of the money, St. Philip’s plans to refurbish the church’s tile floor, sanctuary marble, statuary, pews and kneelers. The parish’s campaign case statement also calls for restoring the façades of the buildings of its nearby worship site, St. Stanislaus.

St. Callistus Parish in the Overbrook section of the city has raised nearly $141,000, exceeding its goal of $125,000. The parish has 325 registered families on its roster.

It plans to refurbish the roofs of the church and rectory, purchase a new piano or organ and reconfigure the pews where the choir currently sings.

“It’s very encouraging any time there are improvements made to the parish because it speaks of the life of the parish,” said Capuchin Franciscan Father John D. Harvey, the pastor.

Father Harvey credits his parishioners’ receptiveness to the campaign to the fact that the parish receives a share of money solely for the causes outlined in its case statement and that the archdiocesan case statement includes funds “for direct aid to people – not just to the care of buildings.”

The archdiocesan campaign runs through June 2010 and supports all aspects of the local Church. It began with a planning phase last April as the Archdiocese concluded its Bicentennial celebration.

Resources will be allocated in six areas: the 269 parishes; Catholic education; the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul; St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood; clergy retirement; and to the three branches of the Archdiocese’s Catholic Human Services: Catholic Social Services, Catholic Health Care Services and Nutritional Development Services.

Forty percent of the total money raised, or $80 million, will be distributed to the parishes of the Archdiocese. Of that amount, $10 million will support the Interparochial Cooperation Commission, an archdiocesan endowment fund for needy parishes.

The campaign is currently under way in 56 parishes.

Parishes participate in the campaign on a track schedule in four-month increments. After a pilot group of 12 parishes started their respective campaigns last September, parishes in the first track officially embarked on the effort this past January. The final track of parishes begins the campaign in January 2010.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or