CS&T Staff Report

The 2009 Catholic Charities Appeal got a solemn and enthusiastic kickoff Monday, April 27.

About 360 parish volunteers and their pastors joined Cardinal Justin Rigali as he led an evening Liturgy of the Word and Eucharistic Benediction at St. John the Evangelist Church in center city Philadelphia, followed by a short walk to a reception at the Crystal Tea Room.

In his homily at the liturgy, the Cardinal underscored the connection between Eucharistic Adoration and Jesus’ command to perform the corporal works of mercy which the appeal helps to fund.

“Our adoration of the Eucharist,” the Cardinal said, “gives us the strength, perseverance and joy we need to continue this magnificent tradition in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”

Judy Minnick of St. Matthew Parish in Conshohocken knows the tradition as well as anyone. By her count, she has been involved with encouraging Catholic parishioners to give to the appeal for more than 50 years, when she started to solicit as a teenager with her father.

“There are so many needy people today,” she said, “so we’re part of (the solution),” adding that her fellow parishioners “respond to any need in a truly Christian way,” especially through the appeal.

Cardinal Rigali noted that during the country’s current economic difficulties, “the appeal has increased in its importance. Men, women and children are in need of our services. An extraordinary number of jobs have been lost in the past year. There is an enormous burden on families and an increased need for necessary services.”

Through the appeal, he said, “We help as best we can.”

Michael Finnegan, a parishioner of St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother in New Garden, Chester County, sees the needs of people and the means to help them.

“We see a lot of need,” he said. The southern Chester County area in which his parish is located “is an area of contrast. We have wealthy people near needy people, and needy people with immigrant farm workers.”

He estimated that Latinos make up about 35 percent of the population of the area.

Many of the needs of families are met at Catholic Social Services’ Family Service Center in West Gove, which receives funds from the Catholic Charities Appeal.

The apparent needs, along with the people’s generosity, make his task of encouraging parishioners to donate to the appeal easier.

“It’s not much work to get people to help,” he said.

The dinner reception was a way to thank the volunteers and pastors for their work on behalf of the appeal. The Cardinal thanked them for their efforts both for the appeal and acknowledged that they themselves “are confronted with many challenges.”

Nevertheless, the parishioners and pastors are called by God “to collaborate in building the kingdom, and part of that is the Catholic Charities Appeal.”

The Cardinal concluded the evening by explaining what volunteers get from their involvement with the appeal. The Lord promises two things, the Cardinal said: “joy, happiness, a deep personal fulfillment and satisfaction here, and eternal life.”

“It’s a good deal,” he said.