By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

Students at St. Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments in Philadelphia recently collected money for the Catholic Charities Appeal to demonstrate how much they appreciate being counted among the recipients of the Archdiocese’s annual springtime fund-raiser.

The Catholic Charities Appeal supports social service and special education programs of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

“My mom and dad gave me some money, then I put it in the jar in the chapel – and it made me feel really happy,” said 9-year-old John Dowling, a St. Lucy student.

“It’s good for them to be able to share and to give back so much of what has been given to them through Catholic Charities,” said St. Lucy’s principal, Sister M. Margaret Fleming, I.H.M.

St. Lucy School is one of many schools across the Archdiocese participating in Nickels for Neighbors, the youth-sponsored campaign of the Catholic Charities Appeal.

The campaign includes coins and bills of all denominations – from allowances saved to school-sponsored dress-down days. After students pool their money at their respective schools, each school writes a check to the Catholic Charities Appeal for the total their students collectively raised.

On April 29 – three days before Catholic Charities Appeal Sunday and one day after Cardinal Justin Rigali officially kicked off the 2010 appeal – student representatives from 58 schools delivered checks to Auxiliary Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, chairman of the Catholic Charities Appeal, at a pep rally-like event in the gymnasium of Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor, Delaware County.

It was a festive gathering, as the youths were entertained by jugglers, a man on stilts, clowns from Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown and a mascot, band and cheerleaders from Archbishop Carroll High.

The students also received a personal thank you from Bishop McFadden and Deacon John K. Hunter, a permanent deacon at St. Hilary of Poitiers Parish in Rydal, Montgomery County, who serves as the executive director of the archdiocesan Office for Development, the office that coordinates the appeal.

“It’s a great day for the Church of Philadelphia, and it’s a great day for our neighbors who are in need,” Bishop McFadden said. “What we celebrate today is our love for our brothers and sisters. It’s what Jesus calls us to do – to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”

Returns from schools not present at the rally continue to pour into the Office for Development, which anticipates meeting or exceeding the $65,600 raised through last year’s Nickels for Neighbors.

At press time, Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Southampton, Bucks County, had collected the most money, $3,566, followed by Bishop Shanahan High at $2,500 and St. Cornelius School in Chadds Ford, Chester County, at $2,000.

“It’s great to see the outpouring of support from each grade level – from the youngest kids all the way up to eighth grade,” said 14-year-old Colton Shaw, an eighth-grader and student council president at Our Lady of Good Counsel School. “We have a great religion program that really instills respect for each other,” he said.

Julia Marchetti, 14, an eighth-grader and president of the Respect Life Club at Our Lady of Good Counsel, also praised the student body for banding together for those less fortunate. “I’m glad we can help so many people,” she said.

Cardinal Rigali officially kicked off the campaign April 28 at St. Helena Church in Blue Bell, Montgomery County. He served as celebrant and homilist at a 6:15 p.m. Liturgy of the Word and Eucharistic Benediction. A dinner followed in the parish ballroom.

“We are about to launch our 2010 annual Catholic Charities Appeal, which assists over one-quarter of a million people every year throughout the Archdiocese,” the Cardinal said in his homily.

“In light of our difficult economy, this year’s Catholic Charities Appeal has increased in its importance because of the many men, women and children who are in need of our services. Families that have brought food to our food cupboards are now coming to be fed themselves. There is an extremely large number of jobs that have been lost over the past year, which has placed an enormous financial burden on families.

“People who find themselves in despair make life-altering decisions that come from their desperation. We as Catholics recognize the need to help.”

Deacon Hunter said the appeal theme, “You Gave Me Hope,” underscored Christ’s call. “Jesus is asking us to hear the cry of the poor and follow His example by helping them. That’s exactly what our appeal does.”

This year’s goal is $10 million. Deacon Hunter asked “not for people to give more, but for more people to give.”

No gift is too small, Bishop McFadden followed in his remarks. “I want to thank you for all the work that you will do in the next two months in encouraging parishioners of your various parishes to be generous to this year’s Catholic Charities Appeal.”

Amy Stoner, assistant director of the Archdiocese’s Catholic Social Services’ Family Service Centers in Philadelphia, was the guest speaker. She told a story about a woman she encountered on an elevator the previous day whose children are in foster care through CSS. The woman, who was crying, told Stoner she missed her children. Stoner calmed the woman and encouraged her.

“I know that she’s not alone,” Stoner said. “I know there are hundreds of mothers tonight that are crying over the children they don’t have with them because they’re in foster care or because they’ve been separated. And I know there is a social worker on the fourth floor of our building who is working so hard with her to help her to get it right and to be the best parent that she can be. And that gives me hope.”

Stoner introduced several CSS colleagues who create hope for families in some of the city’s most challenging and distressed neighborhoods.

In closing remarks, Cardinal Rigali encouraged the appeal workers, quoting St. Paul: “Help bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

And that, the Cardinal concluded, is what the Catholic Charities Appeal is all about.