Every year at this time we embark on a critically important campaign for our local Church: the Catholic Charities Appeal. Here’s why it’s so vital — especially now.

When we think of the Church, we usually think first of our own parish. That makes sense, because that’s where we live out most of our lives as Catholics. At our parishes we encounter Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and the Word of God. It’s where couples are married, babies are baptized, sins are confessed and families come together for the funerals of loved ones.

But a Catholic understanding of the Church is much broader than our parishes. In fact, each of our parishes is a local expression of the larger, archdiocesan Church. And each part of that larger Church, whether it be in the northern corner of Bucks County or the heart of Philadelphia, is an essential part of the body of Christ.

The Catholic Charities Appeal is a key way of contributing to that community of faith which is the Church in southeastern Pennsylvania. We believe that the Church is the ongoing presence of Christ in the world. We’re called as his Church to do as Jesus did, and that can be summarized in three simple duties.

The first thing the Church is called to do is to evangelize; in other words, to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, even when the Gospel message is unwelcome in the world around us.

The second mission of the Church is to build up the community of faith internally through education and fellowship.

The third thing the Church is called to do — and which our archdiocese always seeks to do — is to care for those who are in need, especially in rough economic times like today. Jesus didn’t require people to believe in him before he loved them, healed them or entered their lives. As a Church, we have the duty to be the presence of Jesus Christ in the lives of others, even those who are not believers.

This is why I’m glad, and proud, to ask our Catholic community for financial help through the Catholic Charities Appeal. Money is a vital means of assisting others. In fact, the Acts of the Apostles describe Peter and Paul as often taking up collections for the poor and for the Mother Church in Jerusalem.

Giving of our resources is an important sign of faith. All of us as believers, bishops and other clergy included, should tithe all that we have back to God — ideally, 10 percent of our incomes; but if that’s not possible, at least some regular, sacrificial percentage of our personal resources.

The more generous we are with God, the more God gives back to us. Our annual Catholic Charities Appeal campaign is — quite literally — the lifeblood of more than 80 archdiocesan ministries. The Appeal supports, in various ways, everything from our schools for special education, to Catholic Human Services, to youth and young adult ministry, to our pro-life efforts, to aid for our elderly and infirm priests. In other words, the Appeal is absolutely vital to the ongoing work of the Church in southeastern Pennsylvania.

I’m grateful for the gift of being called to Philadelphia to serve as your bishop. Because of that call, one of my duties is to invite each of you to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in your own lives. We should thank God every day for our time in this world, our families and our sustenance; and when we do, we should also remember the vocation God gave to each of us at our baptism: a vocation to help him remake and renew the world in Christ’s name.

The work of the Gospel won’t happen in a vacuum, and it can’t happen without the resources to pursue it. So please be as generous as possible this year when you’re asked to contribute to the Catholic Charities Appeal. Many, many deserving ministries depend on the success of the Appeal — which means, ultimately, that they depend on you and me. God bless you for your kindness.