The Philadelphia Archdiocese kicked off its largest and most important fundraiser this morning, as Archbishop Nelson Pérez formally launched the 2022 Catholic Charities Appeal (CCA).

With a goal of $12.5 million intended for some 180 beneficiary ministries within the five-county archdiocesan area, the initiative lives up to its theme of “Giving Hope to All,” said the archbishop.

“Compassion and love are at the heart of this appeal,” he said. “A donation to the CCA provides a second chance and the opportunity for a better life through hundreds of local ministries.”

Last year alone, more than 295,000 individuals received support from archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS), the largest beneficiary of the appeal, said CCA president Bill Phelan.

Overall, the CCA “(touches) the lives of almost one million people in need a year,” said Archbishop Pérez. “That’s amazing, utterly amazing.”

On a daily basis, hundreds rely on critical interventions made possible by the CCA, such as food, crisis pregnancy counseling, prenatal care, parenting education, rental and utility aid and tuition assistance for special education, Phelan said.

COVID-19 intensified the area’s reliance on ministries receiving funding from the CCA, he added.

“With so many people out of work due to the pandemic and with food insecurity on the rise, we need our beneficiary services to grow immensely,” said Phelan.

Archbishop Nelson Pérez (left) speaks with Catholic Charities Appeal (CCA) president Bill Phelan (center) and archdiocesan Secretary for Human Services James Amato (right) after a Jan. 24 press conference announcing the launch of the 2022 CCA campaign. (Sarah Webb)

During its fiscal year 2021, archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services (NDS) – a CCA beneficiary for the past 49 years – distributed “the equivalent of just over 2.2 million meals to individuals and families across the archdiocese,” said the agency’s executive director, Lizanne Hagedorn.

Amid supply chain disruptions and social distancing, Hagedorn and her team pivoted from their typical business model — stocking a network of some 50 food cupboards — to sponsoring 14 mass distributions of “thousands of family food boxes, children’s meal kits, casseroles and fresh produce,” she said.

With the help of the CCA, NDS works to “(nourish) the body and spirit of those we encounter each day,” said Hagedorn. “Your gift to the appeal matters, for it is in the giving that the compassion and mercy of the Christ, who fed the 5,000, is poured out, so one day all may be fed and satisfied.”

The appeal also “shares God’s love” with some of the area’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations, such as women and children wounded by domestic violence, said Kate Baumgardner, program director of Visitation Homes in the city’s Kensington neighborhood.

Operated by CSS, the ministry provides 18 fully furnished apartments for families in homelessness. Clients, who are referred by Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services, have experienced a range of “mental health issues, substance abuse, domestic and intimate partner violence,” Baumgardner said.

She described herself and coworkers Zakiyah Harris and Shawna Murray as “protective big sisters” who “motivate, support and love (the) families” and “empower them to overcome the hard parts about their past.”

Baumgardner said Visitation clients “are often looked down on by their own families because of past mistakes.”

“We assure them they are not alone,” she said. “We help them see a vision for their family that they could not, because it is clouded by trauma.”

Thanks to the program’s resources, Baumgardner noted, one client has begun prerequisite coursework for nursing school while simultaneously working a local child care center.

Donating just one dollar a day to the CCA as a “Partner in Hope” can transform thousands of lives, said Sarah Hanley, president and CEO of The Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia, which has managed the CCA since 2013.

Hanley said she was “overwhelmed” by donors’ consistently strong response to the CCA over the years, and the archbishop urged a similar commitment to the 2022 campaign.

“This year, I’m asking you to be an instrument of hope,” said Archbishop Pérez. “Every day lives are transformed, changed, touched and given hope because of your generosity.”