By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published January 6, 2011
The Archbishop’s Annual Appeal is set to begin—for the first time in many years beginning and ending within the year—from January to December.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory announced the changes to the schedule for the Annual Appeal last fall—changes intended to simplify the process and synchronize the Appeal with the calendar year.
“We are making changes to both the timing and the method of the appeal,” said Steve Siler, who is the executive director of stewardship for the Atlanta Archdiocese. For some time, the annual campaign has commenced in October with the next year’s campaign beginning before the previous year’s campaign had officially ended.
He said, “This system was confusing to both our parishioner donors and to most of us responsible for running the appeal.”
It also conflicted, he noted, with fall offertory renewal efforts in many of the parishes—many churches hold their stewardship weekends in the fall.
The annual fundraising effort by the archdiocese, the Annual Appeal raises essential funds for the important ministries, programs and services of the church. In a letter being sent to donors, Archbishop Gregory said, “Each year I come to you with great humility, recognizing my dependence on your steadfast generosity to meet the many spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of people in north and central Georgia.” He asks Catholics to consider thanking God for their many blessings by “making a general pledge to this year’s Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.”
The Appeal will now include a direct appeal from pastors at Mass, walking parishioners through the appeal pledge form and encouraging them to make pledges during an “in-pew” process on Commitment Weekend, Feb. 26-27. A follow-up weekend will repeat the process to invite those who haven’t yet pledged.
Siler said, “Those pledge forms will be collected, and pledge reminders will be sent to parishioners over the course of the year.”
He added, “The process is designed to move quickly and be as unobtrusive to the liturgy as possible while at the same time more effectively inviting parishioners to support the Appeal.”
The intent, he said, is to tightly focus the attention of the parish on the Appeal for a very short time.
“Once success is achieved, the pastor will not have to return to parishioners again and again throughout the year to ask for gifts to make up for the parish’s shortfall,” he said.
Siler, who has served the archdiocese as stewardship director since 2008, hopes that the changes will lead to more participation in the Appeal, helping parishes to exceed their goals.
He said that, as in the past, the parishes that exceed the Annual Appeal goals will get 100 percent of the overage back for parish projects.
“We are encouraging parishes to designate in advance how they will use their Appeal ‘rebate’ to fund parish projects,” said Siler.
Other dioceses that have used this methodology have seen tremendous success. He noted that in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first year this methodology was employed, giving increased by a third from $6 million to $8.4 million and the number of parishes making goal went from 37 to 67.
A successful Annual Appeal “makes for a stronger church with parishes having more funds to devote to their particular ministries and outreach,” he said.
Each year donations raised through the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal support some of the far-reaching programs and ministries of the Catholic Church in north and central Georgia, including vocations, Respect Life ministry, priests’ retirement and support, formation and discipleship, black Catholic ministry, Hispanic ministry, and more.
Ultimately, Siler said, “The Appeal is a chance for each Catholic to support the wider church while at the same time benefiting their local parish. But people shouldn’t give out of obligation or with an expectation of quid pro quo. They should give as an expression of their gratitude to God for all God has done for them.”
Archbishop Gregory said, “Please give generously. … Let your gift show your gratitude for God’s eternal love for you.”