Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Students from the University of Georgia tutor children at the Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela center prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The Catholic Center at UGA is raising money to help families at the center through the #iGiveCatholic campaign.


#iGiveCatholic responds to pandemic needs

By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published November 26, 2020

ATLANTA—New technology and support for those in need are just a few of the many fundraising initiatives for this year’s #iGiveCatholic campaign.

Coordinated locally by the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia, #iGiveCatholic is an online giving day that brings the Catholic community together to give back. According to the foundation, this day rallies the Catholic community “to celebrate and support the charitable, educational and spiritual ministries of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”

The sixth annual Giving Day is Tuesday, Dec. 1, also known as Giving Tuesday. Advanced Giving began Nov. 16 and will continue thru Nov. 30.

At St. John Vianney Church, a new sound and camera system are needed to provide online Masses to its community. The parish is unable to show online Masses and events due to outdated audio equipment and lack of internet access around the parish.

The church hopes to not only livestream Masses, but also get a screen to place in other rooms for in-person Masses because everyone can not fit in the sanctuary due to social distancing requirements.

Pairing technology with a good camera system will allow the parish to further the kingdom of God in these tumultuous times, said Father Jack Knight, parochial vicar of the Lithia Springs church.

St. John Vianney Church is one of many local parishes updating audio and camera equipment through #iGiveCatholic. The need became more pressing this year as the COVID-19 pandemic closed parishes in March, forcing churches to create or enhance their online presence.

“Our churches are essential,” said Father Knight.

People can come together through the gifts of technology, so they don’t feel alone and have a sense of community based on Jesus, he said.

By the numbers

In 2019, some 3,100 donors contributed more than $680,000 to 94 ministries in the Atlanta Archdiocese. Last year, online contributions totaled more than 28,000 gifts from 48 states and six countries, including Canada, Belgium and Mexico.

Nationally, the 2019 #iGiveCatholic campaign raised more than $7.4 million for 39 dioceses, archdioceses and foundations.

Prince of Peace Church in Flowery Branch is raising funds this year for a 640-square foot building—a permanent home for its St. Vincent de Paul ministry.

The food pantry was about 197 square feet, which limited its outreach. But as the pandemic shut down business, leaving many out of work and without food, needs and requests grew. And with the help of church staff, St. Vincent de Paul was able to temporarily move into the parish’s larger youth room in April.

Since relocating to the youth room, the parish ministry has assisted more than 1,200 families, equating to roughly $60,000 in food donations alone.

“Needs have grown exponentially,” said Ron Lowe, co-president of St. Vincent de Paul at the parish. “I don’t think the need is going to go down for a while.”

Lowe has been a part of the ministry for four years. He is very thankful for church leadership and the parish’s support for the organization during this time of transition.

“It’s been pretty incredible to watch the number of volunteers that have come out of the parish and decide they want to be a part of that food pantry,” said Lowe. “We’re grateful for that.”

God is calling this ministry into a whole new season, said Rob Montepare, director of communications at Prince of Peace.

“This is a way that people can participate in this outreach ministry,” he said.

In the community

The Catholic Foundation describes #iGiveCatholic as “an opportunity for Catholics to affirm our faith as disciples of Jesus Christ by sharing our gifts out of gratitude and love for one another.”

This sharing is evident as the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia (UGA) is raising money to help families supported by Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela, a program founded by the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 2002.

Oasis serves families in the Pinewood Estates north community and surrounding areas. They provide tutoring for students in Pre-K thru fifth grade, food, money for bills, community building programs, monthly Mass and preparation to receive the sacraments.

More than 80% of tutors are students from the Athens university. Students have done many service projects at Oasis over the years, including teaching people how to plant their own gardens, sprucing up the center and helping with food distribution for families.

With many losing their job or having less work due to the coronavirus pandemic, Oasis fills in the gaps by providing food and money for rent, utilities and the internet, as online learning has increased. And with recent storms and hurricanes, many families need help with roof repairs and leaks.

“When these families are very vulnerable, it’s hard for them to navigate,” said Sister Uyen-Chi Dang, ACJ, executive director of Oasis. She and two other religious sisters from the Handmaids operate the ministry.

“We have always helped, but I find that there’s a greater need with the pandemic,” said Sister Dang.

On the #iGiveCatholic giving page, donors are provided with a dollar amount for specific needs. $27 provides rice and beans for a family of five, and $70 pays for internet service for a month.

The mission is about healing hearts, said Sister Dang.