ACA supports bishop’s ‘Call to Renewal’

BRIDGEPORT—The 2021 ARISE Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) has passed the 50 percent mark with $5 million pledged on its way to the overall $8.1 million goal to fund the critical ministries and ongoing programs of the diocese.

“The response is well ahead of last year and is very encouraging on many levels” said Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese. “I’m very grateful for our donors, the leadership of our bishop and pastors and for the overall generosity of the people of the diocese.”

In addition to lowering the ACA goal this year as a result of the success of the We Stand With Christ capital campaign, the diocese has also shortened the time for the campaign. The goal is to bring the ACA to a close by the end of June.

Gallagher said he believes that the faithful have responded to the words of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano that this year’s appeal is crucial because of the need to reach out to those still suffering from the pandemic, while also helping the diocese to move ahead in its renewal efforts.

In announcing the Arise theme of this year’s appeal in February, the bishop said “We arise by standing together in prayerful hope to strengthen the mission of the Church which we form, a people of the light in darkness, a people of hope despite challenge.”

“I pray that, as we go forward, we will not lose this unique moment to aid our sisters and brothers in need, and place our Church on the path of growth and renewal,” the bishop said who issued a diocesan “Call to Renewal” in his recent pastoral exhortation, “Let us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord.”

Gallagher said that in addition to the overall amount collected and pledged to date toward the goal, he is very pleased to see the level of participation. The number of donors to the ACA is up considerably.

“Participation is up dramatically across the diocese and that’s a very positive trend,” said Gallagher, who noted that some parishes have already seen a sixty percent increase in the number of those who are giving.

“That’s a significant increase coming out of the pandemic and a very positive signal about the faith and generosity of the people of the diocese. Both large and small donors are eager to support the bishop’s plan for renewal and continue to help those in need.”

Gallagher said that people who contribute to the ACA understand that as donors they are also beneficiaries because the appeal reaches into every aspect of life in the diocese by making so many charitable, education and faith formation programs possible.

Among last year’s highlights were the more than 1.1 million meals served to the poor and food insecure through Catholic Charities, and more than $2.7 million in financial aid given to Catholic school students through the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund. The appeal also supported counseling and mental health services that have helped people get through the pandemic.

Pam Rittman, director of the Annual Catholic Appeal, said one noticeable change to campaign this year will be the timing of in-pew weekend.

Rather than all parishes conducting the in-pew on the same weekend, the bishop has given pastors the discretion to conduct the in pew on a weekend that works best for them. Envelopes will begin arriving in parishes on April 30, and all in-pew will be held by the end of May, she said.

“It’s a very hopeful time because many people have been vaccinated and have begun returning to Mass in person,” said Rittman, who noted that people often prefer to make their pledge during the in-pew weekend.

However, those who are unvaccinated or concerned about returning to Church, can make a gift online or use the envelope enclosed in Fairfield County Catholic.

Rittman said she believes the pandemic stirred a deeper understanding of the role the Annual Catholic Appeal plays in the diocese, because the services it provided last year  touched the lives of so many people—many of them who never needed help before.

“When the need arose to feed more people, bring the sacraments to hospitals and convalescent facilities, expand scholarship support to students whose parents lost their jobs, and improve communications to make online Masses possible, the ACA was the vehicle for this emergency response,” she said.

(Gifts can be made securely either on-line on the Annual Catholic Appeal website: donate page tab or by texting the word, APPEAL to 475.241.7849 on a smart phone or calling 203.416.1470. ACA gifts can be mailed to the Catholic Center at 238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06606.)

By Brian D. Wallace