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Spotlight Report

Archdiocese sets $10.5m as its annual fund-raising goal

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 4/30/2004

The Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday that it will try to raise $10.5 million over the next year, up slightly from last year's fund-raising goal, but still down significantly since the start of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, who was installed as head of the Boston archdiocese last summer, has written a letter and taped a video for use in parishes throughout the archdiocese this weekend as the region's largest religious denomination launches its annual fund-raising campaign.

The church's fund-raising has faced extraordinary challenges over the last several years, hobbled by the abuse crisis, a down economy, and a simultaneous capital campaign. This year, the fund-raising campaign is being launched just after the archdiocese announced it was selling much of its headquarters property to Boston College for $107.4 million and just weeks before O'Malley plans to announce the closing of a significant number of parishes.

Church officials expressed confidence that with O'Malley's arrival, the settlement of abuse cases, an end to the capital campaign, and an improving economy, they will be able to begin to rebuild their major fund-raising drive. The annual appeal supports 80 ministries and agencies of the church, including the training of religious educators, services to immigrants and ethnic minorities, the education of seminarians, and campus ministry at the area's universities.

"We realize that as we go forward there will be fewer parishes, but the mission of the church is to serve everyone, and the closing of parishes is to strengthen other faith communities and to respond to the needs of our people, and therefore, although the number of parishes is going to be fewer by the end of the year, the needs and the services that are provided will be the same," O'Malley said. "We're asking everyone to be generous."

O'Malley spoke at a press conference at Cathedral Grammar School in the South End. The school was chosen to highlight the church's support of religious education for children and adults. The archdiocese is currently educating about 146,000 children in parish-based religious education programs, according to Catherine Minkiewicz, assistant director of the archdiocese's office of religious education.

The church's annual fund-raising drive, formerly called the Cardinal's Appeal, reached its high-water mark in 1999, when the archdiocese raised about $17 million, according to Damien J. DeVasto, director of what is now called the Annual Catholic Appeal. The archdiocese raised $15.6 million in 2001, but in 2002, after the sexual abuse crisis began, the church's fund-raising dropped to $8.8 million.

O'Malley said he has no idea when the church might be able to completely restore its fund-raising to earlier levels. He laughed at a question on the subject, saying, "I have no idea."

Last year, the archdiocese set a goal of $9 million. Fund-raising picked up with O'Malley's arrival, and the archdiocese wound up raising $10.3 million. About 46,000 people contributed last year, a small portion of the estimated 2 million Catholics living in the archdiocese, but a 20 percent increase from the number of contributors in 2002.

"Last year's appeal realized more than we had forecast, and anecdotally, from the pastors, we understand that in the collections and in the parishes that the amounts of money that are being given are more," O'Malley said. "I think that people realize the wonderful work that's being done. . . . The needs are there, and we're inviting all of our Catholic people and friends of the church to help support these wonderful activities."

Last year the archdiocese also ended its capital campaign, having raised about $200 million toward a $300 million goal.

The archdiocese has said it will not use money raised by selling the property of closed parishes to finance the church's general operations. In a note from Chancellor David W. Smith to potential donors, Smith says the archdiocese will sell assets of closed parishes and use the proceeds "exclusively to satisfy past, present, and future obligations of parishes." He pledged to publish a monthly accounting of the handling of parish proceeds on the archdiocesan website and in The Pilot, its newspaper.

Michael Paulson can be reached at mpaulson@globe.com.


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