The Annual Diocesan Appeal will have the same goal and theme as last year, but it will get a slight revamp in the way funds are requested, according to Father John-Michael Lavelle, who is in charge of the annual appeal.
“We plan to be more intentional about using social media to reach more young people,” Father Lavelle said. “Young people are not waiting for pledge cards to come in the mail. They are more interested in stories and how the appeal affects those it helps.”
He said the annual appeal was known as the Bishop’s Appeal for 25 years. When Bishop David Bonnar arrived in Youngstown in January 2021, the appeal was already underway, but Bishop Bonnar rebranded it as the Annual Diocesan Appeal: One in Hope, One in Mission. “Bishop Bonnar wanted to make it clear that everyone is part of the appeal,” Father Lavelle said.
This will be the third year under its new name. “In 2024, the Bishop is going to ask the faithful to reflect on the story of the Good Samaritan as they contemplate their contribution to the Diocesan Appeal,” Father Lavelle noted.
“Every year in this local Church through the Annual Diocesan Appeal: One in Hope, One in Mission, we have the opportunity as we continue our journey, to follow the footsteps of the Good Samaritan and heed the mandate of Jesus to ‘Go and do likewise’,” Bishop Bonnar said.
“The Annual Diocesan Appeal enables us as a Church to intentionally pray for those in need and, through our donation, be a source of care and support,” Bishop Bonnar continued. “There are many people on the side of the road in need of our care and attention. They need us to bring the comfort and peace of Jesus Christ to them. Like the Good Samaritan, we can bring hope to all in need and, in so many ways, continue the mission of the Church.”
As in the past several years, the goal for this year’s appeal is $4 million. The diocese as a whole reached 90 percent of that goal in 2023, raising approximately $3.6 million. Father Lavelle said 28 parishes out of 82 met or exceeded their individual goals and two raised 96 percent of their goals.
He explained that each parish has its own appeal goal, which is based on the income received during the last calendar year from collections at Christmas, Easter and regular Sundays.
“There’s a misconception that the parish goal is based on the number of parishioners. But basing it on the previous year’s income is the most fair and equitable way to do it,” Father Lavelle said, noting the parish goals amount to roughly 10 percent of what the parishes brought in from those collections last year.
Father Lavelle explained that the three Catholic Charities agencies in the diocese take 60 percent of the amount raised. Those agencies are Catholic Charities Regional Agency covering Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties; Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County; and Catholic Charities of Stark and Portage.
Rachel Hrbolich, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the agencies use most of their portions to leverage other funding so they can assist a greater amount of people. They also use some of their funding to pay staff members and provide direct assistance to those in need, such as utility help, food, rent assistance and emergency shelter.
“The appeal money is flexible, so we can use it how we need it in our budget. One thing that people need to understand is that for every program Catholic Charities offers, there is an employee or multiple employees behind it,”
She also noted that using the appeal funds to leverage other funding means additional funds that had been earmarked for certain programs can be shifted to basic needs assistance.
A portion of the 60 percent also is used to support the diocesan Hispanic Ministry and Prison Ministry programs, as well as the Catholic Charities Diocesan Offices.
“We are proud to say that we give a larger percentage of our appeal to Catholic Charities than most dioceses across the country,” Father Lavelle said. “But it is still only a segment of the funds they need to operate.”
The other 40 percent of the annual appeal is used for diocesan ministries, including missionary discipleship; vocations and seminary formation; diocesan archives; Catholic schools; faith formation and lay ecclesial ministry; lay ministry formation; pro-life, marriage and family ministry; youth and young adult ministry; communications and social media, among others.
“Again, the 40 percent that stays here is just a portion of what is needed,” Father Lavelle said.
The appeal kickoff was January 25 when all diocesan clergy gathered for the annual meeting. The appeal announcement will take place in all parishes the weekend before Ash Wednesday, which is February 10 and 11.
Father Lavelle said parishioners will receive brochures and pledge cards in the mail, and they will also will be available in the pews.
“When the letter is mailed to parishioners who have donated before, there is a suggested increase for this year. A good number of people will take the suggested increase or stay the same. Very few decrease their gift,” he said.
He also said that many people choose the auto-pay option, which is not just a matter of convenience.
“The notification you get from the auto-pay system is an opportunity to take time to pray for those who are less fortunate and to be thankful for what you have,” Father Lavelle said.