Catholics have continued to show their generosity by aiding ShareLife, which in turn helps out various social service and faith-related organizations throughout the archdiocese. Photo courtesy of ShareLife

Catholics continue to answer the call

By  Arthur Peters
  • October 5, 2014

And together we work wonders 

A hallmark of our faith is the commitment of our parish communities, schools, clergy and lay organizations to put the hands of Christ into action. In 10 years as the Director of ShareLife and Development for the Archdiocese of Toronto, and in my roles as a Knight of Columbus and former Catholic school trustee, I have seen first-hand how the Catholic community makes an impact on our society. 

Offertory collections respond to the needs of the parish community and special collections support the global charitable works of the Church. Our school communities raise funds for many charitable causes, both here and abroad. Organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League and Couples for Christ (among others) offer their gifts of time and talent in addition to their treasure to make our world a better place. 

All these organizations answer a call to serve the Church. 

Each year, the ShareLife campaign offers the Catholic community the opportunity to answer that same call through 42 social-service and faith-related organizations. We have been blessed with a generous response time and time again. More than $14 million was raised in 2014. During the year, I receive letters from organizations and companies that support our efforts, from retirees who indicate that they are on a small pension, but want to help, and from individuals who have experienced a change in their situation, allowing them to make a special contribution to the campaign. 

Charity expert Penelope Burke, in her 2013 survey of donors, found a strong correlation between religion and charitable giving. Forty per cent of respondents indicated that giving to religious organizations is a priority, ranking fourth after health, human services and disaster relief, and ahead of other secular causes. 

In 2014, the Family of Faith campaign was launched in support of the Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Proceeds from this $105-million campaign will provide support for the evangelization of the faith in Toronto-area parishes, and an expanded youth ministry and campus chaplaincy, reaching out to the next generation. The campaign will also support the implementation of new technology to help spread the Gospel message, and provide financial assistance to parishes requiring new construction or much-needed repairs. At least 25 per cent of campaign proceeds will support projects at the parish level, with many of the “big-picture” projects also impacting the local parish experience. 

The Family of Faith campaign invites parishioners to make a sacrificial gift that is over and above their regular giving — not to move contributions from one envelope to another. It’s recognized that each person has limitations as to what they can contribute, so all that is asked is that donors participate to the best of their ability. The response to date has been very generous without affecting parish offertory collections. In fact, a review of the weekly offertory in the 10 pilot parishes shows no discernible impact on the first six months of 2014 versus the previous year. 

While the Family of Faith campaign addresses many of the pastoral and financial needs of the archdiocese, the funding of social service agencies (overseen by Catholic Charities) remains with ShareLife — there is no duplication between these efforts. It is heartening to hear pastors and parishioners speak of the importance of supporting ShareLife while also committing to the campaign effort. Having said this, the ShareLife appeal in our 10 Family of Faith pilot parishes collectively showed a slight shortfall compared to 2013. If this trend continues, the decrease in our annual appeal could be significant. 

It is important that Catholics continue to provide for ShareLife (and other charitable efforts of the Church) to the best of our ability while also supporting the Family of Faith campaign. ShareLife-funded agencies rely on financial assistance to carry out much-needed programs and services. A reduction in their annual allocation could impact more than just their budget; it could mean the loss of a program or a reduction in service to the most vulnerable in our society. We must not let this happen. 

As ShareLife prepares for its 2015 campaign, we will explore ways to not only maintain our commitment to the funded agencies, but also grow ShareLife as an organization with a proud tradition of helping our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Together, we are working wonders! 

(Peters is Director of ShareLife and Development for the Archdiocese of Toronto.

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