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A bulletin over a ShareLife poster notifies parishioners of the cancellation of Masses. Michael Swan

Closures put pressure on major campaigns

  • March 21, 2020

The global pandemic that threatens lives is also bad news for Church finances — with Toronto’s ShareLife and the national Share Lent campaigns thrown into uncertainty by school closures and Mass cancellations.

“Obviously, if churches are going to be closed, we have to look at the timing of the campaign,” ShareLife executive director Arthur Peters told The Catholic Register.

While the annual Archdiocese of Toronto campaign in support of dozens of Catholic agencies and institutions officially launched on Ash Wednesday, the first collection was scheduled for Masses on the weekend of March 28-29, to be followed by collections on May 3 and June 7. Parishes account for 88 per cent of the 2020 ShareLife goal of $15.65 million.

“We have to look at all of this,” Peters said. “These are extraordinary times. We’re monitoring this situation.”

Development and Peace receives funds from ShareLife but relies more on money collected in the annual Share Lent appeal.

“It will of course hit us hard,” said Development and Peace’s Luke Stocking. “We are basically taking the approach of praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and working our butts off.”

The national appeal in support of programs in 33 countries, plus Canada’s contribution to the international Caritas network, provides about 20 per cent of the organization’s annual revenue.

The 2018 campaign raised $6.7 million for Development and Peace, with another $4.9 million coming in other fundraising. As schools and parish gatherings shut down, the agency is praying for virtual solidarity.

“One idea that I really hope we are able to make happen is to hold an online ‘Solidarity Sunday’ Mass in English,” Stocking said. “There is already a televised one in French for Quebec with a long tradition.

“Just as the virtual world is taking on increasing importance for everyone at all levels during this pandemic, so too is it for us at Development and Peace-Caritas Canada.”

Across the country the financial implications of COVID-19 shutdowns will vary. Not all dioceses have an annual appeal during Lent.

In Toronto, even with Sunday Masses cancelled, people can still donate online, said ShareLife communications director Kris Dmytrenko. (www.sharelife.org)

It isn’t just Sunday envelopes that ShareLife will be missing. Catholic schools normally mount ShareLife fundraising campaigns the week before Holy Week — March 30 to April 3 this year. 

“Well, now the schools are going to be closed,” Peters pointed out.

With the TSX down sharply another important source of revenue is likely to dry up.

“We have received some securities gifts already this year, but there are others that haven’t come in yet,” Peters said.

The Archdiocese of Toronto’s chancellor of temporal affairs, Jim Milway, has a feeling some of those important securities gifts might be a long time coming.

“People who like to give gifts of securities don’t want to do that right now,” Milway said. “Because they don’t want to sell.”

In recent weeks Milway and ShareLife staff were speaking with one donor on the edge of making a contribution of stocks.

“He was thinking about how to divide it,” Milway said. “I haven’t heard from him since then and I know exactly why — because of the market. He’s not going to sell into this weakness.”

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