Generosity fills a genuine need

By  Arthur Peters, Catholic Register Special
  • March 7, 2008

{mosimage}During Lent, we are called as Catholics to renew our commitment to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In the archdiocese of Toronto, the Catholic community comes together to support the most vulnerable and needy in our communities through ShareLife.

Through the generosity of our parishioners in the archdiocese, we are able to reach out to serve over 200,000 people locally (and many more across the world) on an annual basis through the work of our 34 agencies, 11 grant recipients and — in 2007 — a further 17 organizations that received one-time community grants. Last year, over $12.6 million was directed to the work of these agencies, assisting families in crisis, people with special needs, the elderly, immigrants and refugees, and children and youth. In addition, ShareLife funding helped to support the education and formation of our clergy and deacons, and also aided in the evangelization of the Gospel in isolated areas of the world. The annual appeal invites us to live out the call of Jesus in Matthew 25, “whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to me.”

Over the past three years I have had the opportunity to visit almost every agency receiving support from the ShareLife campaign. I have heard stories of the positive impact made as a result of our efforts, seen first hand how we are making a difference and learned how lives have been changed due to the involvement of our agencies. These visits have shown me that a contribution to ShareLife represents more than just the money raised; our decision to support the annual appeal helps to extend the hands of Christ to those in need.

While the results are impressive, it is clear that much more needs to be done. There continues to be more families in crisis, more people homeless and hungry and more people struggling because of addictions or domestic abuse. More people need our help today and, for that reason, we ask parishioners in the archdiocese of Toronto to be more generous than ever before.

Our 2008 parish campaign goal is $12 million, a 4.5-per-cent increase over last year’s achievement. It isn’t easy to ask more of those who have continually demonstrated their generosity, but let me assure you that the need is genuine. Increased ShareLife funding has been allocated to our agencies to meet the growing demand for their services, including enhanced family counselling programs in a number of communities, to give more assistance to men seeking help to break free from their addictions, to support education and research on women’s health issues and to provide additional funds for community projects and evangelization in developing nations.

Our agencies are informed by our faith, represent Catholic values and provide Catholic care for people who often have nowhere else to turn. Their work is compassionate, untiring and inspiring and their results are impressive.

While our campaign kicks off with the beginning of Lent, the financial needs of ShareLife’s funded agencies require attention throughout the year. To that end, this year, we have already provided $2.4 million in funding in advance of our first “ShareLife Sunday” in-parish collection on March 9.

Rest assured that any gift, however large or small, is treated as a sacred trust. We diligently work to ensure as much money as possible is transferred to our agencies in an effort to help as many people as possible. Last year, more than 91 cents of every dollar we received was allocated to our agencies, after expenses — a rate that remains one of the leading administration levels in the country.

If you are a parishioner in the archdiocese of Toronto, or if you live outside our archdiocese but recognize the importance of our cause, please make a contribution to ShareLife part of your Lenten journey. If you have never supported ShareLife in the past, please make a decision today to aid the life of someone who may be a family member, a friend, a co-worker or a parishioner with you at Mass, all whom are silently praying for your generosity to assist them with their struggles.

As we continue in the Lenten season, know that, as our campaign theme stresses, “because you give . . .” smiles are wider, worries are lighter and our Catholic faith grows stronger.

(Peters is executive director of ShareLife, www.sharelife.org.)

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