October 31, 2012
Bishop’s Annual Appeal 2012-2013
Let us be stewards of the Church
[Special to Catholic Life by Phillip G. Torrez, Consultant]
The Bishop's Annual Appeal for the Diocese of Fresno is seeking $900,000 for 2012-2013, an increase of $100,000 over the goal of the previous four diocesan-wide campaigns. The appeal is now underway and will conclude in June.
The theme for the bishop's appeal is "Stronger in Faith," which notes that the faithful in our diocese provide its strength and vitality. The theme springs from the “Year of Faith” which has been proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI to also begin this fall (October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013) concurrent with the annual appeal. In proclaiming this “Year of Faith” our Holy Father has challenged all believers to “profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope.” The words of our Pope echo those of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, our diocesan patroness, who wrote: "May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith."
"The fact that we've increased the appeal goal reflects Bishop Ochoa's optimism in these tough times and in his belief that we can become better stewards of Christ, especially during this “Year of Faith,” says Gilbert J. Haro, the director of the diocese's Development Office, which is coordinating the fundraising campaign.
"Stewardship is the idea that the blessings all of us have been given come from God, He has entrusted those gifts to us, and in turn we become disciples of Christ by sharing those blessings to promote the Catholic faith and bring Jesus's message of love to all," he adds. "In stewardship, we share our faith through prayer and sacrificial giving."
The Bishop's Annual Appeal supports four vital areas that touch every parish in the diocese: Seminarians/vocations; catechetics; family life ministry; and youth ministry. "We all know that the Church needs new priests -- the number of Catholics is growing and our current priests are aging," says Haro. "We are blessed to have 15 men in our diocese in seminaries, but of course we need to continue these efforts."
To that end, Bishop Ochoa envisions creating an Education Formation Endowment for vocations that will be initially funded through the 2012-2013 appeal. Half of the $900,000 appeal goal is for the endowment and to help defray current costs for our seminarians.
The other ministries supported by the appeal ensures that our parishes are present to Catholics throughout the many phases of their lives, from children to teens, to young married couples and growing families. "With the appeal's support, our pastors will be able to provide their parishioners with grace-filled opportunities to build and deepen their relationships with God and fellow parishioners," Haro says.
Unlike the previous appeals, the bishop has not assigned target amounts to be raised by each of the diocese's 88 parishes. "If we are disciples, as proclaimed in our baptism, we must be good stewards for the Church," says Haro. "The appeal gives us a way to promote stewardship as we recognize the many gifts God has given us."
Parishioners in the diocese contributed $749,000 in last year's (2011-2012) appeal, or 94 percent of the $800,000 goal. Of the diocese's 88 parishes, 76 of them had met their target amount as of July 2012. The results were heartening in light of the state of the economy, says Haro, noting that the campaign benefited from 53 donors who contributed gifts of $1,000-$5,000 including two contributions of $5,000.
"We experienced a decrease in the number of parishioners who gave to the appeal last year vs. the previous year so the large gifts were impressive," Haro says.
"We stress that no gift is too small. If every parishioner contributed whatever amount they could -- we know it's difficult right now for some Catholics -- we would easily surpass our $900,000 goal."
For more information about the appeal or to make a contribution, please contact the diocesan Development Office at (559) 488-7414 or www.dioceseoffresno.org/baa.