Despite hardships that emerged from a global health pandemic, Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis have shown the fruits of their generosity through a successful 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal.
This year, the appeal raised more than $15 million from pledges and other sources; more than $13.9 million of that came from the parish appeal. Including estate gifts and anticipated matching gifts, the total exceeds $16.1 million. This year’s goal was $14.5 million.
According to data from the ACA, nearly 40,000 households participated, 123 parishes exceeded fund-raising goals and 57 parishes reached their challenge goals. Also, 45 parishes achieved their goals for new donors, and 28 parishes improved participation.
The appeal supports immediate needs of ministries in Catholic education, life issues, social justice causes, Catholic Charities, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, continuing education for priests, care for retired priests and for emergency needs in parishes.
“The generosity of the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis continues to show itself in the incredible support for the ACA this year, despite such a trying time,” Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski said. “While some of our brothers and sisters may not have been able to give as much to the ACA this year as they did in years past, the results of this year’s campaign show that those who could give a little more stepped up for those who could not. Now we are seeing that generosity put to work in service of those who are suffering because of the pandemic. The Archdiocese of St. Louis is a strong faith community filled with people who are helping to further the mission of God’s Church, and sharing moments of hope with others who need it most, even in their own times of trial. I offer my heartfelt gratitude for this beautiful expression of our Catholic faith.”
Appeal chair John Glunt said he was “ecstatic” to see the generosity of so many Catholics who made it another successful campaign.
“There were a lot fewer people in the pews the last nine months,” he said. “They didn’t get reminded as much, but yet they were thinking about how important it is. It’s really remarkable. I am reminded of the Gospel of the loaves and fishes — at the end of the day, everybody was fed, and there was a little bit left over.”
Jim and Jo Noelker served as parish chairs at St. Joseph in Neier. The parish surpassed its challenge goal, with a total of $18,900 in pledges. Because of the pandemic, the Noelkers had to make some adjustments, including not putting pledge cards in the pews as they normally would have.
“In the end, we made a whole lot of phone calls, and people followed through,” Jim Noelker said. Forty-four households increased their donations over last year’s, which Noelker described as impressive. “I have been in sales all my life, and I’m not a pushy guy, but you do your homework and things will come together,” he said. “We are thankful for their participation in these tough times.”
Support in a pandemic: Catholic Charities
Beyond the ongoing work of its eight federated agencies, Catholic Charities of St. Louis has been responding to pandemic-related needs since March. Over the summer, Catholic Charities held two separate food distribution events in collaboration with Operation Food Search, reaching 930 households.
A call center was established to address the growing number of requests for COVID-19 related assistance; it receives, on average, 75 calls per day. Catholic Charities also has distributed masks, hand sanitizer and disposable gloves and gowns to its agencies and others. Masks, hand sanitizer and personal care items were provided at the food distribution events. Gift cards also were given to St. Vincent de Paul for its clients.
“Our faith is what compels us to do this,” said Deacon Brian Selsor, Catholic Charities’ director of mission integration. “We do this because we are Catholic, and we do it because we’re sons and daughters of a Father who loves us.”
Its federated agencies also have had to adapt in the face of COVID-related guidelines set by local authorities, including use of teletherapy services, and taking extra precautions in agencies that have a residential component. The pandemic has impacted how Saint Martha’s Hall, for example, provides help to abused women and their children. The agency offers safe, confidential shelter, as well as crisis intervention, support groups and individual support, follow-up services, advocacy and community education.
There were more than 1,700 calls to the shelter from January-September 2019, compared to only 1,200 for the same period in 2020. When the outbreak arrived in the St. Louis area, the agency noticed a decrease in calls at first. “With people working from home, it became harder for women to reach out and ask for services,” said executive director Jessica Woolbright. “All of the things that normally made it difficult for a woman to leave were exaggerated because of the pandemic. It is harder to reach out, and living in a community setting is not ideal when social distancing is strongly recommended.”
Shelter capacity was reduced to a maximum of 50 percent capacity, because of local guidelines. In some cases, women and their children have been given shelter at hotels, which Woolbright said isn’t ideal, but helps them to escape their abusers.
Assisting schools, parishes
The archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education and Formation, which is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal, provided guidance to Catholic schools as they made plans to begin the 2020-21 school year, with an overall goal of resuming in-person instruction where possible. School openings or closings as well as safety protocols and policies have been guided by local governments and health officials. Leadership teams at each elementary and high school determined best practices for their institution, including a school’s enrollment and facilities enabling social distancing, and other protocols in their county.
But because of the pandemic, “the word that applies this year is pivot,” said Maureen DePriest, co-director of the Office of Catholic Education and Formation and superintendent for elementary education. “With the unpredictability of the virus, we need for our schools to adjust their faith formation and teaching and learning based upon what is occurring in their local communities.”
The Archdiocesan Transition Task Force asked schools early on to audit facilities to determine how to implement social distancing and to create safe protocols for entering, exiting and traveling throughout the school day. Catholic schools also developed learning plans for in-person, hybrid and virtual settings. The Catholic High School Association of the archdiocese also produced guidelines and resources for transitioning to the fall. The archdiocese shared planning templates and resources with the private Catholic high schools.
The Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation, also an appeal recipient, guaranteed that families would receive their scholarships during the pandemic, said executive director Sharon Gerken. The foundation also secured external donors to provide for the one-to-one technology needs for students at St. Cecilia School and St. Louis Catholic Academy, both of which are currently following a hybrid school schedule.
The Annual Catholic Appeal provided a direct grant of more than $35,500 to purchase supplies to help mitigate the spread of the virus as public Masses resumed. A grant of more than $35,000 purchased 200 cases of hand sanitizer, 512 gallons of surface sanitizer and 480 spray bottles. Additionally, the ACA provided to parishes 500 disposable masks, which cost $480. The supplies were distributed to approximately 165 parishes.
Caring for priests: Regina Cleri
Doctor Marie Paul Lockerd, a family practice physician and Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, moved to Regina Cleri in April to care for retired priests who were ill following an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus at the residence. The majority of residents tested positive for the virus, as did nearly half of the employees.
Sister Marie Paul is the medical director of the Rural Parish Mobile Medical Clinic, which provides health care to uninsured people in rural areas of the archdiocese. Services had been suspended due to concerns with the pandemic. Both the Rural Parish Clinic and Regina Cleri are ministries supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.
Sister Marie Paul, who has since resumed her ministry with the Rural Parish Clinic, assisted priests with their recovery and provided spiritual care. “The stability here is prayer, and we all support each other,” she said. “It’s been a privilege for me to serve our retired priests.”