By the close of the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal, the total
raised during the past 11 years could reach $170 million. It’s a
testament to Archbishop Robert J. Carlson’s leadership and his desire to
help people living in poverty and fund pro-life and social justice
issues, Catholic education and more.
The Appeal has had steadily
rising support. The 2019 Annual Catholic Appeal raised more than $15.3
million in pledges and gifts, with estate gifts and matching gifts
adding another $400,000. The 2009 campaign raised $12.3 million.
success of the Appeal was driven by Archbishop Carlson’s leadership of
the archdiocese as a whole, not just on each year’s campaign, said Brian
Niebrugge, executive director of stewardship and the Annual Catholic
Appeal of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. “It was his ability to bring us
as a local Church all together as an archdiocese by responding
proactively to issues and by opening his door to so many people and
being present to them as their bishop, as their pastor,” Niebrugge said.
archbishop has insisted on the Appeal being a spiritual mission,
bringing people together to serve those in need, Catholic or not, and
not just an administrative task or fundraising effort, Niebrugge said.
Carlson has an open-handed generosity for those who need help with the
money that’s raised, Niebrugge said. “He doesn’t have any sense of this
being his money. He sees this as something entrusted to him to serve the
Church, so he’s always looking for ways to get it out to where it’s
Anthony D’Agostino, former executive director of the
Criminal Justice Ministry who now leads St. Patrick Center, said few
funders want to support an organization that serves criminals. “One of
the biggest exceptions is the archdiocese,” D’Agostino said. “Through
the ACA, the archdiocese has always funded CJM’s mission to serve those
impacted by incarceration. In fact, when CJM lost state funding a few
years ago, Archbishop Carlson told me, ‘We will always support your work
because it is vital in our community. The need is there and your work
must continue.’ Not only did the ACA provide some extra funding that
year, the archbishop supported us through his charity fund and
personally helped us fundraise at our annual gala. Without the
archbishop and the ACA, CJM would not exist.”
Natalie Villmer of
the Rural Parish Workers of Christ the King said Archbishop Carlson is a
“true friend and supporter of our ministry. We are grateful for his
ongoing interest and prayers.”
The Appeal has awarded grants to
the Rural Parish Workers ever since its beginning for their work in
northern Washington County. The Rural Parish Workers meet basic needs of
food, clothing, rent, electric bills, furniture, gas for transportation
and propane and assist people with medical rand spiritual needs. The
funds also help with a self-help program, which gives work to
individuals who support their families. “Without the funds from the
Appeal our work would be greatly hindered,” Villmer said.
Carlson played a significant role in the ministry by approving these
grants plus others for the food pantry and other extra funds, Villmer
said. He also was instrumental in seeing that the Rural Parish Health
In promoting the Appeal, Archbishop Carlson has
cited the need to unite to help others. Niebrugge said that, “With one
heart, as the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we pray for a charitable
response to help the less fortunate, those in material and spiritual
need, and the forgotten.”
The archbishop especially enjoyed the
Annual Catholic Appeal Council meetings, getting to know people from
parishes across the archdiocese, Niebrugge said.
Archbishop Carlson’s engagement with the Appeal, it has supported the
projects most important to him. Most recently that included the Rural
Parish Clinic, a health care outreach that is an important part of the
archdiocese’s mission. “Now, that project is taking care of the poor in
rural Missouri in a way that never happened before,” Niebrugge said.
the ACA funds Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent, a ministry that’s a
prayerful support to those who are working to make abortion unthinkable
in St. Louis. The convent is across the street from Planned Parenthood
in the Central West End of St. Louis. “The archbishop had a vision to
see abortion in its true light, in that it’s a spiritual battle before
it’s a political battle,” Niebrugge said.
Since the convent came
to St. Louis to the “darkest corner in the archdiocese, we’ve made real
progress on changing minds and hearts and combatting the evil of
abortion,” Niebrugge said. “It goes back to that vision that he has of
taking care of the most important things first, which is prayer and
spirituality, and turning to the resources that God gives us to provide
us with the best hope, which is prayer and the Eucharist. Let’s rely on
Him. Let’s do our work certainly, work hard and do everything we can
humanly speaking, but let’s rely on prayer.”
employees of the archdiocese, the archbishop stressed the importance of
their families and providing mechanisms to help them, Niebrugge added.
“He wants people to take care of their families and then they’ll be more
able to do a great job and be happy in their work here.”
gave an example of the birth of his fifth child, who was born on the
day of the ACA kickoff. The baby was stressed after birth, and
Archbishop Carlson’s prayers and support meant the world to Niebrugge.
The baby overcame the difficulties in good health, what doctors called a
surprisingly quick turnaround, Niebrugge said.
A Message of Hope
Robert J. Carlson had a message earlier this year about serving people
in a time of need and the impact of the Annual Catholic Appeal:
do we seek out the homeless, feed the hungry, serve families and
protect the unborn? Why do we provide clinics, counseling and food
pantries? Why do we give tuition help and teacher training for schools?
Some of those we serve are Catholic; many are not. We do it because we
are Catholic. As Catholics, God has given us this opportunity to come
together and show His strength. Together we bring a message of hope,
courage and faith. Do not be afraid!”