BY FRANK WILKES LESNEFSKY
Although the Diocese of Scranton’s annual appeal began this weekend with a 10% lower goal than recent years, church officials believe the need for funding is greater than ever.
“Every year, we say it’s more important than ever,” said the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, bishop of the diocese. “This year, I can’t stress that enough.”
For the past five years, the 11-county, 118-parish diocese maintained a $5 million goal for the appeal, which is its major fundraiser and one of its largest sources of funding. This year for the 2020 appeal, titled, “Bound Together in Hope,” the diocese lowered its goal to $4.5 million in response to the pandemic, Bambera said.
“We have to be realistic about it,” he said. “A lot of people have struggled and have suffered because of this pandemic. Because of that, we did reduce our sights in terms of the goal.”
The 2019 appeal fell $900,000 short of its goal after the diocese stopped soliciting funding when the pandemic began, only raising a total of $4.1 million, said Jim Bebla, the diocesan secretary for development. The diocese did, however, raise an additional $251,000 through its coronavirus emergency fund, he said.
The annual appeal goal remained at $5 million from 2015 to 2019, following a $500,000 reduction from the 2014 appeal’s $5.5 million goal.
“The most important thing for (parishioners) is to put food on the table for their families,” Bambera said, adding, “We want them to know that we’re there to help put food on the table if they need that help.”
Catholic Social Services served significantly more people this year than last year, the bishop said.
From March through July, CSS food pantries served 10,501 families — 50% more households than the same time frame last year, said Mary Theresa Malandro, CEO of Catholic Social Services and diocesan secretary for Catholic Human Services.
“Primarily, the increases are due to people losing their jobs due to the coronavirus, children being at home more and not being in school for their lunches and their food programs,” she said.
Malandro summarized Catholic Social Services’ work as, “We feed, we shelter and we serve people.”
They operate food pantries in Carbondale, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton as well as providing meals daily at the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre, she said. They also have emergency shelters and hold food and clothing distributions in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, she said.
CSS also provides a variety of housing, including housing for pregnant women and their newborns, veterans and housing for young adults and individuals dealing with mental health challenges, among other services, Malandro said. In total, they serve about 300,000 people annually, she said.
During the pandemic, people needed help with food, shelter, managing finances, health care, housing and shelter, she said.
Catholic Social Services will receive 15% of the funds raised in the appeal, she said. The appeal is crucial to their success, and they couldn’t survive without it, Malandro said.
In addition to Catholic Social Services, the appeal supports diocesan ministries including schools, clergy, social justice grants and the diocese communications department, which has allowed the diocese to televise Masses on its CTV: Catholic Television while live streaming services and incorporating them into diocesan social media, Bambera said.
Bambera, Bebla and Malandro all noted the impact parishioners had by donating to the diocese’s coronavirus emergency fund, which resulted in an additional $95,000 for Catholic Social Services.
“As challenging as this year has been for the people that I have encountered, their faith has sustained them, and it is their faith that is helping them get through, their faith that is giving them hope,” Bambera said. “It’s that same sense of faith and hope that has given evidence of the generosity of our people that continues to amaze me and continues to be a blessing to so many who need their kindness and benefit from it, especially the poorest in our midst.”
To contribute to the 2020 appeal, visit annualappeal.org.
Ministry allocations for the 2020 appeal
According to diocesan secretary for development Jim Bebla, the appeal allocations are:
- Catholic Schools: 18%
- Clergy formation, education and support: 18%
- Parish life and ministry formation: 18%
- Catholic media and communication: 17%
- Catholic Social Services: 15%
- Diocesan annual appeal administrative expenses: 8%
- Parish social justice grants: 3%
- Parish faith formation grants: 3%
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