SAN DIEGO — With the Annual Catholic Appeal, which is set to kick off during the Feb. 8-9 weekend, the Diocese of San Diego hopes to raise $3.5 million to fund a variety of essential ministries.
Manny Aguilar, director of the diocesan Office for Stewardship, said the appeal provides local Catholics with the opportunity to come together to support causes that would be impossible or inefficient for parishes to take on individually.
Beneficiaries of the Annual Catholic Appeal fall under four main categories: Catholic schools, faith formation, Catholic Charities, and clergy and seminarian support.
“There’s no way that parishes could afford that, so this is a way that we all come together so that … we can find a way to address those needs collectively,” Aguilar said.
“The needs go beyond the parish for pro-grams that benefit all of those who participate in the Catholic community, for the poor, the needy, the dispossessed,” explained Bishop Robert W. McElroy.
Local parent Claudia Gonzalez is among the many who have been able to send their children to Catholic school thanks to the generosity of ACA donors.
She noted that she has already seen “a big difference” in her children, who are among the more than 13,000 students who attend local Catholic schools, and she is grateful “to see them actually be happy to go to school.”
The ACA provides necessary funds for several diocesan offices, including Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry, Youth Ministry and Young Adult Ministry, as well as the Diocesan Institute, a theological formation program that offers a wide variety of courses for Catholic adults.
Maricruz Flores, director of the diocesan Office for Youth Ministry, sees ACA funds as leveling the playing field for low-income house-holds, which might not otherwise be able to avail themselves of opportunities to send their children on retreats or to camps or conferences.
“With the Annual Catholic Appeal, we can offer that to our students,” she said.
The appeal also supports prison ministry at 25 local prisons, jails and detention facilities.
Catholic Charities, another ACA beneficiary, represents the social arm of the Church and administers a host of programs that assist those faced with homelessness, food insecurity, immigration problems and many other issues.
The ACA also supports both those studying for the priesthood and those aged priests who have retired after years of faithful ministry to Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties.
“A lot of hands are involved, a lot of people are involved” in providing resources for priestly formation, said seminarian Brian Frulla, “and I think it relies on the generosity of the Church, of the People of God.”
The annual tuition costs for each of the diocese’s 21 seminarians is $45,000.
At the other end of the spectrum, retired Msgr. Edward Brockhaus noted that rent in San Diego is among the highest in the nation. Referring to the ACA’s financial support for the living expenses of about 50 retired diocesan priests, he said, “It really helps us to be able to make ends meet.”
As suggested by this year’s theme, “Gratitude in Action,” the ACA is presented as an invitation to respond generously in thanksgiving for God’s blessings.
“The Annual Appeal is one way in which we really can recognize that gratitude to God and say, ‘Here’s a way I can make God more present here in this Diocese of San Diego,’” Bishop McElroy said.
Demonstrating his own commitment to the campaign, the bishop was the special guest Jan. 16 at the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal Kick-Off Luncheon, which was held at the diocesan Pastoral Center and attended by about 100 parish pastors, bookkeepers and business managers committed to making this year’s campaign a success.
“Without [donors’] support, we wouldn’t be able to carry on the mission that has been entrusted to us by Jesus,” added Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan.
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.sdcatholic.org/giving. In addition to monetary donations, the diocese also accepts stocks, bonds and IRA charitable rollover distributions.