SAN DIEGO — St. Paul famously wrote that the Gospel must be preached “in season and out of season.”
He didn’t include an escape clause for times of pandemic.
That’s why the Diocese of San Diego has selected “Living Our Mission” as the theme for this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal.
“Everybody’s been feeling this heaviness and this weight of the pandemic, but the Church and the work we do has not stopped,” said Manny Aguilar, director of the diocesan Office for Stewardship.
The diocesan collection, which will kick off during the Feb. 19-20 weekend, aims to raise $3.5 million by the year’s end to fund faith formation, Catholic schools and Catholic Charities, as well as seminary education and support for retired priests.
“Even though (the local Church went) virtual in 2020, we stopped being virtual in 2021,” Aguilar said.
Faith formation classes are still being taught at parishes, local Catholic school enrollment is up more than 11 percent this year, and Catholic Charities distributed more than 1 million meals to food-insecure individuals and families in San Diego and Imperial counties during the pandemic.
Ministries are expected to expand, not contract, during this challenging time.
“People really are thirsting for reconnecting with parish life,” Aguilar said, explaining that local Catholics want to see catechesis at their parishes and to know that their parochial schools have everything they need to remain open for in-person instruction.
Many parishes have seen smaller offertory collections since the start of the pandemic because of a decline in Mass attendance. The highly contagious Omicron variant has once more discouraged attendance at a time when some were starting to feel comfortable returning.
While some parishes saw an increase in collections during the last two fiscal years, a majority saw decreases ranging from 1 to as much as 56 percent.
The 2021 appeal, which concluded on Dec. 31 of last year, is on track to reaching about 95 percent of its $3.5-million goal. That’s an improvement over the 2020 appeal, which had fallen about 6 percent shy of that goal. The 2022 appeal should be even better.
“Overall, we should be very grateful that people continue to be so generous and demonstrate their faith that way,” Aguilar said.
He noted that there are typically about a dozen poorer parishes, particularly those in inner-city San Diego or in the Imperial Valley, that struggle to meet their goals for the Annual Catholic Appeal. Catholics who would like to assist these parishes can send a donation directly to the diocesan Office for Stewardship, which can apply it where it is needed most.
“For those who cannot give (monetarily), we understand,” said Aguilar. “(But) please pray for a successful campaign so that the underserved and the marginalized can be served.”
Support the Annual Catholic Appeal at sdcatholic.org/giving. Cash, credit card, IRA and stock donations are all accepted.