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The Diocese of Madison is launching a new Annual Catholic Appeal to help fund needs of retired priests and the education of seminarians, as well as more services in the diocesan offices. Pictured above is Fr. Laverne Meier, a retired diocesan priest. (Diocese of Madison photo/James Baca)
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MADISON — In what has been called a “complete paradigm shift,” the Diocese of Madison is launching a new Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) this year to support the ministries and services it provides in the 11-county diocese.
Bishop Robert C. Morlino consulted his financial advisors, priests, and diocesan boards before going forward with the new appeal process. The bishop is currently hosting receptions for pastors and parishioners throughout the diocese to explain the appeal process. He is being joined by other diocesan leaders at these receptions.
The bishop explained that the Diocese of Madison had supported itself through a moderate tax, bequests, and investment income. “Now, it faces a situation, caused by increases in costs and decreases in investment income, that requires either a doubling of taxes or an annual appeal.”
Approved after consultation
After consultation with priests, Bishop Morlino took their advice and approved a plan to lower the tax paid by parishes (equivalent to six percent of parish Offertory income) and set the appeal goal at 10 percent of parish Offertory income. The tax will generate $2,200,000. The appeal goal is $3,700,000, a target that is not mandatory.
John Philipp, director of finance for the Diocese of Madison, said that “the diocese wishes to strengthen lines of communication and create transparency in what the diocese seeks to accomplish — creation of a revenue model based on a direct appeal” in the new Annual Catholic Appeal process.
The education of seminarians is one of the key areas in need of increased funding, he noted. The number of seminarians has increased from six in 2005 to 18 major seminarians and six minor seminarians today. “We need to continue to raise money for the St. Joseph Fund to educate our seminarians,” said Philipp.
There have also been increased staffing needs in diocesan offices in such areas as safe environment, planning, information technology, stewardship and development, finance, worship, Catholic schools, evangelization and catechesis, and the Catholic Multicultural Center.
Publicizing begins this weekend
On the weekend of March 21 to 22, parishes will begin publicizing the ACA, using bulletin and altar announcements and Prayers of the Faithful petitions. On the week of March 23, a letter from the bishop will be mailed to all parish envelope holders.
The official Announcement Weekend in parishes will be April 25 to 26 with pastors giving homilies on the appeal and a tabloid on the ACA being inserted in parish bulletins. On the Commitment Weekend, May 2 to 3, a recorded homily by the bishop will be played at all Masses throughout the diocese and parishioners will be asked to complete pledge envelopes.
Successful Offertory Program
The Diocese of Madison has obtained the services of Bannon Associates, Inc., to help the diocesan offices conduct the appeal. This company has been working with parishes throughout the diocese for the past three years on an Offertory Program.
Bill Bannon of the firm discussed the need for an appeal process in meetings with diocesan priests. He encouraged the Diocese of Madison to “move to less reliance on investment income” and to find ways to “sustain and enhance diocesan programs that effectively meet the mission of the Church.”
Daun Maier of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development said the diocese could “take this opportunity to have a complete paradigm shift.” She pointed out that a vast majority of dioceses in the United States use a “multifaceted approach” which includes an annual appeal, tax, and investment income as funding sources.
Bannon’s firm has conducted its Offertory Program in 63 of the 130 parishes in the Diocese of Madison in the past three years. He said there has been an average increase of 16 percent in the Offertory collections in those parishes, while those without the Offertory Program saw a two percent decline in their Offertory collections.
Msgr. Jim Uppena, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Milton and chairman of the diocesan Presbyteral Council, said, “We had a great deal of success with the Offertory Program. Our income went up 26 percent in one year. In our parish it’s been very successful.”
Other priests on the Presbyteral Council serving in such cities as Portage, Beloit, Cross Plains, Lodi, and Watertown reported increases in their Offertory collections with the program.
Benefits of an appeal
Bannon pointed out that benefits of an annual appeal include:
- Limiting reliance on a diocesan tax and investment income.
- Educating the laity about diocesan ministries and services.
- Securing direct support from the laity.
There are also benefits to the parishes, noted Bannon:
- An annual appeal and a parish Offertory program should compliment each other.
- A strong appeal reduces the possibility of an increase in the diocesan tax.
- An appeal helps promote parish income.
The saying that “giving begets giving” is true, Bannon said. People who give more to the diocese will also give more to the parish and vice versa.
Materials, training provided
All materials and training for the Annual Catholic Appeal are being supplied by the Diocese of Madison. In addition, the administrative processing of the Aappeal pledges will be handled by the diocese to minimize the workload on the parishes.
Said Maier, “We understand change is often viewed with skepticism, especially in the early stages. With open communication and cohesion of diocesan and parish effort we can move toward building a stronger, long term approach to meeting ministry needs. I believe the training sessions and diocesan meetings with Bishop Morlino are helping to do that.”
Msgr. Daniel Ganshert, vicar general of the diocese, is excited about the new Annual Catholic Appeal. “Granted it is a paradigm shift, but it is a new opportunity. People will learn more about the diocese and come forward. We’ve got expert help and a great case to make. Let’s put our shoulders into this.”
For more information about the Annual Catholic Appeal, contact the Office for Stewardship and Development, P.O. Box 44983, Madison, WI 53744, or visit the diocesan Web site at www.madisondiocese.org Daun Maier may be reached by phone at 608-821-3046 or via e-mail at