Diocesan appeal funds core ministries, helps the needy

The Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal kicks off Jan. 31 with a message from the pulpit.

All 60,000 registered Catholics are being asked to give as much as they can to help the annual fund-raising campaign that financially supports a number of ministries and organizations of the Diocese of Charleston.

Last year, the BSA received $2.1 million from the 14,391 families that participated, according to Matt Dwyer, director of stewardship and development for the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement. Dwyer said that figure represents about 24 percent of the Catholics in the state.

The goal is $2 million again this year and organizers hope to continue their streak of meeting, or surpassing, their goal, which they have done the past four years in a row.

This year, Catholics have even more of a reason to give in thanksgiving for the appointment of Bishop-designate Robert E. Guglielmone, who will be installed on March 25. He will lead the BSA for the remainder of the year.

Funds from the appeal help programs such as Catholic Charities, Catholic education and right-to-life organizations. They provide operating support for centralized diocesan services.

“This is the main fund-raising appeal the diocese does to fund our core ministries,” Dwyer said.

It is important for parishioners to remember that their gifts help those in need and further the church’s evangelization mission.

Deacon Ed Peitler, director of the Office of Social Ministry, said Catholic Charities provides a host of services, such as food, clothing and shelter for the homeless. They help unemployed families pay the rent and utility bills. They aid immigrants, abused women and children, and the elderly.

“This coming year, because of the very cold winter we’ve had, there’s a lot of elderly who can’t afford to heat their homes and at the same time pay for the medicine they need,” Deacon Peitler said. “We hope to help them so they don’t have to make that choice.”

Another area that Catholic Charities supports is prison ministry, which needs help more than ever now that the Dismas Thrift Store is closing. Located in Beaufort, the shop was created to financially support financially the children who are victims of crime, including those whose parents are incarcerated.

The economic downturn was too much for the new business, Deacon Peitler said. The store’s last day is Jan. 31. Deacon Jim Hyland, regional coordinator of prison ministry, said they are sad to see it end.

For the past two weeks, they have been selling and donating the last of the store’s inventory. Now, he said, it is time to move on and make plans for the future.

Father Tim Tebalt, administrator of St. Peter Church, has provided office space for prison ministries, Deacon Hyland said.

The BSA also helps youth ministry, vocations, seminarians and priests, among others.

“We want to support our priests as much as possible,” Dwyer said. “Everybody was supported by a priest at one time, so we want to give that back.”

The appeal kicks off with a solicitation phase during February. Parishioners will receive bulletin inserts and direct mailings, Dwyer said.

He said he hopes the economic struggles will not have a negative impact.

“Our hope is that people will think about it, pray about it,” he said. “What they can give is between them and God.”

The Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal, formerly known as the Diocesan Development Fund, was instituted under Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler in 1962.