CHARLESTON—Catholics opened their hearts and wallets to help support vital church programs through the annual Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal, despite a poor economy.
The 2010 effort had already surpassed its goal of $2.25 million for the year as of Nov. 3. Donations total $2,257,900, according to Matthew Dwyer, director of stewardship and development for the Diocese of Charleston.
The appeal started in January with regional receptions in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville, and runs through Dec. 31. Dwyer said people still have time to fulfill pledges they made, or to make donations at www.catholic-doc.org.
The parish that has raised the most money is Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant, contributing $115,927.
Bishop Paul J. Hallinan established the BSA, originally known as the Diocesan Development Fund, in 1962. The money supports vocations, youth ministry, outreach and evangelization programs, Catholic school grants, retired priests, campus ministry, and Catholic Charities in each deanery.
Sixty-four parishes have reached or exceeded 100 percent of their fundraising goal, 10 parishes have reached 90 percent and six have achieved 80 percent, Dwyer said.
The overall target was increased for 2010 because some ministries needed additional funding, and because of recent growth in the state, he said.
Additional money was allocated to cover pensions and health care costs for retired priests. Catholic Charities’ funding increased by $25,000 because of demand for emergency financial services and counseling, plus money to care for the elderly.
Dwyer said campus ministry funds will get a boost this year because Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone has made it a priority.
“The bishop has been intent on reaching out to those students and giving them a Catholic presence during the formative years of college,” Dwyer said.
Statistics show the number of families in the diocese has increased by 25 percent in the past decade.
“Even in these difficult times, which have been a challenge for a lot of folks financially, we not only have more people supporting the appeal, but more households are supporting it at a higher level than they have in the past,” he said.
The popular misconception is that people will cut back on charitable giving during difficult times, he added.
“The message we’ve tried to send from a stewardship perspective is these are the times when our fellow brothers and sisters throughout the state need the church and look to us for support and guidance,” Dwyer said. “We’ve asked parishes to promote the message that people out there need our help more than ever, and it’s our obligation to reach out to those who need the basics. In response, people have really stepped up to support their fellow Catholics.”
Church size did not make a difference when it came to reaching or surpassing BSA goals for this year, Dwyer said. Both small and large parishes regularly meet their expectations because of deep commitments to giving something back to the diocese.
“It’s really an issue of parish pride,” said John Swanson, BSA chairman at Sacred Heart Church in Charleston. “Although we’re small [88 households], we count on the people in the parish to make the goal every year. We have an extremely loyal group of people, and we’ve never missed our goal.”