Beth VanVorpe found it a challenge to practice her faith once she started classes at the College of Charleston. The 21-yearold from Dayton, Ohio, didn’t know where or how to meet other Catholics her age.
Thanks to funding from the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, the college’s campus ministry program came to her rescue. VanVorpe now attends student Mass on Sundays, Bible study on Tuesdays and a newly formed Wednesday evening prayer group. She and other students participate in regular service projects, helping Neighborhood House, Habitat for Humanity, local food banks and animal shelters.
“It’s like a home away from home,” she said. “It offers something that is familiar: the spirituality and faith that you grew up with. It’s like a support group. When you’re not with your family anymore, you realize you have to make it on your own, and it’s very encouraging to have Catholic friends to get together with and have that faith connection.”
College ministry is just one of the important programs that rely on the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, which kicked off the weekend of Feb. 1-2. Pledge Weekend will be Feb. 15-16.
The goal for the 2014 campaign is $3 million and a 25 percent participation rate by people in the diocese. Last year, 24 percent of the diocesan community contributed to the effort.
“The appeal funds and offers resources to so many of our programs, and we’re continuing to have great demands in all areas of life in the diocese,” said Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. “We’ve been able to do all that we do because people have been so generous, and we’re just asking them to help keep it going.”
Bishop Guglielmone said the campaign is important because donations have such a broad impact, from assisting the needy and retired priests to supporting Catholic schools and parish ministry.
It helps to pay for the education of seminarians, supports the 82 men currently studying for the permanent diaconate, and provides an important source of funding for the state’s 96 parishes and 22 missions.
Franciscan Sister Catherine Noecker, principal at St. Anthony of Padua School in Greenville, said the appeal makes Catholic education possible for many children. According to figures compiled by the Office of Stewardship and Development, more than 320 students received $385,000 in financial aid for the 2013-14 school year from the BAA and the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Endowment.
“Families face circumstances — health issues, the loss of a job — that make them unable to afford tuition,” Sister Catherine said. “There are some families whose children couldn’t be here otherwise. We count on the contribution from the appeal.”
Because of help from the BAA, Catholic Charities offices around the state are able to assist people with everything from emergency financial assistance and food to immigration services. One program, Save-A-Smile, even helps some regain the ability to greet the world — and prospective employers — with a confident smile.
Deacon Gabriel Cuervo, regional coordinator for the Piedmont Deanery, said Save-A-Smile has helped more than 600 people receive dental care and dentures in the past four
years. The program is offered in Greenville, North Charleston, Columbia and Conway.
“People that have bad teeth can have health issues because they don’t eat well, and they have self-esteem issues because they’re embarrassed about how they look,” Deacon Cuervo said. “We have had success stories in the Upstate where people who got new dentures through Save-A-Smile are working now because they felt more comfortable with themselves and were able to go out and look for a job. You can really change someone’s life with something as simple as a set of dentures.”