The 2016 Bishop's Appeal for the Albany Diocese has broken a record: Of the $7.5 million goal for Catholics in the Diocese's 14 counties to donate, 99 percent has been collected.
"That's an all-time high," observed Thomas Prindle, director of development for the Diocese. The difference between what Catholics pledged and the final Bishop's Appeal total was once as high as eight percent, he said.
The total pledged to the 2016 appeal topped the goal, amounting to $7.65 million.
"The bottom line is that people are just incredibly generous in this Diocese and continue to be so," Mr. Prindle told The Evangelist.
The annual Bishop's Appeal campaign is the main funding stream for the Diocese, providing 70 percent of the support needed to maintain a host of ministries. Beneficiaries range from education -- including Catholic schools and parish faith formation, support for fallen-away Catholics, marriage ministry, programs for divorced and separated persons and more -- to technology and communications.
Mr. Prindle especially highlighted diocesan Catholic Charities. The agency, which celebrates its centennial this year, receives approximately 12 percent of the funds collected through the Bishop's Appeal.
"That money is vital for the Catholic Charities programs that have limited funding," noted Catholic Charities CEO Vincent Colonno. "[It's] allocated to programs like food pantries, emergency assistance programs and youth services."
Two examples Mr. Colonno cited were:
the Sunnyside youth program in Troy, which gets a quarter of its annual budget from the Bishop's Appeal to provide 175 young people with day care, after-school activities and summer camp; and
the Hilltowns Community Resource Center in Westerlo, 10 percent of whose operating costs come from the appeal. That means 41 people in the rural communities the center serves got food, support services and emergency assistance "thanks to the Bishop's Appeal," said the CEO.
Schools and faith formation programs also need continued support from the appeal, Mr. Prindle said. Having met with institutions and programs around the Diocese to see how Bishop's Appeal funds are being used, he cited examples like the community service done by students from Bishop Maginn High School in Albany. The teens run a community garden to benefit the food pantry at Albany's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and also work in its food pantry (read a previous story at www.evangelist.org).
Vocations are another ever-present need, particularly since the number of men in formation for the priesthood for the Diocese has risen in recent years. (Go to the homepage to read a related story.) The Diocese must also support its retired priests, who now outnumber active clergy but continue to serve even as they age.
The director noted the spectrum of Catholics supported by the Bishop's Appeal: 18,000 young people in the Diocese's faith formation programs learn the tenets of the Church each year, while facilities like Mary's Haven in Saratoga Springs offer hospice care for the dying.
One concern for Mr. Prindle is that the number of donors to the Bishop's Appeal has decreased, with less than 30,000 of the approximately 100,000 households in the Diocese participating.
"That's where we need to do better," the director stated -- and he plans to do so by spreading the word about the countless good works the Bishop's Appeal makes possible.
The 2017 Bishop's Appeal kicks off April 29. Mr. Prindle is confident that Catholics will continue their donations: "People have this incredible 60-plus-year history" of giving, he said.