Catholic Charities officially announced an $11 million goal to begin its 93rd annual appeal Wednesday to benefit services it offers residents throughout the eight counties of Western New York. Bishop Richard J. Malone, along with representatives of Catholic Charities, made the announcement at a press conference inside Catholic Charities' central intake building at 525 Washington St. in downtown Buffalo.
The bishop announced this year's appeal theme, "Finite Time. Infinite Good," and St. Marianne Cope as the appeal's patron saint. Funds raised until the conclusion of the appeal on June 30 will benefit the 70 programs in 61 Catholic Charities sites throughout the diocese. Its services include emergency aid for homeless individuals, alcohol and substance abuse treatment, job training and education, and more.
"Finite time - we only have so much of it. Infinite good can be accomplished to make a difference in the lives of those who turn to us for support. While that time we have to do this work and make a difference in people's lives often seems very short, the list of people who are in need of our services grows bigger, reaching 152,000 people. Thank God we were able to serve that need over the last year," Bishop Malone said.
"This year's appeal is under the protection and the patronage of St. Marianne Cope. She is a native of upstate New York, one of our very own. She was born in 1838 and raised in Utica, and entered the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse," he added. "The Sisters of St. Francis, that group of them, are located in Williamsville and continue to serve the Western New York community."
St. Marianne Cope was the only leader of 50 congregations to answer a call for a need in Hawaii, where she was asked to help people suffering from leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease. Today, her legacy is one as the "beloved mother of outcasts," which the bishop said applies to Catholic Charities.
Also at the press conference were Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, diocesan director of Catholic Charities of Buffalo; Dennis C. Walczyk, Catholic Charities of Buffalo's chief executive officer; and David Uba, vice president of its board of trustees. The 2017 chair couple is Gerard and Barbara Mazurkiewicz. The bishop said the mission of Catholic Charities to serve the community depends on all of these people.
"Bishop Malone mentioned that Catholic Charities is built on stories of hope and transformation. Many of those stories take place right here at 525 Washington St.," Sister Mary said. "As you walked in the first floor, you came in through central intake, where several thousand people walk in every year."
According to Sister Mary, Catholic Charities strives to serve as "more than just a Band-Aid," she said, helping individuals to become self-sufficient by addressing the underlying concerns and reducing need for continued assistance. In addition to offering food and other immediate needs, Catholic Charities operates a high school equivalency program and offers training to help people back into the workforce.
Uba, who joked that he has been involved with Catholic Charities since "the last time the Bills made the playoffs," stressed the importance of aiding everyone regardless of religion, sex, national origin, race or other characteristics. Much as St. Marianne Cope helped those who were considered to be outcasts, Uba emphasized Catholic Charities' goal of helping the most vulnerable people in the fourth-poorest U.S. city.
"We have just a finite time to raise this money to enable us to make long-standing intergenerational changes in individuals and families. We count on everyone in Western New York to provide the funds to allow us to make a substantive and long-lasting difference in so many lives," Sister Mary concluded.
The $11 million appeal, which features the same goal as that of Catholic Charities' 2016 effort, has two important dates: April 2, "First Report Sunday," and the conclusion of Appeal Week on April 9, Palm Sunday. The diocese designates Appeal Week as the largest push for donations from parishes.