Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Annual Catholic Appeal: Answers to common questions

from Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the Feb. 2, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Q. What is the Annual Catholic Appeal?
At all levels the mission of the Church does not happen in the abstract. In our culture it takes money to “make Church happen” just as it takes money in our homes to “make family happen.” Accordingly, each year I ask the faithful to collaborate with me in raising money to support the mission of the Catholic Church throughout our Diocese.

Q. Will pledges made to this Appeal be safe from lawsuit and payment of attorney fees?
In response to many parishioner requests, you can choose to restrict your gift by checking the appropriate box on the pledge envelope. Once selected, your pledge or contribution cannot be used for Chapter 11 legal expenses.

Q. How is the ACA goal set for each parish?
Diocesan administrators, understandably, are aware of the financial pressures which every parish in our Diocese experiences. Over the years, pastors have identified 20% of a parish’s annual income (computed from Sunday/Holy Day collection envelopes and plate totals) as an acceptable “benchmark” for establishing a portion of the Annual Catholic Appeal for their parishes. This figure is not a tax levied on the parish. It is a campaign goal. Pastors and parishioners, however, are expected to do everything possible to achieve the parish goal.

Q. What is funded by the Annual Catholic Appeal?
People often observe, “Church happens primarily in the parishes.” In a sense, that is profoundly true. At the same time, a broader dimension of the Church extends the mission of the Church beyond the needs of the local parish. As Catholics we form a diocese-wide community of faith, which together fosters the saving mission of Christ. Catholics know that they “belong” to more than their home parish; they also participate in the life of the diocese. When we Catholics refer to “the diocese” or “diocesan administration,” reference is made both to the spiritual needs and the business aspects of administering a Catholic community of more than 95,000 Catholics throughout thirteen counties in Eastern Washington. People in the pew benefit in various ways (sometimes unknown or not recognized) from the services and program supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.

This year the Annual Catholic Appeal funds nearly 91 percent of the administrative costs and ministerial services which are needed to support the bishop’s mission and services of the church throughout the diocese. Here is one way of breaking down those costs for the 2006-2007 Diocesan Budget:

Bishop’s Ministries: $254,500
Business Administration/Accounting Services: $375,000
Evangelization/Catholic Schools/Religious Education: $384,000
Inland Register/Communications Services: $100,000 Seminary/Education of Seminarians: $525,000 Utilities/Building-Property Maintenance: $224,000

Q. Why is there special urgency to this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal?
The Diocese of Spokane does not boast of great wealth. It never has been able to do so. In fact, for years we have been on the verge of qualifying as a “mission” diocese. Even before the decision was made to endure the anticipated financial pressures of Chapter 11 litigation, which is our present challenge, the diocese faced deficit spending because of increased expense for maintaining its various ministries. The ministerial life of our diocese always has depended ultimately on the generous financial support of the people in the pew. Given our present financial crisis, that support is more critical this year than ever before. In the last five years a significant decline in stock market returns, ever-increasing health care costs benefits (including those for retired priests) – and, yes, Chapter 11 litigation – have combined to be a “perfect storm” which has decimated our diocese’s financial resources. We have had to lay off personnel, eliminate services and I have closed the Parish Services Office and Youth Ministry.

Each of these adjustments has meant an unwelcome weakening of the mission of the Church in our Diocese. As we look forward to the 2006-2007 budget – which is funded by this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal – we truly are down to bare bones. There are no funds in reserve to see us through the storm. We are in a make-or-break situation. The mission of the Church quite literally is in the hands of the faithful. Your contributions to the 2006 Annual Catholic Appeal must be a financial priority if even the essential elements of that mission are to continue.

Q. What is difference between the Annual Catholic Appeal and other funding campaigns?
The Annual Catholic Appeal is one of four diocese-wide collections for which I each year seek the support of the faithful. The other collections are: 1) Catholic Charities Christmas Collection; 2) World Missions Collection; and 3) The Catholic Church in the United States. These are funding efforts separate from those of the Catholic Foundation of the Spokane Diocese (an independent corporation), which over the years has conducted fund-raising campaigns for special needs. For example, the endowment which resulted from the 2003 “Here I Am, Lord, Send Me” campaign, now helps cover the Diocese’s education of seminarians. It also eventually will provide funds for the construction of a new Bishop White Seminary.

Q. What about my pledge to the “Here I Am, Lord, Send Me” campaign for the education of seminarians and reconstruction of Bishop White Seminary?
I am profoundly grateful to all those who continue to satisfy the pledges they made to the “Here I Am, Lord, Send Me” campaign. The Catholic Foundation of the Spokane Diocese, a separate non-profit corporation, conducted this campaign. All the funds collected in this effort must be used for the expressed intention of the campaign and legally are out of the reach of Chapter 11 litigation. The campaign – popularly referred to as the “Seminary Campaign” – included the 2004 Annual Catholic Appeal. The ACA has “returned” as a separate stand-alone campaign and continues in the same status again this year.

Q. How will a settlement of the Chapter 11 litigation affect the Annual Catholic Appeal?
The Annual Catholic Appeal supports the ministerial and administrative services of the Diocese. Through this Appeal the People of God assure that the mission and ministries of the Church will continue throughout the Diocese. A Chapter 11 settlement will require a substantial amount of money, payable over several years. In addition to insurance coverage, a major portion of the funding for a settlement will come from the sale of diocesan assets. To the extent that additional funding of a settlement may be necessary, any arrangements made for the voluntary contributions from parishes and the faithful will be made separate from the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Q. How can other questions about this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal be answered?
It is important that decisions made regarding the Annual Catholic Appeal are based on fact, and not rumor or misunderstanding. At any time questions about this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal may be referred to your pastor, Parish Administrator, or to the Diocese’s Development Office (358-4280). If I can be of assistance, the faithful may contact me as well. We all are in this together.

Q. The diocese has been bogged down in litigation for more than a three years now. Why weren’t the abuse cases settled a long time ago?
    I have tried several times to provide satisfactory compensation for the victims of sexual abuse by a few of our priests. But all those efforts (started nearly two years ago) have been unsuccessful. In December 2004 I determined that the long-term financial stability and continued mission of the diocese required that I file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This was the only way in which all the known and unknown claims of victims of abuse could be addressed in a fair manner. However, because of its intricate nature, the bankruptcy is agonizingly slow. With the faithful of the Diocese I share an intensifying sense of frustration caused by the protracted legal process. I will do all that I can to bring a timely and just closure to this matter.

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