By Tim Harfmann
As chaplain of St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, Father Ralph Edel’s job is to strengthen the faith of each student so it lasts a lifetime.
“The hope is that, one day, they’ll go to college and be involved in that way; and God willing, one day as parents and adults, they’ll do the same thing in their parishes,” said Father Edel, who was ordained to the priesthood in 2016.
Anthony Olivieri, a junior at the school, said that Father Edel is not only a chaplain, but also a friend to Prep students.
“Father Ralph helps guide us what to do, to the best in our lives,” Olivieri said.
Supporting young people in their Catholic education and faith formation is a mighty mission – and it requires a great deal of support. Father Edel receives that through the Annual Catholic Appeal, an annual campaign conducted in every parish of the Brooklyn Diocese.
“The Annual Catholic Appeal is an ongoing way of sustaining the programs that happen in Brooklyn and Queens for all parishes,” said John Heyer, executive director of the Annual Catholic Appeal.
The $8 million raised in the latest campaign funds a whole range of projects in the diocese, Heyer explained.
More than a quarter of parishioners’ donations – 26.25 percent – supported vocations, and another 25 percent was allocated to faith formation.
Other programs include Catholic Charities (13.75 percent), Catholic Migration Services (8.75 percent), care for retired priests (7.5 percent), Catholic school scholarships (6.25 percent), chaplains (6.25 percent) and parish assistance (6.25 percent).
And when an individual church surpasses its assigned goal, there is a bonus.
“Anything over a parish’s goal goes directly back to the parish in order to help support that parish, in perhaps a project or something that they’re doing,” said Heyer.
As of late January, parishes received more than $1.2 million from last year’s campaign. Father Edel said the appeal helps nearly 2,500 students.
“We’ll be introducing freshmen to the foundations of their faith and to the spirituality of the school. We’re going to get an outside speaker to come in. That’s because of the funds of the ACA,” he explained.
But members of the St. Francis Prep community said having a full-time chaplain also fills a void.
“What Father Ralph does best is establish relationships, and they’re so important. Now, I see people filtering in and out of his office,” said Patrick McLaughlin, principal of St. Francis Prep.
“It’s really nice to have someone there who you can talk to and understand things that you might not be able to learn from a teacher or guidance counselor,” said Ashley Caturano, a St. Francis Prep senior.
Editor’s note: To learn more about the appeal, or to donate, visit annualcatholicappeal.org.