One of the many blessings of living at this moment in the Diocese of Brooklyn is the privilege of “Sharing Our Gifts to Build God’s Kingdom in Brooklyn and Queens” — which is the theme of the 2012 Annual Catholic Appeal. Because of the economic burdens faced by so many as a result of current economic conditions in our country, the opportunity has never been greater to make a difference for our brothers and sisters most in need at this time.
Through the sustained generosity of our people, the good works of our parishes and diocesan agencies continue to provide pastoral and financial support for the poor and vulnerable, among whom may be immigrant families, the sick, those suffering from the loss of loved ones or parental separation, the aging and so many others. The Annual Catholic Appeal also furthers the work of evangelization by fostering the growth of vocations, supporting retired priests – many of whom are still very active in pastoral works – providing tuition assistance for Catholic school families and maintaining the quality of our religious education programs. The Appeal also promotes ministries that support respect for all human life, married couples, the separated and bereaved.
Giving to the Annual Catholic Appeal is a way of directly touching the lives of our neighbors in a manner that is seldom experienced through the impersonal bureaucracies of government agencies. No one knows for sure where our tax dollars are going to end up. In our own diocese, we can be confident that every penny collected is not only accounted for but invested with great care in the lives of real people who are ministered to – person to person – by dedicated people who serve in our parishes and diocesan services. Those who serve in our churches, schools, ministries and offices throughout the diocese are distinguished by their prayerful dedication that goes far beyond hours logged on the daily time sheet.
The Annual Catholic Appeal offers an opportunity for personal spiritual enrichment that is rooted in the practice of almsgiving, which the Lenten Scriptures highlight as uniquely suited to growth in our identity as disciples of Christ.
“Whatsoever you do for the least of my people, that you do unto me” (Matthew 25:40) is the standard by which the Lord will recognize us among his people. For it is the “least” of God’s people with whom Jesus most intimately identifies. It is such an honor to give precisely because we are assured by the Lord that in giving we are giving to Jesus himself. While this connection may not always be so clear amid the anonymous organs of the modern state, it is certainly the soul of all giving among the members of the Body of Christ, united in faith and love.
Giving generously to the Annual Catholic Appeal, especially in the form of a pledge, redeemed from month to month, is also a way of deciding, prayerfully and deliberatively, how much as a Christian one takes seriously the Incarnation, the central doctrine of our faith. It is, as it were, a profession of faith in action, not mere words, and it continues throughout the year as a way of everyday life, not just an isolated moment of passing good will. Any gift, however, is a response to the call of Jesus Himself who most identifies with our sisters and brothers in need. And there is no better time to say “yes” than at the beginning of our Lenten journey!