Bishop announces $5M ‘Bicentennial Challenge’

Annual Diocesan Appeal hopes to reach new heights


The official goal of the Annual Diocesan Appeal, i.e., the one set by the Pastors’ Advisory Committee (PAC) and approved by Bishop Barry C. Knestout, is $3.7 million — the highest published appeal goal ever.

But being the year of the Diocese of Richmond’s bicentennial, it is an opportunity to raise a record amount of money in order to provide more support for ministries already funded by the appeal — education of youth, care for the elderly poor and support for mission parishes.

To make that possible, Bishop Knestout has announced the Bicentennial Challenge to raise $5 million, which would be the highest amount ever raised by the appeal.

“Because it is the bicentennial, we’re trying to figure out a special way to encourage more participation and get more funding for those ministries,” said Alex Previtera, director of development and operations for the Catholic Community Foundation. “This is above and beyond the funding allocated in the case statement.”

Requests outweigh funding

He noted that requests for funding “way outweigh” what is allocated in the case statement.

“The requests are well above and beyond what you see articulated there, so it’s always kind of a tough thing because there are so many ministries that need funding from the appeal,” Previtera said. “We do the best we can, the PAC does the best they can, and the bishop does the best he can to make sure that everybody gets the funding they need, but also giving a nice portion back to the parishes.”

Non-mission parishes get 20% up to their goal and 50% of the amount collected over the goal. Mission parishes — those that are home mission grant recipients — receive 50% of everything received. Since 2010, the appeal has returned well over $11 million to parishes.

While parish sharing is the “most obvious” benefit for the parishes, according to Previtera, he said he encourages them to articulate that they benefit from many of the ministries that are supported by the appeal, e.g., seminarians, retired priests and the Fuel and Hunger Fund.

“That’s where the challenge is — to show that it’s not just the diocesan case or the parish case, it’s that it all works together,” he said.

Need for ‘sustaining donors’

Response to the appeal is part of a nationwide trend in which the number of donors is down. However, in the Diocese of Richmond, the average amount of a gift has increased. Previtera said the appeal is introducing another option for support.

“We’re looking to talk with people about becoming something called a ‘sustaining donor,’ which means that they will continue to give even beyond 12 months,” he said. “They set a number – let’s say, ‘I want to make a $25 a month gift’ – and they keep doing it in perpetuity until they tell us to stop. That should be a big deal (in increasing the amount contributed).”

He said that, along with promoting electronic giving, “will be a boon to the appeal.” But the key to success, no matter how people choose to give, is presenting the case.

“Being able to continue to articulate the various needs, providing encouragement to people to think about doing something special, especially during this bicentennial year, will make a difference,” he said. “With the bicentennial, hopefully people feel good about what’s happening in the Church. That’s also a part of it, too.”

Previtera assures those who prefer the traditional method of supporting the appeal via the parish collection basket that they will continue to have that option.

“The pew phase is the core of the appeal,” he said. “A pastor getting up and talking with their parishioners about the importance of this effort trumps everything else that we do. He can encourage them to respond by mail or to complete the card there.”

In-pew promotion of the appeal will take place the weekends of Feb. 29-March 1 and March 7-8.

Editor’s note: For further information about the Annual Diocesan Appeal, call Alex Previtera at 804-622-5127 or email [email protected].

For bishop, appeal is personal

One of the reasons the Annual Diocesan Appeal has exceeded its goal the last two years, according to Alex Previtera, director of development and operations for the Catholic Community Foundation, is Bishop Barry C. Knestout.

“Any time you do an appeal like this, you want to relate to people personally because it’ll help them understand more about what it’s all about,” he said. “Not in a false way, but in a real way.”

As he has the past two years, Previtera will attend the seven receptions at which the bishop will speak about the appeal. He knows what to expect.

“When the bishop meets people at receptions, he’s very genuine. I’ve been talking to a donor and he’ll come up, and he’s so relaxed,” Previtera said. “He doesn’t put on airs, he’s very real, he’s very patient with peoples’ questions. He’s authentic.”

That authenticity is evident in the bishop’s talk to the group, Previtera said.

“It’s spiritual. He talks about the appeal in a very real way, not convoluted. It’s a very real, authentic way of talking about — in his own words — why the appeal is important for the Church. It is very personal,” he said.

Bishop Knestout, according to Previtera, has time for everyone.

“I’ve seen him at appeal receptions where he’s spent 10 minutes with just one person because they have questions,” Previtera said. “He won’t actually start the (formal) presentation until he’s talked to everyone individually, which is really cool, and then he’ll stick around afterward. That’s a big deal.”

– Brian T. Olszewski

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