Connie Lunde

Connie Lunde

January 25, 2016
LORRAINE TURCHANSKY
SPECIAL TO THE WCR

There's no question - 2015 was a tough year, and the cries for help were many.

But despite economic hardship, people in the Edmonton Archdiocese responded generously.

When a massive earthquake devastated Nepal in April, they contributed more than $336,000 to Development and Peace's relief efforts.

In September, when Archbishop Richard Smith asked for special collections to alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees overseas, parishes responded with $170,000 in donations, which were forwarded to Development and Peace and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

When the call went out to sponsor Syrian refugees to come to Canada, 16 parishes committed to help more than 190 people settle into safe, secure homes here, at a cost of more than $30,000 per family.

All this while job losses mounted in Alberta's oil-dependent economy, and many Alberta charities struggled to reach their goals. In that context, Connie Lunde says it's amazing that the 2015 Together We Serve appeal raised $2,051,700.

Lunde, archdiocesan director of development, said just over $1.668 million has been forwarded to the nine charitable partners of Together We Serve. Under the Parish Share program, another $162,400 is being returned to parishes. Administration costs amounted to $220,450, or 10.75 per cent.

Archbishop Smith said he was touched by the response.

"Even with our local economy struggling in the past year, we are very fortunate to live in this part of the world," he said.

"I am deeply grateful to all parishioners for their generous support of Together We Serve. Every single gift, no matter the size, helps us serve those who need our help."

Each parish has its own goal for Together We Serve, based on past donation patterns, and most exceeded them in 2015.

St. Theresa Parish in Ma-Me-O Beach reached 203 per cent of its target. St. Theresa in Edmonton, St. Stephen in Lacombe, and St. Francis Xavier in Camrose all surpassed their targets while in the midst of their own capital campaigns.

Even small inner-city parishes did well - Sacred Heart at 98 per cent, St. Alphonsus at 147 per cent and St. Clare at 116 per cent. The parish with the highest target (St. Thomas More: $170,000) not only exceeded it but also raised money to support 10 refugee families.

MONEY RETURNED

Parishes that surpassed their targets will receive 75 per cent of the overage back. Each parish decides how this rebate will be spent. Last year, Parish Share rebates went toward a variety of causes, such as the Marian Centre, St. Vincent de Paul, refugee relief, parish-based charitable work and parish projects.

In 2016, Together We Serve will aim to help every parish reach its target.

Lunde recalled a recent reflection on giving by Matthew Kelly, an internationally renowned Catholic speaker and author.

"He says that if we wish to amaze the people in our life, do it with generosity. He uses terms like astonishing generosity and staggering generosity," she said. "That is what we have witnessed here in this archdiocese in 2015."

For 2016, the appeal goal has been set at $2 million, up slightly from last year. This year's campaign will include the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, which was formally twinned with the Edmonton Archdiocese in 2014.

NORTHERN DIOCESE

Bishop Mark Hagemoen of Mackenzie-Fort Smith said the support will be greatly appreciated in his diocese, which stretches across the Northwest Territories and includes parts of northern Saskatchewan and Nunavut.

A major pastoral challenge is connecting over great distances and building community among its 28,000 Catholics, who are mostly Dene, Metis and Inuvialuit people.

"We are blessed to be part of the Together We Serve appeal," Hagemoen said in an email. "Your support will help us in the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith to fund the critical ministries that encourage prayer, service, healing and growth, and engagement of the Church and the community. Your gifts will truly make a difference as we build together a community of hope in Christ's vision for his people."

BENEFICIARIES

Here's how the partner charities benefited from the 2015 Together We Serve appeal:

  • Catholic Social Services: $330,850.
  • Canadian Catholic Organization for Development & Peace: $267,600.
  • Evangelization of Nations: $97,300.
  • Needs of the Canadian Church: $107,050.
  • Needs of the Church in the Holy Land: $155,700.
  • The Pope's Pastoral Works: $97,300.
  • St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College: 291,925.
  • St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta: $126,500.
  • St. Joseph Priests' Foundation of Edmonton: $194,625.