25 Years of HOPE

May 1, 2003
VOL 122 NO. 17
25 Years of HOPE
By Kristen Fox / SUN contributing writers
The room was so quiet one could hear a pin drop 25 years ago as Bishop Frank Harrison and Bishop Thomas Costello anxiously awaited the results of the first annual diocesan HOPE Appeal. The silence would not last long. Rejoicing filled the room when the figures were announced and the bishops learned that in the premiere year of the HOPE Appeal over $1.5 million dollars was raised, surpassing the $1.1 million goal.

“That was the year that we learned a surplus isn’t always necessarily better than a deficit,” joked Bishop Costello. Things certainly fell into place in 1978 for the HOPE Appeal — the major fundraising source for ministries in the Diocese of Syracuse. The campaign was the vision of Bishop Harrison who wanted to address the needs of a growing church with rising financial demands. Rather than cut back on funding for programs and services, Bishop Harrison decided to make a diocesan-wide effort to raise money, asking for the full cooperation of the church, its priests and its people. He appropriately named the first campaign “Together.” “Bishop Harrison saw the entire church of the diocese working together towards one goal,” said Msgr. Robert Davern, who worked along side Bishop Harrison to coordinate the first HOPE Appeal.

Those who can recall 1978 might remember hearing announcements for the campaign from Bob Hope or Vikki Carr who spoke in support of the campaign for their “good friend Bishop Harrison.” And, though with the same intentions as the present, the campaign took a different approach to soliciting donations. Clergy members went door-to-door seeking donations from parishioners. Bishop Harrison believed that this type of campaign would facilitate a pastoral program between clergy and parishioners.

“My hope is that the HOPE Appeal will not be a solicitation of money only, but an experience by thousands of the Church alive and at work in a legion of ministries for our Lord,” wrote Bishop Harrison in a letter to clergy in 1978. Monsignor Davern noted that over 70,000 people donated to the campaign with an average gift of $30, something he called “a substantial amount for that time.” “It was a remarkable beginning to a beautiful annual campaign,” Msgr. Davern stated.

Over time, the HOPE Appeal developed into the pledge system that parishioners today are familiar with. Regardless of method, the HOPE Appeal still provides ongoing support for scores of services in the Syracuse Diocese. “One of the benefits I have in my old age is to look back over time and to really rejoice in many of the good things that have happened to me,” said Bishop Harrison, “and one of the things I take great pride in is the establishment of the HOPE Appeal.” This year, the annual campaign that Bishop Harrison holds so close to his heart will reach a milestone. The 25th HOPE Appeal will kick-off on May 18. To the over 80 programs and ministries in the diocese which benefit from its funds, including Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, religious education and vocations, the HOPE Appeal is vital to their livelihood. The goal for 2003, said Christopher (Kit) Parker, diocesan director of Development and Stewardship, is for each parish to give as much as they can, adding that all the dollars and cents from the campaign go directly to diocesan ministries.

“The HOPE Appeal is a campaign to raise money to help people. None of the money goes to anything but these services,” said Parker. Over time, people might grow weary of giving. Misconceptions about where HOPE Appeal money is going may even cause parishioners to be hesitant to donate. Monsignor Davern emphasized what a personal campaign the HOPE Appeal is; it is a campaign to help our brothers and sisters in Christ, he said. “Every person in the diocese knows someone who will benefit from one of the programs supported by the HOPE Appeal,” said Father Davern. “Whether it be a chaplain who comes to visit a sick relative, a lay minister who visits an elderly family member in the nursing home, or the vocations program which calls a sibling to become a priest or sister –– someone you know will be touched through one of these programs.”

The Family Life Education Offices are one of the ministries that receive substantial funding from the HOPE Appeal. The family is the center of parish life. The Family Life Offices help to build stronger families and healthier relationships by offering many services to people in the diocese. Over 50,000 individuals and couples are supported annually by programs of marriage preparation and enrichment, parenting skills enhancement and resolution of marriages in trouble. Brian and Julie Chetney began attending marriage prep classes to create a stronger union after their marriage, but they ended up returning to the class as volunteers. Brian said that he was surprised at how much the class benefited them.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from the class, but I got so much out of it,” said Brian. The day-long marriage-prep workshops are usually broken into sessions. The first is devoted to presentations, raising issues that are intended to trigger conversation. The couples are then asked to split up and “participate in problem solving groupings.” Brian believes that the real focus is to give couples a chance to talk about important issues with people who are going though the same thing. “The session taught me that beyond your wedding day, life may become very different, but you still have to continue living as a couple,” he said. Julie agrees that the sessions send an important message to couples who are preparing to enter into a lifelong commitment. They try to get couples to think about the little things –– the subtle differences and questions that are not asked until a couple is married, such as “Will there be a joint checking account?” “When I volunteer at marriage prep classes, my message is, when you have an obstacle and you have a difficult time overcoming it together, don’t think you have to call it quits. You have to go into marriage for the long haul,” explained Julie.

Chaplaincies throughout the diocese receive monies from the HOPE Appeal. Currently, there are 35 hospital chaplains and pastoral ministers who provide support and spiritual solace to parishioners, especially in times of emergency. Sister Maureen Denn, CSJ, hospital chaplain at Faxton Hospital in Utica, comforts many sick and dying patients who are without companionship in their final days. With funds from the HOPE Appeal, she said, she is able to bring Christ to them. “Without the support of the HOPE Appeal there would not be a chaplain sitting at a bedside, there would not be someone there to listen to the fears of the lonely and those who are sick and dying,” said Sister Maureen. People also turn to the chaplains when dealing with terminal illnesses, such as a cancer. Since such a diagnosis often brings out powerful emotions in patients and in family members, it is helpful for them to have an outlet for these feelings. The staff of the chaplaincy becomes a part of the team of caregivers, inviting the sick to call on them whenever support is needed.

As the number of priests declines, the education and training of lay people to fill positions such as hospital chaplains and pastoral ministers are critical to parish life. HOPE Appeal funds also go towards training and certifying more lay people to assist in ministry. The HOPE Appeal is also vital to youth services. The church reaches out to students through religious education and youth ministry programs. In addition, it helps with the religious education and spiritual development of students who otherwise might be alienated from the church through three diocesan faith centers. “It is important that the church be visible to all teenagers in every community, responding to both physical and spiritual needs,” said Shelly Wholkowicz, director of the Proctor Faith Center in Utica. The Proctor Faith Center offers an opportunity for students in grades ten though twelve to grow in faith. It provides a safe environment where teenagers can go during their free time and explore their faith through activities and service projects. Wholkowicz pointed out that many of the students who visit the center have no other source of religious education in their lives.

“They might not be exploring a connection with God anywhere else in their lives. Here, they can come and grow in Christ during their teenage years,” stated Wholkowicz, who has been director of the center for the past three years. Parker noted that while last year’s campaign fell short of its goal, he is optimistic about 2003. Every gift made to the HOPE Appeal is needed and appreciated, he said. “No matter what amount people give, when their donation is added to the donations of others in the diocese, it makes a difference in the lives of all the people who depend on these ministries,” said Parker. The 25th anniversary of the HOPE Appeal is a time to reflect on the differences the campaign makes in the lives of so many people, but also to look forward to its continued success. Without the HOPE Appeal, ministries and organizations of the Syracuse Diocese would not be able to serve adequately the 200,000 people who depend on their support. To ensure that those in need continue to receive help, contributions to the HOPE Appeal are needed now more than ever. “We are called upon to help those in need,” said Bishop James Moynihan. “We also proclaim our hope in anything we offer to God, no matter how big or small, is returned to us a hundred times over.” A brief video explaining the ministries supported by the HOPE Appeal is available from the diocesan Development Office. For more information about the campaign or to obtain a copy of the video, contact the Development Office at (315) 472-0203.

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