An oft quoted sentiment, “hope springs eternal” has been running through my mind and ringing in my ears the last several days. The 18th century English poet, Alexander Pope, had something quite different in mind when he penned these words. But as I drove home on cold winter nights last week from Whitesboro, Binghamton and Syracuse those words and the sentiment they evoked in me were clearly in my thoughts. I had been to each of these communities and areas of our diocese to speak about our annual HOPE Appeal.
All of us live with hope. It is a wonderful consolation in our lives. On these March days, we are eagerly anticipating spring. And while nothing in this life is eternal, the HOPE Appeal is an important part of our lives now that has eternal implications for us.
This year we celebrate the 33rd annual HOPE Appeal. I am truly grateful to Bishop Frank J. Harrison, the seventh Bishop of Syracuse and a much loved native son, who established this appeal to meet the ever expanding pastoral, educational, and charitable needs of people throughout the seven counties of Central New York which comprise the Diocese of Syracuse. Perhaps more importantly, we celebrate this year the 125th anniversary of the founding of our diocese – a century and a quarter of living our faith to the fullest, spreading the teachings of Jesus by our words and deeds and celebrating together our faith, hope and charity.
The purpose of the meetings in the various regions of the diocese serves three functions.
First, it is an opportunity to thank the workers and donors in our parishes for their continued support and dedication. Second, it gives us an opportunity to review the most recent HOPE Appeal campaign and third, it allows us to preview the upcoming campaign.
I was extremely happy to announce that our 32,561 donors gave $4,434,160 to the 32nd HOPE Appeal. This was the second most successful year in the history of the appeal. So many of you, cognizant of the difficult economic times and grateful for your blessings, wanted to help meet the very real needs of people who turned to the Church for assistance. You made this possible through your faith and by your charity. Your gifts gave hope to many.
It was a special joy to announce that through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Robert McDevitt, our parishes will be able to apply for grants for ministries supported by the HOPE Appeal. These grants will support parish evangelization efforts in youth and family life as well as parish food pantries. Briefly, parishes will have the opportunity to submit requests for funding in these three program areas. We will be looking for programs that are both creative and innovative and able to be replicated in other parishes. A committee, under the direction of the Pastors Advisory Council, will review the proposals and announce the results in time for funds to be distributed beginning July 1 of this year. Details concerning the grants will be sent to all parishes by the end of the month.
In addition, the parishes will receive over $250,000 in parish sharing funds this year: funds that will be used to support local needs and ministries. The money from the HOPE Appeal that is returned to parishes will support priorities ranging from creating or improving accessible spaces to feeding the hungry. These funds may be used by parishes to expand youth ministries, to reach out to our seniors, and to provide people with the basic necessities of life.
The HOPE Appeal touches every parish and community in our diocese. Funds from the HOPE Appeal assist in the education of our seminarians, thus providing priests for ministry in your community in the future. The HOPE Appeal supports parents in providing a Catholic school education for their children; contributes to college campus ministry programs; assists couples preparing for Christian marriage; helps to provide a diocesan retreat center for our spiritual benefit; assists in communicating the good news of our faith; helps to care for those confined to homes and hospitals; reaches out to specialized apostolates in the diocese; and, helps to welcome the stranger in our midst. Through Catholic Charities and Community Services the HOPE Appeal provides assistance to many. Last year, over 150,000 individuals were helped through various Catholic Charities programs which received partial funding through the HOPE Appeal. Permeating all of these good works is our desire to show the beauty of our Catholic faith as we work together in faith, hope and charity.
Hope, as a virtue, does not stand alone. Our Holy Father Benedict XVI expressed this reality very simply, when he said, “Faith, hope and charity go together” (Deus Caritas Est, #39). Faith tells us that God gave us His Son for our sakes.
Faith gives us the certainty that God loves us and draws us into His life. When we are united with Him, love for our neighbor becomes a foremost responsibility for each of us (cf. Deus Caritas Est, #20, #39). The HOPE Appeal provides us with the means to face the challenges we meet in strengthening and spreading our faith and reaching out to the needs of our brothers and sisters. It is a visible reminder that God is present and at work in His world. This is evangelization at its best.
I consider it a privilege to ask for your help on behalf of so many in our diocese who look to us. We are celebrating our past and looking forward to a future bright with hope because of your charity. Do you understand now why “hope springs eternal” has been in my mind and heart? May it resonate in yours as well!
If you have an intention you would like me to remember in prayer, please forward it to me at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.