Even in the darkness of disrupted lives, the light of Christ continues to shine as parishes and ministries find new ways to serve people in all areas of need, spiritually and physically.
Businesses, schools, and churches were forced to close, at least temporarily, and people of all ages struggled as the coronavirus took its toll.
But still, as so much changed, the life of the Church found new ways to grow and to reach out to help its flock in the face of crisis.
Thousands of people in need of food, help with rent and utilities and other services found aid and sustenance through Catholic Charities. Catholic schools learned new ways to teach children, who are the future of the Church, while also keeping them safe from the virus.
Seminarians studying for the priesthood in the diocese — like so many other students nationwide — continued their work, mostly remotely, or in socially-distanced classrooms. In other vocations, 15 men prepared to be ordained to the permanent diaconate.
College campus ministry students and young adults fought back the tide of daily uncertainty by joining together through Zoom and other online programs to study the Bible, pray and support each other.
Couples, families, and women struggling with crisis pregnancies and post-abortive trauma received strength in their daily journeys through the Family Life Office. The beautiful diversity of Catholics in South Carolina was reflected through programs offered by the office of Ethnic Ministries.
None of this would have been possible without funding from the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
The annual campaign, which launches this year on Feb. 14, relies on donations from the faithful to fund the work of outreach and evangelization carried out in the Diocese of Charleston’s 93 parishes, 20 missions, 33 Catholic schools, and through agencies like Catholic Charities.
“We are fortunate to live in a growing diocese. Because of that, and as a result of the pandemic, the needs this past year have been much more significant,” said Carrie Mummert, director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement.
“It is important that we all participate in supporting the Bishop’s Annual Appeal as one Catholic, diocesan family,” she said. “In doing so, we bear witness to the love of Christ and provide needed support to those in our communities. Every dollar truly makes a difference.”
The largest percentage of donations to the BAA — 24% — goes to Catholic Charities, which has offices around the state. In just the first five months of the pandemic, the agency saw requests for assistance increase by 550%. Approximately 10,000 families and 35,000 individuals received help with food, financial assistance for rent and utilities, and other needs.
Thousands of homeless people were able to wash their clothes and take showers at the three Clean of Heart sites. All of this was done in the midst of the pandemic, as agency workers found ways to adjust how their programs operate — such as converting the Our Lady’s Pantry food program to a drive-up service.
“With the much higher demand for assistance this past year, without the appeal we would not have been able to keep our office running as efficiently as we have and continued to serve those in need, “said Rocio Maldonado, site administrator at Catholic Charities’ Coastal office in Charleston. “Our building has stayed open the entire time to offer food and basic needs services each day. Without this help and everyone’s generous donations, we would not have had the resources to help our neighbors in need as much as we have.”
While Catholic Charities helped with many material needs during the pandemic, the diocesan young adult ministry program, through funding from the BAA, was able to nurture the spiritual needs of hundreds of people ages 18-35, said Cara Lawley, director of young adult ministry.
In normal times, Lawley’s office runs in-person weekend retreats that offer learning, prayer, and fellowship, plus summer leadership training for young adult ministers at the parish level. In 2020, that all went virtual.
Retreats, Bible study, and other programs for young adults were held via Zoom or other platforms. During Holy Week and the Easter season, diocesan priests offered online “Theology on Tap” gatherings featuring lectures on Scripture and other church teachings. In mid-January, more than 30 young adults statewide met for a virtual evangelization retreat.
“Funding from the BAA really helps us with these retreats and education programs, and we have needed the help more than ever this year because of COVID-19,” Lawley said. “We’re definitely looking forward to when we can meet in person again, but right now the funding helps us to connect young adults in the best way we can. People are still looking for Jesus and we are helping them find ways that God can work in their lives.”
Gifts to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal can be provided through a one-time gift, a monthly pledge over 10 months, or by establishing a recurring gift. All families in the diocese will receive a letter from Bishop Guglielmone with a pledge card. You can also donate at charlestondiocese.org/donate.
For a quick explanation on the differences between the Bishop’s Annual Appeal and the Bicentennial Campaign, please see below: