The following story appeared in the Feb. 12 issue of the Idaho Catholic Register.
Choosing the theme “Open Our Doors to Witness Christ,” for the Diocese of Boise’s annual Idaho Catholic Appeal might seem odd to some who were frustrated and saddened to find the doors of their churches locked during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring.
But the choice of that theme was an intentional one to show that the doors of the Church – entrance into Christ and His people – are always open, even on those rare occasions when the physical doors may be shut.
“While at times, the physical doors of your church were closed, the door to Christ is always open to the world as you, through your witness and loving actions, invite all into the life of Christ,” writes Bishop Peter Christensen in a letter to all parishioners regarding the Idaho Catholic Appeal. The appeal officially launches at the beginning of Lent on Feb. 17.
The goal is to raise $3 million to support more than 20 services and ministries
of the Diocese including Catholic schools as well as education for seminarians, priests and deacons. The Idaho Catholic Appeal also supports diocesan departments such as the Office of Marriage and Family Life, the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, the
Office of Religious Education and Catechetical Leadership, the Office of Communications, the Office of Worship and Formation, Hispanic Ministries, the Marriage Tribunal and Canonical Affairs Department, the Finance Department, Catholic Charities of Idaho, and pastoral outreach to retired priests, hospitals, prisons and refugee and migrant populations.
Margaret Hampton, development coordinator for the Diocese, believes the goal of $3 million is achievable, despite current economic conditions aggravated by the pandemic.
“In the last four years, we’ve gone over $3 million, so I know we can do it,” Hampton said. Last year’s goal was $2.8 million, and $3.2 mil-lion was raised. However, because parishes are refunded any amount they raise above 100 percent of their parish goal, last year’s appeal ended up meeting about 98 percent of that $2.8 million goal. “We gave a significant rebate to parishes, many who surpassed their goals,” Hampton said.
Donations to the appeal last year were significant given the fact that Lent last year started during the state-enforced shutdown of all but essential activities. Even though churches were essentially closed during the Easter season, faithful Catholics continued to give to the Idaho Catholic Appeal, knowing its importance to the vitality of the ministry of the Church in Idaho.
“We may have been going through a pandemic, but the Church is always open, no matter if there is a pandemic, a natural disaster or economic difficulties,” Hampton said. “We’re always open because we are always caring for loved ones and strangers. If you support the Appeal, you are witnessing Christ to the Church community and beyond.”
The campaign typically lasts through Lent, a season of fasting, prayer and almsgiving, but Catholics may donate to the appeal during any time of the year.
Giving last year – and likely this year – was more of a challenge for some who are accustomed to giving at their parishes. But, because of the pandemic, a significant number of those in vulnerable populations do not attend Mass. “With 25 to 50 percent fewer people in the pews, we are relying more than ever on mailings, just like parishes must do now with their weekly offertory. And we are seeing more online giving,” Hampton said.
Support to the Idaho Catholic Appeal also helps parishes, particularly in rural areas, who may not have the staff, technology and band-width to connect with parishioners, Hampton said.
According to a report provided for Catholic Extension – a ministry to rural and missionary dioceses – overall offertory giving dropped by about 8 percent from April through August in the Diocese of Boise, not as steep a decline as experienced in other parts of the country. “Our saving grace is that people are moving here,” Hampton said.
In fact, Idaho is doing better than most states, both in its handling of the pandemic and the overall economy, which makes the annual appeal drive less daunting than that experienced in many dioceses. About 2,000 new names have been added to the Diocese’s database, with significant growth in north Idaho and in the Boise metropolitan area.
To see a longer video and several shorter videos about the Idaho Catholic Appeal, go to catholicidaho.org/ica. To donate to the appeal, go to the same website and click on the Idaho Catholic Appeal pop-up window or on “Giving” in the upper right-hand corner.
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