WASHINGTON (November 6, 1998) The theme of the 1998 Catholic Campaign for Human Development appeal is Helping People Help Themselves, according to Bishop Ricardo Ramírez, Chairman of the CCHD Committee of the United States Catholic Conference. The 1998 CCHD collection will take place November 21 and 22 in most dioceses.
As he opened the 1998 drive, Bishop Ramírez also reported that donations to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development 1997 appeal reached a record high of $14 million.
"I am delighted that our fellow Catholics have responded so generously to this appeal," said Bishop Ramírez. "It is a powerful expression of their confidence in CCHD's ability to carry out our Christian responsibility in a compassionate and effective way."
The Campaign, established by the nation's Catholic Bishops in 1970, funds self-help projects throughout the country to give poor people living in society the tools they need to overcome poverty. Since its inception, CCHD has distributed nearly $250 million in grants to more than 3500 initiatives nationwide. The $14 million collected in the 1997 appeal includes some $3.5 million that is retained by dioceses for local anti-poverty programs.
From the national share of the 1997 appeal, CCHD approved 300 projects in 46 states, the
District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Grants range from $5,000 to $75,000.
Bishop Ramírez, now completing his three-year term as Chairman of the CCHD Committee, reflected on his experience with the Campaign, saying, "I am pleased with CCHD's steady growth and strong direction. During my tenure, I have been impressed by the U.S. Bishops and by the dedication of the CCHD diocesan directors, who go to great lengths to raise awareness and funds for our work. They then help identify worthy projects and monitor their progress on-site." Bishop Ramírez said, "The enthusiasm of the diocesan directors reflects the leadership and deep commitment from the national office and its Executive Director Rev. Robert J. Vitillo."
The CCHD's record-high collection, a four percent increase over 1996, was a watershed event for several dioceses. The Archdiocese of Chicago was the first ever to break the half-million dollar mark, with a total national contribution of $505,539. Dr. Mary Heidkamp, Chicago archdiocesan director, attributed the sum to several factors. "CCHD has been a priority in Chicago from its beginning 28 years ago and Cardinal Francis George continues to support the tradition. The Campaign's ongoing success in Chicago is related to the consistent attention we pay to all aspects of CCHD. For instance, each year, we send more than 100 speakers from funded groups to parishes to thank the parishioners and describe how CCHD's contributions have made a difference in their lives."
In New York, national contributions to the 1997 Campaign surpassed $300,000 for the first time. George Horton, Director of the Archdiocesan Department of Social Development, said that the increase is the result of "the tremendous generosity of archdiocesan Catholics and their coming to realize that projects which help people organize and create jobs are the best kinds for the Church to be supporting, especially in these difficult times."
Contributions in the diocese of Galveston-Houston were up 14% from 1996. CCHD diocesan director Stephanie Weber said that parishioners who may have had only a vague idea of what CCHD accomplishes have been moved by personal testimonies of grant recipients. "When someone comes in and says 'I suffered from a lack of human dignity and CCHD helped me change that,' people respond. And if people connect their faith with action for justice, they want to give."
A dramatic 44% increase in the 1997 CCHD collection put the Archdiocese of Denver's national contribution over $100,000 for the first time. Dan Mondragon, CCHD diocesan director, said that the pastors and their staffs have been very supportive of the appeal, including inviting speakers from funded groups to address the parish. "Hearing firsthand how the money is used was crucial," Mondragon said.
In Portland, Ore., the CCHD collection has climbed steadily each year. Last year, it took a 9% leap over 1996 and local CCHD director Dr. Frank Fromherz attributes that to an educational effort in which the funded groups themselves are "the real spark plugs." He said, "projects that receive CCHD grants look at the collection itself as a wonderful opportunity to develop the leadership and self-confidence of their members. When speakers from the funded groups tell their brief but powerful stories in parishes, it encourages the Catholic imagination to recognize what CCHD is all about -- it's central to the vision of what it means to develop the social dimension of the Church."
Reviewing the 1997 campaign results and looking toward to the 1998 appeal, Bishop Ramírez said, "The battle to end poverty is an uphill one that must be fought systematically, compassionately and locally. CCHD excels at this approach and I hope that the 1998 appeal will enable us to fund even more worthy projects from the ever-growing list of capable grassroots applicants."