On Feb. 18, Bishop Richard J. Malone formally announced Upon This Rock, a five-year, $100 million capital campaign that will fund the Diocese of Buffalo's mission in three specific areas. These three pillars, which the campaign calls "those we serve," "those who serve" and "how we serve," involve investing money into the future of diocesan parishes, caring for retired priests, and supporting efforts of Catholic Charities and Catholic education, all with the goal of ensuring a solid future for the diocese.
The campaign is unprecedented in terms of both size and scope. The bishop called Upon This Rock a "bold endeavor to intentionally reshape the future of our Church" and strengthen funding of key ministries and programs to ensure the ability to continue to carry out Jesus Christ's mission of service. Upon This Rock will support whom the Church serves by strengthening parish life, ministries and pastoral care, and revitalizing parishes. It must also support those who serve by supporting students at Christ the King Seminary and retired priests. Finally, it will help how it serves via Catholic Charities and Catholic education.
"Our predecessors sacrificed to give us what we have today, from the building we're in right now to the many parishes and other facilities we use to fulfill our mission to serve the Lord and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the eight counties of Western New York and beyond," Bishop Malone said. "The name of the campaign we launched today, as you see on banners around the room, 'Upon This Rock,' is meant to be a testimony and an honor to those who have given us what we have today."
Bishop Malone made the announcement at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Tonawanda, joined by other clergy and lay diocesan leaders who have been involved with the campaign, including its co-chairs, Tom and Judy Beecher, Jerry and Barbara Castiglia, and John and Betsy Sullivan.
Feb. 18 marked the formal beginning of Upon This Rock, but it has already received more than $28 million, in more than 2,800 gifts, after being piloted in eight parishes: SS. Peter and Paul in Hamburg, St. Vincent de Paul in Niagara Falls, Holy Family in Albion, St. Rose of Lima and St. Mark in Buffalo, St. Mary in Arcade, St. Benedict in Eggertsville and Immaculate Conception in Ransomville.
"For more than 150 years, the Catholic community that is the Diocese of Buffalo has stood as a beacon of faith, love and service in Western New York," Bishop Malone said, noting the campaign is named for the words Jesus spoke to Peter, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church (Matt 16:18)." Today, the word "rock" describes the strength of the Church over the ages, the bishop added.
According to Tom Beecher, Catholic upbringing and past volunteer work played a role in the desire of the chairs to become involved in the campaign. Although Buffalo is already undergoing a renaissance in the form of revitalization of Canalside and other downtown areas, this renaissance would not be complete without revitalizing the Catholic Church in Buffalo and ensuring it continues to thrive, he said.
"Looking at allocation of funds from this initiative, there will be an immediate impact on the parishes," Beecher said. "That is the heart of the Church in Buffalo and, just as important, we will significantly enhance the future of our children and grandchildren through significant endowments that will be set aside. Years from now, these endowments will provide a sustainable source of funding for programs and ministries."
"Catholic Charities is the Catholic Church's gift to the people of Western New York. We have a special concern for those who are poor and most vulnerable," said Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, director of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, who acknowledged its annual appeal. "But an annual campaign is always something that's a little bit uncertain because of the financial situation of the country or of Western New York."
"As Catholics, we're called to serve," said Richard Suchan, executive director of the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. "There are actually more than 600,000 Catholics here in Western New York, and it's our responsibility to each and every one of them, to ensure that we don't continue to survive as a Church, but that we actually thrive as the Diocese of Buffalo moves into the future."
According to Bishop Malone, the decision to move forward with Upon This Rock was not an easy one, but the last 10 years have posed challenges for the Church in Buffalo. The Journey in Faith and Grace was a "necessary step to restructure our parishes," he said, and a decrease in enrollment led to the "tough decision" to close 10 diocesan elementary schools in Erie County in January 2014. As the bishop met with parishioners, he was reminded of how the campaign will address parish needs and provide sustainable funding for ministries, regardless of parishes' size, demographics or location, since all eight counties will benefit.
"I don't take those decisions lightly," Bishop Malone continued. "I assure you, they are never things we bishops envision ourselves having to do, but I believe in our Church. I believe in us. I have faith in our future, and I tell you with confidence today, that because of the sacrifice of those who came before us, and the responsible choices our faithful have made in recent years, our Catholic Church in Western New York stands ready to face the future. The time is now for us to move from maintenance mode and refocus on our mission. Mission, after all, is why the Church exists. It is time to flourish through evangelization, through charity and outreach and service to those in need, through education and so many other things."
For more information about the Upon This Rock campaign, visit www.uponthisrockwny.org or call the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo at 716-847-8740.