Bishop Richard J. Malone announced the diocesan Upon This Rock capital and endowment campaign has raised $107 million since February 2016, surpassing its goal of $100 million, thanks to the donations and efforts of 27,000 benefactors who gave gifts of varying sizes. The bishop made the announcement during a press conference Nov. 20.
The funds will benefit diocesan parishes and go toward various ministries and programs necessary for the day-to-day operations of the Catholic Church in Buffalo, including Catholic Charities, tuition assistance for students who wish to attend Catholic schools, STREAM programs in diocesan schools, and Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora.
"From expanding curriculum and scholarship opportunities in our Catholic schools, to ensuring health care for our retired diocesan priests, not to mention putting funds directly back into our 163 parishes throughout Western New York, this initiative ensures that we can continue not just to survive, but to thrive as one united community," Bishop Malone said.
At a Nov. 20 press conference announcing the historic milestone, the bishop blessed a sculpture, a gift from local philanthropist Russell Salvatore for the occasion. The statue, which glass artists Victor Trabucco and his son, Jon, designed and made by hand, was unveiled that evening and is on permanent display in a cabinet in the lobby of the Catholic Center in Buffalo.
The piece, which includes finely crafted elements of crystal, marble and precious metal, features a representation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Cameron Garrity, communications coordinator for Upon This Rock, said it will stand as a "physical representation of the legacy that's been secured by our friends and neighbors."
"Victor and Jon have put great time and care into designing this piece that symbolizes Upon This Rock and its place in our history, strengthening the Church's mission of evangelization and service to others for generations to come," Bishop Malone commented.
The Trabuccos said via a prepared statement, "Our artistic intent with this piece of work was to embody the gift that Upon This Rock has been, and will continue to be, for our community. Not only does Upon This Rock support many treasured aspects of our Catholic faith, it has also given our community the opportunity to participate in the Church's mission of evangelization and service to others for generations to come."
The bishop extended his thanks to the 27,000 families and individuals who contributed to the campaign. He noted that in many cases, families have given up luxuries, such as eating in restaurants, to be able to make donations. Even seemingly small contributions to the campaign, such as groups of parishioners who prayed the rosary for its success, did not go amiss.
He also recognized the campaign chairs, Tom Beecher and his late wife, Judy; Barbara Castiglia and her late husband, Jerry, and Betsy and John Sullivan; and Bishop Emeritus Edward U. Kmiec for leading the diocese's retired clergy challenge.
"Although these priests are technically 'retired,' they still give so much of their time, treasure and talent back into our parishes across Western New York," added Bishop Malone, also thanking active priests and pastors who spearheaded fundraising efforts in their respective parishes.
Also honored were Msgr. David LiPuma and the priests' advisory committee; Community Counseling Services for its partnership with the diocese, and Richard Suchan and the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
Suchan, diocesan director of development and executive director of the foundation, said this has been his team's largest project to date, one that was necessary in part because of "dramatic shifts in population" in Western New York, attributed to changing demographics of the faithful as well as the overall population.
"It was abundantly clear that to combat this enormous challenge, the diocese would need to counter with an equally impactful solution," Suchan said. "So, in spring 2014, we began to explore the feasibility of a capital campaign that would allow the diocese to fundamentally change the manner in which vital missions and ministry programs were funded, providing stability for operations and thereby ensuring that we leave our church better and stronger for our children and grandchildren."
Suchan acknowledged that the prospect of a capital campaign that was one of the largest, faith-based or otherwise, in the history of Western New York "was received with skepticism by more than just a few." However, throughout it all, Bishop Malone was present to see the efforts through to the end. Suchan cited the bishop's "steadfast perseverance and optimism" as motivating factors in reaching the lofty goal.
Bishop Malone reflected that in the 21 months since the campaign kicked off at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Tonawanda, many people have asked about its name. He reiterated that it came from Matthew 16:18, where Jesus told the first pope, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church." This has remained an integral part of the campaign's core message, the bishop emphasized, to the extent that it soon "became a name that infused a sense of vocation and optimism into every aspect of our work."
In addition to the namesake passage, the following Gospel passage, Matthew 16:19, expands on the previous one by stating, "'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,' Jesus said to Peter, 'and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'"
Bishop Malone concluded by telling those in attendance that the Diocese of Buffalo community has come together upon this rock to build a "new, strong and enduring foundation," created via "dollars raised and pennies saved, and vacations postponed, and prayers prayed, and even more pennies saved."
"We cannot thank you all enough. We know you have sacrificed. Your sacrifice today will live on tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow in the countless opportunities you have unlocked for generations to come for effective evangelization and works of mercy," the bishop said.