On Jan. 10, Bishop Richard J. Malone announced an $11 million goal for the 2018 Catholic Charities Appeal, joining representatives of Catholic Charities of Buffalo at their new Cheektowaga office providing services for the Women, Infants and Children program in Western New York. In addition to the 2018 goal, the bishop announced this year's patron saint, St. Clare of Assisi; its theme, "Love Your Neighbor," and the 2018 appeal family, the first such family to have this role.
"This ambitious goal, which is the same as the past two appeals, recognizes the challenges associated with raising such a significant amount of money while also realizing the need for our programs and services is great," Bishop Malone said. "As we launch this year's appeal, we find ourselves living in an increasingly polarized nation ... In such an environment, we reflect on our duties to others, to society and to humanity, and we question how to live a meaningful life in a global age of uncertainty and instability."
In announcing the start of both another year and another appeal, Bishop Malone noted this is Catholic Charities' 94th annual appeal and his sixth as bishop of Buffalo. Funds raised through the appeal support WIC, as well as many other services Catholic Charities provides throughout the eight counties of Western New York.
Appeal 2018 runs through June 30, with First Report Sunday falling on March 18, and the culmination of Appeal Week 2018 taking place on Palm Sunday, March 25.
The 2018 appeal chairs are Robert M. Bennett, chancellor emeritus of the New York State Board of Regents and former head of United Way; who is serving along with his children, Andrew Bennett and Maurine Falkowski. According to Robert Bennett, his own personal involvement with Catholic Charities has spanned four decades.
"I would say that the connection between my time at United Way and my time on the Board of Regents, visiting so many schools, really allowed me to get to know the uniqueness of Catholic Charities," Bennett said. "It is really the only regional human services organization in all of Western New York. It is the only one that really works with people from cradle to grave. It works with people of all faiths - indeed, over half of the beneficiaries are not of the Catholic faith. It is very comprehensive in its services."
Last year, Catholic Charities services helped 153,000 people. This year's appeal will let the organization continue providing services as demand for them keeps growing.
"If a family comes in here, for example, for proper nutrition for their child, that's often just the beginning of a referral network to see whether other needs faced by that family can be properly addressed," Bennett added. "Basic human needs through clothing and shelter - Catholic Charities is at the forefront. Family counseling and making sure that families stay together, and are strong, is critical for any community that wants to call itself strong."
The Catholic Charities WIC program serves families in Erie, Chautauqua and Niagara Counties. The new Harlem Road site, replacing an older one on the same street, opened in September. In 2017, the program provided over 70,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, infants and small children with healthy food and formula, nutritional information and support.
"Since we opened this site a few months ago, we continually serve 2,200 individuals and families at this site - fortunately not all at the same time, but nonetheless, they are served out of this location," commented Dennis C. Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities. "Catholic Charities has been a provider of WIC services, a federally-funded nutrition program, for over 30 years."
Other programs that Catholic Charities offers are assistance for the elderly, as well as mental health and substance abuse programs, which Bennett said are critical due to the national opiate crisis.
Bishop Malone recalled how the 2018 Appeal's patron saint, St. Clare of Assisi, was born to a wealthy family but "shunned her luxurious upbringing to embrace a life of piety and poverty." Inspired by the words of St. Francis of Assisi, she left home at age 18 to establish her own religious order, the Poor Ladies or Poor Clares of San Damiano.
The bishop noted that "Love Your Neighbor" comes from the apostle Paul's letter to the Galacians, in which he directed and empowered people to serve as instruments of Christ on earth by keeping this one command. With this in mind, it is the goal of Catholic Charities to specifically meet needs of these vulnerable populations.
"Love your neighbor: that's surely what we are about at Catholic Charities. The political situation has changed, the economic situation has changed, but Catholic Charities has been here for 94 years," said Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, diocesan director of Catholic Charities.
"Regardless of our faith, we can all agree that treating our neighbors as we hope to be treated is always a good goal, and we take great pride here in Buffalo as we consider ourselves to be the 'City of Good Neighbors,'" Bishop Malone concluded.