When local Catholics give to the Annual Appeal of the Archdiocese of Washington, their donations not only help support outreach to tens of thousands of people served by the archdiocese’s outreach and ministries each year, but they also are investing for the future through a range of educational programs, including the training and formation of seminarians who will become this community’s next generation of priests.

Msgr. Robert Panke, the rector of the archdiocese’s Saint John Paul II Seminary, has noted that those seminarians are being trained to one day become priests and bring Christ’s love and the sacraments to people at all stages of life, from baptizing babies to anointing the dying. The Archdiocese of Washington now has 87 seminarians, who come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences, but share a desire to follow God’s call as they discern their vocations.

“It is important to support the appeal because it directly impacts our ability to form our seminarians and future priests,” said Msgr. Panke, who also serves as the director of priest formation for the archdiocese. 

He added, “We have a wonderful group of seminarians that are excited to serve the people of God by bringing the sacraments and His love and mercy to the archdiocese.  I am so grateful for all the generous support and pray we can continue to have such strong formation programs for our seminarians.”

The Annual Appeal of the Archdiocese of Washington – which marks its 50th anniversary this year – provides the main source of funding for the archdiocese’s ministries and its educational and charitable outreach across the metropolitan area. Local Catholics continued their legacy of generously supporting the appeal by donating $14.165 million to the 2018 campaign. With that support from more than 34,000 donors, the 2018 Appeal exceeded 99 percent of its goal during a challenging year for the Church.

This month, Catholics in parishes throughout the archdiocese will be invited to support the appeal’s outreach by pledging and making donations. The key dates at parishes for the appeal drive include Announcement Weekend on Feb. 16-17, Commitment Weekend on Feb. 23-24, and Follow-up Weekend on March 2-3.

Speaking at a program for archdiocesan employees on the appeal’s impact, Eric Simontis, the Chief Financial Officer for the archdiocese, said, “The need is real. A lot of people we help, if the Church is not there for them, no one is there for them.”

At that program, Msgr. John Enzler – the President and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington – said the appeal provides crucial support to that agency, which last year served about 143,000 men, women and children.

Msgr. Enzler noted that Catholic Charities provides 1,700 beds of shelter each evening to the homeless, and when the weather is dangerously cold, it offers 300 beds in its hypothermia shelters in Washington, D.C. 

Catholic Charities also operates a myriad of other programs, serving families and children, providing medical and dental care and legal services to those in need, and partnering with parishes to serve their neighborhoods and communities.

“We’re doing the work of all of you, the people of the Church,” the priest said.

In an interview with the Catholic Standard, Msgr. Enzler noted, “The annual appeal started 50 years ago as a charity appeal and Catholic Charities has been the beneficiary ever since.” 

Msgr. Enzler said that Catholic Charities’ donations come from many different sources, but the appeal support “is one of our first gifts each year,” and it reflects the support of the priests in the archdiocese and the generosity of tens of thousands of local Catholics “who care deeply about the poor.”

Appeal donations provide support to Catholic Charities’ Sanctuaries for Life, program, which Msgr. Enzler said is “our effort to continue to help those who struggle with an unexpected pregnancy who come to us for assistance in their effort to deliver a healthy baby. We certainly support the pro-life efforts of the archdiocese, but we know that many people need help as they struggle to find the resources necessary – not only from conception to birth but to raise their children with the proper medical and physical care.”

The theme for the archdiocese’s 2019 Annual Appeal is “Our Faith. Our Hope. Our Mission.”

A promotional booklet for the 2019 Annual Appeal notes that in the area of faith, the appeal supports formation of seminarians and deacons, continuing education and the care of retired priests, and the offices for vocations and consecrated life.

The appeal provides hope in its support of tuition assistance for Catholic schools and for its funding for parish religious education programs, school safety, and university campus ministries.

In support of the Church’s mission, the appeal funds marriage and family ministries, outreach to youth and young adults and to people with special needs, programs celebrating the cultural diversity of this Catholic community, ministries to the hospitalized or imprisoned, efforts supporting the dignity of life, communications outreach, and support for Catholic Charities.

Describing the impact that the archdiocese’s tuition assistance has on families, Rosio Gonzalez, the President of its Consortium of Catholic Academies, said a mother recently wrote describing how their family has been going through a difficult time financially, but the financial support from the archdiocese has enabled her child to continue to attend Catholic school. “She goes on to say she knows her child is receiving an excellent education, structure, and most importantly love,” said Gonzalez, who added, “She has witnessed her child's growth spiritually, emotionally and academically.”

Bill Ryan, the Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, noted that the Annual Appeal “is truly a blessing to our Catholic schools, in that it provides valuable resources to support our schools and families. This generosity offers their children the opportunity to obtain a faith-based education that lasts a lifetime.”

Every penny contributed to the appeal goes directly to the programs and charities that are part of the appeal. All administrative costs associated with the appeal are paid for from separate funding sources of the archdiocese, and no donations to the Annual Appeal or from parish giving are used for legal costs or settlements related to abuse cases.

Msgr. Enzler, who served as a longtime parish priest before becoming head of Catholic Charities, said that for people whose family and work obligations and busy schedules prevent them from volunteering in the archdiocese’s programs, donating to the appeal helps them make a difference in the lives of those in need.

“The Annual Appeal is our way of being ‘family’ to each other,” he said. “All are seen as brothers and sisters, and our donations make sure that where we can’t be personally involved, the good work of the Church continues and expands.”

(For information on the Archdiocese of Washington’s Annual Appeal, go online to appeal.adw.org .)