Today is commitment Sunday for the Annual Catholic Appeal. If it seems early to you this year, you are correct. Why the change in time?
First, it isn’t an attempt to squeeze an extra ACA collection into the schedule! Though two campaigns will run in 2017 (last spring and now), they are for two fiscal years. The diocese and parishes’ fiscal year runs from July 1st to June 30th. The spring ACA collection was for the 2017 fiscal year, and this fall ACA collection is for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. There is a practical reason for this schedule change. By moving it a little earlier in the fall, the diocese will be able to budget accurately based on pledges and donations already received, instead of having to guess what we hope to receive!
However, there is more than just a practical reason for changing the timing. It also recognizes that most people live in the context of an academic year, especially those with children and grandchildren. Things get busy in the fall and stay busy for about nine months, then slow in the summer. Instead of asking people to plan their giving after the Christmas holidays, we are being asked to prayerfully reflect on our giving when most of us are naturally planning our next 9-12 months.
There is another important change to the ACA which the bishop has instituted this year. He is establishing a firm expectation that each parish will achieve its goal. Historically, several parishes throughout the diocese have fallen short (sometimes far short) of their goals. This shortfall was offset by the abundant generosity of other parishes like our own Walla Walla parishes, which exceeded their goals.
This year, however, each individual parish will be responsible for its own shortfall if it does not meet its goal. For those parishes in the diocese which have not historically reached their goal, this will be a serious challenge. However, for us in Walla Walla the change is an opportunity. Since each parish is now responsible for its own goal, parishes which exceed their goal will no longer be subsidizing those who fall short. Therefore, any amount of money raised above and beyond our goal will be returned to our parish.
Each year, whatever amount is returned to our parishes from the ACA will be directed toward special projects. Some years it might be designated toward specific improvements in the parish, like a new roof or boiler, other years to adult formation opportunities, such as retreats or pilgrimages. For this year, money returned from the ACA because of your abundant generosity will be set aside for our youth and children. Whether it be for a scholarship to help a teen attend a youth conference or to provide new materials for their faith formation, these funds will be invested in those who are the future of our Church. Therefore, I encourage you to be as generous as you can be this year, both in support of the diocese and for our youth.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!