April 1, 2004

More Appeal Than I Had Thought

Each year I write an article for Catholic New York to encourage the People of God of the archdiocese to make a generous gift or pledge to the Cardinal’s Annual Appeal. In past years I emphasized institutions and programs supported by the Appeal which are by their very nature especially "appealing," if I might be permitted the pun. Among them are Catholic Charities and its multitude of agencies to assist the neediest in our midst; Catholic elementary and secondary schools and the splendid academic and religious formation they provide our young people; the archdiocesan catechetical program and its crucially important training in faith for children and adults in 414 parishes from Ulster County in the north to Staten Island in the south; our extraordinary seminary system – including St. Joseph’s Major Seminary, the St. John Neumann Residence and Hall, and the Cathedral Prep Program – which has prepared 14 outstanding young men to be ordained priests of the archdiocese in May of this year; our two retirement facilities for archdiocesan priests in their "golden years"; and our guaranteed $1 million dollar contribution to address the retirement needs of women and men religious, the largest contribution of any diocese or archdiocese in the nation.

The list is long and impressive. It stands as a stunning tribute to the faith and goodness of the clergy, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of New York; and, what is more, it provides a powerful case for support of the Appeal.

This year, however, it occurred to me that the faithful might be interested in learning about some of the less well-known beneficiaries of the Cardinal’s Annual Appeal, beneficiaries without which we could not serve our parishes, schools, catechetical programs, charities, healthcare facilities, chaplaincies, seminaries, and retired clergy and religious as they deserve to be served.

These "less well-known beneficiaries" include the many administrative offices of the archdiocese. The first that comes to mind is the finance office which establishes proper budgets for the archdiocese and its agencies and sees to it that we live within them; guides our pastors, principals and directors of charitable and healthcare undertakings in matters financial on a daily basis; oversees aid to needy parishes and schools; and does all of this, and more, quietly, effectively and professionally. Another is the office of the general counsel which was totally reorganized a scant three years ago and has come to be one of the most effective and highly esteemed components of the administrative structure of the archdiocese. Yet another is our insurance office which not only attends to casualty and liability insurance for our agencies and properties but also manages health insurance for the thousands of priests, deacons, sisters, brothers, laymen and lay women who work with remarkable dedication in our parishes, schools, charitable programs, healthcare institutions and such.

Add to these the office that handles the pensions of clergy and laity alike, the office that deals with questions of real estate, the schools office, the catechetical office, the office for campus ministries, the office for hospitals and other healthcare institutions, the missions office, the development office and the personnel office; and you have some idea of the numerous administrative entities which the Appeal funds.

Over the past three and one-half years, I have made every effort to see to it that all who labor in these various components of the administration of the archdiocese are well-prepared, diligent and properly remunerated; and thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the People of God of the archdiocese to our annual Appeal, this has been made possible.

A request for support for needy parishes, for inner-city schools, for improved catechetical training for our children, for the care of the retired, and for the spiritual and intellectual formation of our future priests and deacons will rather easily strike home and elicit a generous response. A request for the funding of the administrative offices to undergird and make possible behind the scenes such attractive causes may be less effective in this regard. Still, this year I have been regularly pointing to precisely these offices in the various meetings in which I have taken part on behalf of the 2004 Cardinal’s Annual Appeal in the three boroughs of the City of New York and the seven northern counties which constitute our sector of the Lord’s vineyard; and it was, curiously, in one of these meetings that I concluded that the approach might have more merit than I had originally suspected.

In February of this year, I was in Goshen, at John S. Burke Catholic High School attending a meeting for pastors and volunteers working on the 2004 Appeal in Rockland, Orange and Sullivan counties. The hall in which we were gathered was filled well beyond what we had been expecting. Our chancellor opened the meeting with a prayer, the 2004 Appeal film was shown, and I rose to express my heartfelt thanks to all present for the sacrifice of time, talent and treasure they were making to ensure the success of the Appeal this year.

I spoke about the beneficiaries of the Appeal that most easily elicit interest and support but, in line with a decision made early in the Appeal, spent a good deal of time as well on the administrative offices of the archdiocese and their dependence on the Appeal’s achieving its goal each year.

In the audience I happened to notice a man from the Archdiocesan Finance Office, Mr. Alfred Smith, who works as a financial guide and counselor to pastors, schools, principals and directors of institutions of charity and healthcare in the counties represented at the meeting. Merely in passing, I mentioned Mr. Smith’s name. The audience broke in applause. Somewhat taken aback, I invited him to stand. He did, and the applause grew louder.

At the conclusion of the meeting, one of the pastors in attendance approached me. "I am so glad you recognized Al Smith from the Finance Office," he told me. "He’s a real treasure for all of us. Whenever we have financial problems or questions, he’s right there. He knows the answers, and he’s making life a whole lot easier for all of us."

The ride home to Manhattan was more agreeable than usual. "He’s a real treasure. He’s making life a whole lot easier for all of us" – I repeated the statements of the pastor over and over as we made our way down the New York State Thruway. Maybe I should move the administrative offices of the archdiocese up to the category of beneficiaries of the Appeal that really do the trick, I told myself. They seem to have more "appeal" than I had thought.

Edward Cardinal Egan

Archbishop of New York