Bishop's Appeal Is Better Than Its Critics

By Joanne Novarro
Downloaded January 22, 2003

Twenty-six years ago, the late Bishop John R. McGann of the Diocese of Rockville Centre inaugurated the Bishop's Annual Appeal, which he believed would enable the diocese and its parishes to grow and flourish and to meet the spiritual and temporal needs of Long Islanders, including non-Catholics. Over the years, his vision has proved correct.

This year, a Newsday oped writer, Dick Ryan ["Diocese Money Appeal Doesn't Merit Support," Jan.14], and others have advocated that Long Island Catholics stiff the Appeal and send their money elsewhere instead. While it's very American to threaten the withholding of one's purse as a means to force an issue, in the case of the Bishop's Appeal, who does this hurt?

For starters, Catholic schools. Last year, the two (and soon to be three)

diocesan high schools received $2 million from the Appeal. An additional million went to elementary schools, four of which - in Elmont, Central Islip, Uniondale and Westbury - received direct diocesan support to operate while every other elementary school received $10,000, mainly for upgrading and integrating technology. If Catholics take Ryan's advice and send their money directly to the school of their choice, what happens to schools that no one chooses?

Another suggestion was to give donations to religious congregations of sisters, described as "perhaps the most unappreciated and forgotten group of women in the Catholic Church." Religious communities rightly deserve support, but the religious women and men of the Diocese of Rockville Centre are not forgotten and unappreciated. More than 10 years ago, along with the bishop of Brooklyn, McGann established the first Religious Retirement Fund in the country with an annual collection that helps support the men and women religious.

Moving the chancery staff to Wyandanch to restore people's trust was proposed by Ryan, who is perhaps unaware that this would mean moving workers and jobs out of Roosevelt, Freeport, Uniondale and Brentwood as well as Rockville Centre.

He also implies that by giving "[the chancery's] 10 percent" of the budget to a Riverhead school that will close at the end of this school year, it could then remain open. In what way does giving that sum to one failing school benefit Catholics when other ministries would be handicapped for lack of funding?

If Catholics choose to divert their treasure to specific church entities or organizations, other church entities could be shortchanged. Would the diocese have to close down its mission in the Dominican Republic, dismiss Catholic chaplains ministering on 12 college campuses and at 39 health- care facilities? Should the diocesan Office of Worship be shut down, depriving parish liturgists and musicians of the instruction and guidance they require to prepare Masses and other liturgies?

What about the Pastoral Formation Institute, whose role is educating the laity and training them for work in the church? Who will oversee religious education for children who do not attend Catholic schools if the Office of Catechesis is abolished?

Reaching out to assist the poor and powerless is something that Catholics have always done (not just "now," as some claim) because they take seriously Christ's call to stewardship.

Despite the assertion that Long Island Catholics have never received the courtesy of a detailed financial report, the diocese for years has published annual financial reports. Little interest was expressed by the public, and publication was discontinued. The diocesan financial report will be published soon, but only after the audit process is complete and the report has been approved by the diocesan Finance Council - a board made up of five laypersons and one religious, none of whom are employed by the diocese - as is mandated by canon law.

In the meantime, most Catholics can and do see their offerings to the Appeal at work every day - in their parishes, in the work of Catholic Charities, in Catholic health care, in their Catholic schools and in many other ministries. They want to see those works continue.

Joanne Navarro is director of the Diocese of Rockville Centre's public information office. Lawrence C. Levy is off.


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