Despite Hard Times, Church Sets $9m Drive

By Thomas Caywood
Boston Herald
May 5, 2003

The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday passed around the collection plate for an annual fund-raiser aimed at raking in $9 million, a tall order with the economy on the skids and clergy sex abuse settlement talks seemingly stalled.

Even so, Roxbury's St. Patrick Parish got its Catholic Appeal 2003 drive off to a rousing start with a heart-felt call for donations from chairwoman Ruth Grant.

"She was so persuasive, I promised I'd double my contribution from last year and demanded everybody in the parish do the same," the Rev. Walter Waldron, pastor of St. Patrick, chuckled.

Echoing what Bishop Richard Lennon, temporary head of the archdiocese, said in announcing the fund drive late last month, Waldron assured his flock any money they donate will go to futher the church's good works.

"None goes to (sex abuse) lawsuits, period. No question about that," he said.

Lennon set the campaign's minimum goal at $9 million this year.

The annual fund-raiser, formerly called the Cardinal's Appeal, raked in more than $16 million two years ago. But last year, as many donors horrified by the unfolding abuse scandal kept their wallets closed, parishioners forked over just $8.6 million.

Some local Catholics instead chose to funnel their donations through the lay reform group Voice of the Faithful. Lennon declined a $35,000 donation from the group, but cash-strapped Catholic Charities defied the bishop and took the money.

Last month, lawyers for hundreds of alleged victims of priests told their clients to get ready for civil trials in Suffolk Superior Court, although Lennon has denied settlement talks have broken down.

With unemployment rates climbing month after month, the clergy sex abuse scandal could be overshadowed this year by the sluggish economy as the toughest fund-raising obstacle.

The Catholic Appeal, the main funding source for the archdiocese's ministries and agencies, runs through the end of next month.


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