The Catholic Church, much like thousands of this country’s institutions, has had to tighten its purse strings a bit due to the economic impact of COVID-19. The Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) was put on hold back in April due to months of restrictions of in-person attendance at Mass. Therefore, the funding of several programs was reduced, but not on a massive level, said Maureen Coates, Director of Stewardship and Development. “It was the right thing to do with churches closing and needing to concentrate on their parishioners. That said, during that time we didn’t shut down and go home and turn the lights out. Our ministries and programs for the diocese continued.”
The show must go on and the Diocese of Savannah’s Office of Stewardship and Development has worked hard to make sure the people managing the programs and charities remain focused on their missions and not on any potential financial concerns. “Now that churches have reopened and they have gotten to a place where we can recover, we need to get back to supporting those ministries through the Annual Catholic Appeal,” said Coates.
The programs Coates refers to, vocations, Catholic charities, Hispanic ministries, campus ministries, and communications, for example, all continued to serve the parishioners throughout the pandemic. “What we want to do as we come back is let people know exactly what we are doing,” said Coates. “When you support the Annual Catholic Appeal, people have that understanding that the money goes to the diocese but might not know how that money comes back to them and their parish.”
A mailing regarding the annual appeal has gone out to parishioners and donors within the diocese. It will also be advertised online at southerncrosssav.org and on the diocesan website, diosav.org. “When you support the Annual Catholic Appeal you are supporting ministries working at every corner of our diocese,” said Coates.
Who gets the money
“There is a lot going on with Catholic Charities these days,” said Cynthia Kinnis, Director of Catholic Charities of South Georgia, during a recent interview. Kinnis has been director for a year and seen a lot of change during her tenure. She has also witnessed the charitable organization continue their good works. “We have stayed focused on the mission, there’s so much help out there, and our intent is to reach out to the whole diocese,” said Kinnis.
With 2020 halfway over and the numbers sure to be much different from last year, the annual Catholic Charities of South Georgia report can be a good example of where the money goes when it passes through the charitable arm. In 2019 the charity served over 300,000 people in south Georgia through various programs. More than 72,000 persons received direct services that helped with everything from prevention from eviction, utility assistance, furniture, to hot meals and groceries. “We help people, not because of who they are but because we are Catholic,” said Kinnis. “Anybody can go into any of our centers and receive the assistance they need.”
Coates told how the Office of Catholic Charities got together to get food boxes and supplies to help families in some of the more rural areas within the diocese. “That is something you might not see happening, but we are out there doing things that support your neighbors. The Office of Catholic Charities is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.”
Those essential services were not suspended in any way during the pandemic, they were just adjusted according to the diocese’s safety directives. “None of the centers closed down completely because they were all considered essential; they shifted to remote services,” said Kinnis, who is assisted by Eloisa Newman at the office in the Catholic Pastoral Center, currently closed to visitors.
For example, meals were provided in to-go containers for less contact service. Diocesan thrift stores, an essential source for affordable shopping, changed hours of operation but remained open. “The numbers how many people we help out is tremendous,” said Kinnis.
There are Catholic Charities centers located in six deaneries within the diocese, including four locations in Columbus, two in Warner Robins, and a pair of centers in the Valdosta-Brunswick deanery. A complete list of the centers, the locations, and hours of operation are available via the Diocese of Savannah website, diosav.org.