Non solum: Annual Appeal in Place of Homily

A Pray Tell reader writes (lightly edited):

This Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, churches throughout the diocese of XXX will hear a CD recording of the bishop speaking on behalf of the Annual Catholic Appeal, a yearly campaign to raise money for diocesan needs and ministries. The cause is good. However, I have long struggled with the experience of deleting a Gospel homily for the sake revenues. I belong to a well-to-do parish of educated, generous people. These good people would simply give the money if requested.  It seems very inappropriate to use such a “tactic” in order to persuade them into being good stewards.

This practice began with the former bishop. Initially, a letter was sent which the priests were required to read in lieu of the homily. Then, the practice shifted to cassettes, and now, CDs.  Following the playing of the bishop’s recording, the priest reads directions to the assembly, explaining to them how to fill out the forms which are on their seats.  Everyone is asked to fill out the form, even if they choose not to donate (this, the directions read, “helps defray the costs of a follow-up call from the diocese”).

Any thoughts?

The writer does not indicate whether past such messages have been simply a call for money, or whether the message has also incorporated themes based on the Gospel and other readings of the day.


  1. When Cardinal George was archbishop of Chicago, this was his practice as well. His recorded appeals did attempt to serve as a homily as well by drawing out spiritual themes from the readings. But it also ended by “tossing the ball” to the pastor, who would be expected to walk the assembly through the mechanics of pledging a donation (“Where it says ‘last name’, write your last name …”). I suspect that there is a fundraiser consultant behind this approach.

    As the reader notes, the cause is good. It would be wonderful if pastors never had to talk about money during homily time, but it’s been necessary once or twice a year at every place I’ve ever belonged to. I suppose that, if people felt they had more ownership of their faith community, they might not require as much prompting to support it financially.

  2. In Boston, Cardinal Sean does the homily-cum-appeal thing, as opposed to the appeal-sans-homily thing.

    The pastor of the place where I regularly worship simply directed us to the parish website to watch the video. People participate well in the appeal as it happens there, because they do feel a sense of steward-ownership there. (A pastor who discourages such a sense of ownership by the community (which can be done in myriad ways) is a bishop’s Achilles heel when it comes to diocesan fundraising, though many chanceries remain obstinately oblivious to this reality. Of course, bishops and their chanceries are the other obvious problem in this regard.)

    Also, there are bishops who are better homilists than their pastors. But memorex at liturgy is Not Very Good.

  3. Remember when this started for me – Bishop Law of the diocese of Cape Girardeau/Springfield in the fall of 1973. It was the first time we had ever experienced this and it was revolutionary.

  4. One week only? Were we only so lucky! For us it’s a 4-week-long appeal!

    In our diocese, we show a bishop video after the General Intercessions on week #1.

    However, we do have lay preachers (gasp!) in week #2 & #3.

  5. We have a video at some point in the Fall. Parishes have some measure of flexibility as to quite what weekend to show it, so it doesn’t tie in with the readings, but it isn’t just a soul-less plea for cash. Rather, each year it highlights a few different ministries that the money directly supports and makes clear how they form part of making Christ present as Church in our geographical area. As such, they do preach in their own way. I have noticed that over the past few years, we have a lot fewer pictures of pretty churches and a lot more of hospitals, nursing homes, soup kitchens, etc.

  6. Fundraising is necessary, and it may even be salutary for people to reflect on its necessity, but it seems to me that a fundraising appeal is not a homily, even when the appeal is interlaced with references to the day’s readings. Its purpose would seem to be something other than a proclamation of God’s wonderful works in the history of salvation.

  7. My bishop (R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet) does the homily with appeal ferverino. Ours is done on either the second Sunday or the Sunday immmediatley before Lent begins, which could pose some difficulties, depending on which Lectionary pericopes are assigned for that day.

  8. Many appeals for money in Catholic churches are groan-worthy. “If everyone gave just $1 more per week…” We heap fundraisers upon fundraisers until people are burned out. Meanwhile, the church up the street has all the money they need to carry out and expand their mission.

    If you move people’s hearts and minds to dedicate their lives to Christ, and teach stewardship of time and money as spiritual practices, they will learn to make sacrificial gifts to the church and other charitable works. This has nothing to do with “just give one more dollar” or “come to our dinner auction” or “buy a raffle ticket.”

  9. I saw a Powerpoint appeal last year.

    Everytime the Bishop sends me a Lenten appeal, I send it back explaining that I will respond to needs during Lent and not over a ten month timeframe like tuition.

  10. Yes, Scott, you are correct. The Biblical way of tithing and its proper implementation by parish staffs will do away with fundraising, appeals, etc. It works because it comes from the Word of God. Ask any Protestant church that preaches this, esp the mega churches. They have more than enough to do the work of the Gospel and then some.
    Liturgy is for worship, worship of God, that is. Leave the appeals for money at the door……

  11. Appeal or not, the worst is when the homily is replaced by a ‘pastoral letter’ from the bishop. If only one could change the channel…

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