SCRANTON — Things continue to look up for the financially struggling Diocese of Scranton, with the Diocesan Annual Appeal — a key money-raising effort each year — exceeding goals and netting the second highest amount in the history of the fund drive.
The appeal was launched this year with a goal of $5.55 million, and the diocese issued a press release Monday noting more than $5.58 million has been pledged so far, with two months left for donors to step forward.
Diocese Spokesman Bill Genello said the record for donations was set during the 2006-07 appeal, which raised $6.09 million when the goal was $5.25 million. That total was bolstered substantially by several large corporate and individual contributions that totaled $1.1 million, according to Times Leader archives.
This year’s total so far has been pledged by 33,198 donors, according to the diocese, making an average gift of $168.14. The diocese sets goals for each parish as well as an overall goal, and so far 36 parishes in the 11-county diocese have met their individual goals. With 121 parishes, that’s slightly less than 30 percent hitting their goals so far, but Genello noted another 15 parishes topped 90 percent of their goals.
Exceeding the goal in the appeal may be further evidence the diocese is turning a financial corner. The diocese had a history of exceeding steadily increasing goals until that 2006-07 peak. Total donations declined in following years and then-Bishop Joseph Martino released financial statements that painted gloomy pictures of a diocese battling growing debt.
Martino oversaw extensive school and church closings before retiring unexpectedly in 2009, but the steps he took seem to have worked, with his successor, Bishop Joseph Bambera, overseeing a return to increases in Appeal totals and a reduction of debt.
Among other things, money from the appeal goes toward care for retired priests, programs for formation of priests and deacons, social service programs for the poor and diocesan media outlets such as the Catholic Light newspaper and Catholic Television station.
This year, the diocese increased allocation from appeal funds to Catholic Social Services. The diocese also appointed clergy and laypersons as regional chairs for this campaign.