Twin Cities Catholic Church fundraising $2 million short at midway point

The annual fundraising campaign for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is about $2 million short of its goal, according to a letter sent to priests last week.

The Catholic Services Appeal Foundation asked priests in the May 2 letter to boost fundraising at parishes, but said the effort remains on track compared to the same period last year.

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"We still need over $2 million dollars to accomplish this task and give our ministries the same amount of support as the prior year ..." archdiocese development officer Jennifer Beaudry wrote. "If each parish would increase or maintain the same level of participation as last year, we would be assured that we would beat our overall financial goal."

So far, the appeal, which launched in parishes in late January and early February, had raised almost $5.3 million in donations by the end of April, and almost $2.3 million in pledges they haven't yet collected.

Timothy Healy, president of the Catholic Services Appeal Foundation, said fundraising that includes pledges for donations were up about $130,000 compared to the same time in the campaign last year. By the end of the 10th week of the campaign this year, the foundation had collected nearly $500,000 more in actual dollars than in 2013, according to numbers released to MPR News from the foundation.

Most of the fundraising effort takes place in the first few weeks, but the appeal period lasts 12 months, according to the archdiocese's website.

Last year, the Catholic Services Appeal campaign raised nearly $9.5 million from parishes, according to the financial breakdown included with the letter.

Healy said the official fundraising goal for parishes in the archdiocese is $9.3 million, although they hope to raise about $10 million by the end of December, which will cover administrative costs for the foundation.

The annual appeal raises money for Catholic schools, seminaries, chaplains, parish and disability outreach, evangelization efforts, marriage preparation classes, Archdiocesan Youth Day and Catholic Charities, according to the foundation's website. Parishes also receive money in the form of rebates if they exceed fundraising goals.

Top church leaders have worried for months that parishioners would refuse to donate money because of the revelations by MPR News that Archbishop John Nienstedt and other top officials failed to report alleged sex crimes to police and gave special payments to priests who admitted to sexually abusing children.

In a private meeting with priests last year, Greg Pulles, director of development and stewardship for the archdiocese, said priests needed to lead the way in fundraising.

"They may be mad at the archdiocese, but almost to a person, none of them expresses any anger at you," Pulles said in a recording obtained by MPR. "We need to leverage that."

The archdiocese announced in January that the Catholic Services Appeal had been placed under the auspices of an independent group. The new foundation's officials pointed out that money donated to the fund will be allocated only to designated activities, rather than to the archdiocese in general.

Healy said that they haven't encountered any special difficulties in fundraising due to the clergy abuse scandal in the archdiocese.

"I will say that I think a lot of people were pleased to see that there was a separation with the CSA (Catholic Services Appeal) this year, just from the standpoint that it just made it real clear on where the money is going, and the fact that it will stay in the CSA," Healy said.

Healy said CliftonLarsonAllen will conduct an independent audit of all Catholic Services Appeal fundraising and spending at the end of the year.

A spreadsheet that accompanied the letter to priests, which showed a parish-by-parish breakdown of dollar amounts and donors, shows that some parishes have already met their goals, while others have raised just a small fraction of the expected amount.

In many cases, the total number of donors per parish thus far is down significantly compared to last year's complete totals. Other parishes have already met their full-year goals.

Overall, about 18,000 fewer people this year have so far donated compared to the entire appeal period last year.

At Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina, where Nienstedt made a rare public appearance in December to address the scandal, parishioners have pledged or donated $274,889 so far this appeal year, nearly three times more than the parish's goal. That amount has been donated by fewer people so far this year compared to all of the 492 Our Lady of Grace parishioners who donated last year. So far this year, 256 parishioners have supported the appeal.

At Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul, where the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer sexually abused the sons of a parish employee, parishioners have donated or pledged to donate $30,256 so far this year, about the same amount that was received in all of last year. The number of donors is only slightly less than last year's final tally.

Archdiocese knew of priest's sexual misbehavior, yet kept him in ministry (Sept. 23, 2013)

In contrast, at St. Joseph Church in West St. Paul, where Wehmeyer also served, donations are $48,062 short of meeting last year's total of $151,923. The number of donors is also down sharply — from 621 last year to 350 so far this year.

The archdiocese's handling of the Wehmeyer case sparked calls for Nienstedt's resignation last fall. MPR News reported in September that Nienstedt and other top officials knew of Wehmeyer's sexual interest in young men but failed to warn employees and parishioners. Wehmeyer is now in prison for child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography.

The Catholic Services Appeal Foundation expects to allocate $2.4 million for elementary school subsidies, tuition aid for high school students and grants to campus ministries; $2.1 million for parish rebates; $1.85 million for clergy services; $1.4 million for Catholic Charities, $900,000 for parish outreach; $500,000 for the Office of Marriage, Family and Life; and $150,000 for "Evangelization and Mission," according to its website.

Catholic Services Appeal: Parish-by-parish tally

The Catholic Services Appeal Foundation sent this spreadsheet to parish priests last week, asking them to help encourage fundraising at their local churches.