Why I’m adding Parish Relief fund to 2020 Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal

Archbishop Aquila

For weeks we have been focused on the health impact of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than half a million people in the U.S. But in recent weeks the economic toll has come into clearer focus, and our parishes and communities are among those places impacted. Given these realities, I am introducing a parish emergency relief fund as a component of this year’s Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal.

The developments related to the new coronavirus seem to change daily, and I am proud of the efforts that our priests, deacons and parishioners have made to reach out to those in need, often in very creative ways.

We have seen drive-through confession, priests who walk or bike through the boundaries of their parish to make the presence of Jesus known, parishes who are calling all their members to see if they need assistance, and many online initiatives to bring the Mass and the Gospel to everyone during this pandemic. As Archbishop, I have given pastors the authority to celebrate Confirmation for those who are prepared to receive it. Indeed, we are diligently working on plans to prudently restore public celebration of the Mass, while still making efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This will have to be done in a gradual manner.

Clearly, our parishes are not sitting idle, despite the restrictions necessitated by the current crisis. At the same time, our parishes are feeling the financial impact of not being able to take up a weekly collection to fund their ministries, including those that help the poor and homeless. This shortfall in donations has resulted in staff losing their jobs or having their hours reduced.

In normal years, the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal raises money for vital ministries like our Catholic Schools, Catholic Charities, our seminaries and numerous evangelization efforts. Those ministries will continue to be funded by the Appeal this year, but the 2020 collection will also include a Parish Relief Fund to help parishes hardest hit by the spread of COVID-19. This special fund will assist those churches with families and parishioners in need, provide payroll support to parishes, help make up for shortfalls in offertory giving and help pay for efforts to increase giving.

I am aware of the many people who have lost their jobs or been furloughed during the ongoing shutdown. For those in this circumstance it is important to remember the parable of the widow who gave two small coins worth only a few cents. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty…’ (Mk. 12:43-44).

We see here how much Jesus values the gift of trust in God’s providence and praises the widow for it. In the same way, Christ accepts whatever you can give, including your prayers for those in need. If God is blessing you with stable finances and the means to give more than you normally do, then I urge you to prayerfully consider making a substantial gift in this time of need for so many.

I would like to close with Jesus’ frequent exhortation to his followers: ‘Do not be afraid.’ The news is filled with messages of fear and reminders of our fallen nature. With the gift of faith, we trust in God’s daily provision for us and serve as channels of grace and blessing for others. Let us not be afraid to proclaim our faith in Christ with our actions and our words. Thank you for your generosity during this time. I am certain the Lord will bless you!

Make your gift today at archden.org/donate.

COMING UP: Thomas Fitzsimons: The unsung Catholic Founding Father 

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

As our nation celebrates the day of its independence and subsequent founding as a country on July 4, a look back some lesser-knowCatholic history of this historic event seems warranted.  

George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin: these are names every American knows. Pull out your wallet and you’ll likely see at least one of their faces on the money you carry aroundAnd while this nation was founded on principles rooted in Christianity, none of these men were Catholic. In fact, of the men history calls the Founding Fathers of America, only two were. 

Many may already be familiar with Founding Father Charles Carroll, a Catholic and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and whose brother John was the first Catholic bishop assigned to what would become the United States. However, Carroll was not the only Catholic who played a role in the founding of our country. The other was Thomas Fitzsimons, a name that is not mentioned much (if at all) in U.S. history classes but deserves to be recognized nonetheless.  

The unwieldy named Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, published in 1887, paints a vivid picture of Fitzsimons and the way his faith informed his character. While the other Founding Fathers were meeting and deliberating about the Declaration of Independence, Fitzsimons joined the Continental Army anfought on the frontlines against the British army. 

Captain Fitzsimons commanded his company of militia until 1778, when France entered the war. British troops withdrew from Pennsylvania and began to focus on the southern states. It was at this time that Fitzsimons became more involved in politics at the state level. In 1782, he became a delegate at the Continental Congress. In 1786, he was elected as a Pennsylvania state legislator and served for three terms until 1789. In 1787, he was selected to represent Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Congress, where the United States Constitution was written and ratified. He, along with Daniel Carroll, were the only two Catholics to sign to Constitution. 

Born in Belfast, Ireland in 1741, not much else is known about Fitzsimons’ family. He had three brothers – Nicholas, Andrew and John – and one sister, Ann. He and his family immigrated to America as early as 1760, where they became residents of Philadelphia. It was here that Fitzsimons would stake his claim as a businessman and politician. 

In 1763, Fitzsimons married Catharine Meade, whose brother, George Meade, would later go into business with Fitzsimons and build one of the most successful commercial trade houses in Philadelphia. Throughout his life, Fitzsimons was in close correspondence with Bishop John Carrollthese letters revealed insights into the Catholic Founding Father’s personal life. In a letter to Bishop Carroll in 1808, Fitzsimons wrote of being married to Catharine for 45 years. Additionally, local baptismal records show that he and Catharine stood as sponsors at the baptisms of three of Meade’s children. 

In 1774, Fitzsimons began his first foray into politics when he was elected as one of 13 Provincial Deputies who were given authority to call a general meeting of the citizens. It is believed he was the first Catholic to have ever held public office in the budding United States. Even so, anti-Catholic bigotry was common at the time and did exist within some of his fellow statesmen, such as John Adams, who once said in an address to the people of Great Britain that the Catholic faith was “a religion that has deluged your island in blood and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.” 

Fitzsimons’ first stint in public office was brief, only lasting from May to July, but it was a foreshadowing his future involvement in state affairs. As the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Fitzsimons formed a company of soldiers to fight against the British army. He was assigned to the Third Battalion under Col. Cadwalader and Lieut. Col. John Nixon, who was the grandson of a Catholic. Behind the scenes, as George Washington and the like organized committees and framed what would become the Declaration of Independence, Fitzsimons ascended to the rank of Captain and continued to serve his country as a soldier and patriot.

In addition to his tenure as a commanding officer and politician, Fitzsimons also found success in other ventures. In 1781, he helped found the Bank of North America, the United States’ first de facto central bank, and served as its director until 1803. The latter years of his life were spent primarily in private business, but he maintained a consistent interest in public affairs; even Fitzsimons wasn’t exempt from the old adage, “once a politician, always a politician.” 

Through all of these endeavors, and even after befalling troubled financial times in the early 1800s, Fitzsimons remained a diligent philanthropist. He gave immense support to St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia and was invested in the improvement of public education in the commonwealth. As one of his contemporaries wrote after his death in 1811, “he died in the esteem, affection and gratitude of all classes of his fellow citizens.” 

Fitzsimons was buried in the graveyard of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia, which is now part of Independence National Historical Park. His name may not be a household one like Washington or Jefferson, but Fitzsimons can be remembered as something of an unsung Founding Father of the United Statesa man whose life of quiet faith, humble service and admirable patriotism exemplifies the values that this country was founded upon in a simple yet profound way.