Frequently Asked Questions about the Annual Catholic Appeal
Developed in response to discussion at the Bishop’s Appeal receptions.
What is the difference between the Assessment (formerly known as the “DSA”) and the new Annual Catholic Appeal?
The DSA has been a collection at the parish level to raise funds to assist individual parishes in paying their annual assessment or "tax" to the diocese. This tax money has been used by the diocese to fund ministries and the offices necessary to the diocesan church. For example, the Office of the Bishop, the Chancellor, and the Vicar General have been funded through the tax along with other ministries assisting the poor, educating the young or assisting with sacramental preparation. In essence, the tax was the sole means (along with investment income and bequests) of supporting the operation of the diocese.
Like the vast majority of other dioceses, we will now have a more collaborative and faithful way of drawing support which includes three funding sources:
-a direct annual appeal from parishioners to support ministry,
-a tax which typically supports the core administrative functions, and
-investment income and bequests.
The diocese will continue to tax each parish but the amount of diocesan tax as a whole has been reduced by $1 million dollars for this year to ease the burden on parishes. The tax will ultimately become a part of the parish's budget and be paid from regular parish income.
Parishes will be asked to refrain from any further collections to be used to pay the parish tax. A direct annual appeal seeking contributions made directly to the diocese from the laity plus a parish tax, paid directly to the diocese from each parish’s ordinary income, is a financing model that has been used for years in most dioceses throughout the country.
A diocesan annual appeal is a highly organized effort to communicate the work of a diocese to its parishioners and to solicit their support through direct mail and in-pew solicitation of pledges. There is no evidence in any other dioceses that an annual appeal to support the diocese will diminish parish giving.
Since we are one community of believers, members of all parish communities throughout the Diocese of Madison are asked to give to this appeal. Our goal is to allow people to grow in their faith and understanding of what Universal Church means to each of us as a Catholic family.
We are concerned about the retired religious and priests within our diocese. Is there a collection for the retired nuns? Will the Bless Our Priest collection continue and does it duplicate giving to the appeal?
The Diocese of Madison conducts an annual collection for retired religious, which includes nuns This collection is typically held in February each year. The collection proceeds are directed to national religious organizations for distribution to individual orders that are represented in our parishes and diocese.
Diocesan priests depend upon the support of our diocese to provide for them in retirement. The Annual Catholic Appeal will assist in meeting immediate needs of healthcare and retirement benefits of our retired priests. The Bless Our Priest collection will continue to be held each December to help build the retirement fund for the benefit of current and future retired priests.
Can we earmark donations for a certain area we wish to support?
The Annual Catholic Appeal is meant to be an all encompassing support to ministries of our diocese. Funds fuel active ministry at work today in our diocese and parishes. By contributing unrestricted support to the ACA, you allow your gift to be used in the most effective way -- where it is needed most to meet our mission as a Catholic Curch.
Will funds from the appeal be used to support the building of a new cathedral?
As mentioned above, the diocese depends upon three sources of income: investment income, the parish assessment (tax) and the Annual Catholic Appeal.
The first effort each year is to minimize the need for money by carefully limiting and in many cases cutting diocesan department budgets.
Second, as parish incomes rise, the amount of tax rises as well.
Third, investment income should begin to rise as the recession ends.
All of these elements should allow the diocese to limit increases in the annual appeal goals and parish assessments.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Director of Finance in conjunction with the Diocesan Finance Council to carefully review all of the income and expense projections and to make appropriate recommendations to the Bishop.
How has investment income been used in the past and what will happen when the market recovers or continues to fall?
Investment income, along with the tax, has historically been used to support both ministries and the core administrative offices of the diocese. The Diocese of Madison will adjust spending and/or the assessment and appeal goals in relationship to changes in investment income.
Who is responsible for reviewing programs within the diocesan budget and who has final approval of the budget?
The Bishop supported by the Vicar General, the Chancellor and the Director of Finance review the programs and the related costs and expenses. The annual operating budget is approved by the Finance Council of the Diocese of Madison.
Does my Catholic school benefit from the annual appeal? How?
Maintaining an environment and curriculum that prepares our children to be leaders in our faith and communities is vital to keeping our Catholic identity strong. The Office of Catholic Schools (OCS) takes great measures to make sure we do so by assisting the pastors, principals and teachers of our diocese in meeting the challenges of education and faith development. The OCS along with school principals advocate for students in the areas of special needs, transportation concerns, funding assistance, curriculum development and support of the professional growth and development of teachers committed to Catholic education.
Currently, the Office of Catholic Schools is conducting a comprehensive school study that benefits each school in our diocese. The study is the initial step in strengthening the system of Catholic schools so we can ensure the vitality of Catholic education for years to come. This type of comprehensive planning must be all encompassing to take into account the needs of all schools in every area of the diocese. This is a task no single parish or parish school could do alone. Complete details on this study can be found on the Office of Catholic Schools
Some far outlying parishes feel a distance from the diocese. Rural parishes have different needs than urban parishes. Are all being addressed adequately?
The 11 counties of our diocese form one Body of Christ in His Church made of many parts. Though some parishes may be further in proximity to the diocesan offices, the identity we share of being members of “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” is never limited by physical boundaries. Recently, the Bishop has focused additional resources on meeting the needs of rural parishes through Rural Life Ministry, assistance from Stewardship and Development, additional catechist training and regional liturgical workshops. The Office of Planning will continue to seek input on ways to enhance unity and help all meet Jesus Christ Risen through the Trusting in the Spirit process and provide individuals and parishes with a stronger sense of accord.
How does the diocese fund seminarian education and how does the funding today compare to ten or fifteen years ago?
The diocese’s program of tuition and cost sharing with the seminarians is effectively the same program that Bishop Bullock put in place (i.e., diocesan payment for tuition, room, board, monthly stipend, and coverage of health insurance). The only added piece is a once a year reimbursement for a single discount round-trip airfare to Madison from distant seminaries. This allows Madison seminarians from those seminaries to participate in Holy Week liturgies in the diocese. This is only for seminarians more than a one-day drive from Madison.