In 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, and the “Amazin’” New York Mets won the World Series.

And in 1969, the Archdiocese of Washington launched its annual appeal, which provides the main source of funding for the archdiocese’s educational and charitable outreach and for its wide range of ministries serving people in the nation’s capital and five surrounding counties.

Over the years, the fundraising drive was known by various names, including the Archbishop’s Appeal and Cardinal’s Appeal, and for the 2019 campaign that launches in January, the Annual Appeal of the Archdiocese of Washington continues a half-century legacy of bringing Christ’s help and hope every day to thousands of people in this community. 

“The 50th year of the appeal provided us with an opportunity to pause and think about what the appeal is all about,” said Joe Gillmer, the Executive Director of Development for the Archdiocese of Washington. “At the end of the day, it’s not about a particular person or institution. It’s about the ministries and the mission of the Church.”

That reflection, said Gillmer, helped inspire the theme for the archdiocese’s 2019 Annual Appeal – “Our Faith. Our Hope. Our Mission.”

“It (that theme) captures everything we are trying to do with the appeal,” he said. “All the elements of the appeal fit in those concepts… It captures who we are as a Church and what we’re trying to do.”

A promotional booklet for the 2019 Annual Appeal notes that in the area of faith, the appeal supports formation of seminarians and deacons, continuing education and the care of retired priests, and the offices for vocations and consecrated life.

The appeal provides hope in its support of tuition assistance for Catholic schools and for its funding for parish religious education programs, school safety, and university campus ministries.

In support of the Church’s mission, the appeal funds marriage and family ministries, outreach to youth and young adults and to people with special needs, programs celebrating the cultural diversity of this Catholic community, ministries to the hospitalized or imprisoned, efforts supporting the dignity of life, communications outreach, and support for Catholic Charities, which serves more than 140,000 women, men and children annually.

“For most people, some aspect of the appeal hits close to home for them,” said Elizabeth Shaughney, the director of the archdiocese’s Annual Appeal since this past fall. She earlier served as the manager of the annual appeals for the Archdiocese of Baltimore and as a development associate for Catholic Charities there.

Since its beginning 50 years ago, the Annual Appeal of the Archdiocese of Washington has been a work of faith. In 1969, it was launched by Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle, a plain-spoken churchman and civil rights champion who led the archdiocese through its post-World War II building boom of new area churches and schools to serve the expanding Catholic population here. 

Announcing the appeal, Cardinal O’Boyle emphasized the importance of how “the people of God join together in advancing God’s work on Earth.” In a letter to local Catholics about the inaugural appeal in 1969, the cardinal wrote, “Let each of us make his sacrifice in the spirit of Christ, Who has promised us a hundredfold reward for all that we do for others in His name.”

That first appeal raised $527,000, and in the years since, local Catholics have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars for the appeal’s outreach.

Every penny contributed to the appeal goes directly to the programs and charities that are part of the appeal. All administrative costs associated with the appeal are paid for from separate funding sources of the archdiocese.

A fact sheet from the archdiocese notes that no donations to the Annual Appeal or from parish giving are used for legal costs or settlements related to abuse cases.

“All of this is going to things that make a difference,” said Gillmer of the donations that local Catholics make to the appeal.

In 2018, a challenging year for the Catholic Church which faced an unfolding abuse crisis, local Catholics continued to respond generously to the annual appeal, with 35,000 people contributing to the drive, which raised more than $14 million. 

Praising that generous response, Gillmer said it reflected Catholics “recognizing as a Church that we have a job to do, a mission to support those in need… It’s a reminder that no matter what circumstances are in the world, we always come together for (our) faith, for things that are important, and this is a reflection of that.”

That generosity, he added, shows “we’re here for each other. We come together. The appeal is an extension of that.” And that response, extended by so many people across the archdiocese is able “to leverage an extraordinary impact,” he said. “…This means these things (the archdiocese’s outreach and ministries) happen. We do the work of the Church.”

The key dates at parishes for the Archdiocese of Washington’s 2019 Annual Appeal include Announcement Weekend on Feb. 16-17, Commitment Weekend on Feb. 23-24, and Follow-up Weekend on March 2-3.

For Shaughney, the appeal’s director, Commitment Weekend has added meaning. Her second child, a daughter whom she plans to name Felicity, is due then. “I’m making a pretty big commitment that weekend,” she joked.

Shaughney and her husband Mark are members of St. John’s Parish in Westminster, Maryland, and they also have a daughter Charlotte who is 2. Shaughney grew up in the parish, and as a youngster, she tagged along with her grandfather and father as they volunteered to count the parish collection on the second Sunday each month. Now as the appeal’s director, she is helping to continue another legacy of giving.

(For information on the Archdiocese of Washington’s Annual Appeal, go online to appeal.adw.org .)