iGiveCatholic breaks records, spreads faith

By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

Behind the record-breaking numbers of the third annual #iGiveCatholic online giving campaign on Nov. 28 – which raised more than $3.6 million for 616 Catholic nonprofits across the country, including $2.5 million for 150 entities in the Archdiocese of New Orleans – there’s the unique story of the big band that could.

St. Augustine High School in New Orleans decided it wanted to raise $35,000 to send more than 100 members of its high-stepping band on a whirlwind educational trip in January, which would introduce the black teenagers to the places where civil rights history unfolded, including secret stops along the Underground Railroad that escaped slaves used to make their way to freedom in Canada, and end in Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 19 March for Life.

Will be a life-changing trip

St. Augustine met its $35,000 goal for the tour, and Father Tony Ricard, campus minister, believes the educational experience will change the lives of his students and also the perceptions of fellow Catholics attending the March for Life.

“The coolest thing is, by bringing the St. Augustine Marching 100 to the March for Life, we don’t have to say, ‘Black lives matter,’ because we’re going to show it,” Father Ricard said. “It’s going to be a homily without having to say a word. When people see all these boys in an all-black band playing, it’s absolutely going to make a statement.”

Father Ricard said the school took students on a similar tour last year, but this is the first year the entire band will go and also the first time the Marching 100 will perform outside the U.S. About 120 students and 15 faculty members will travel on three buses beginning Jan. 13.

Civil Rights education

They will visit important places in U.S. civil rights history such as Birmingham, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky; Cincinnati; and Detroit. Then they will cross into Windsor, Ontario, Canada, to visit “several of the places where our ancestors settled after fleeing slavery via the Underground Railroad,” Father Ricard said.

After visiting Niagara Falls, the students will make a stop in Baltimore and perform at the retirement home of the Josephite Fathers and Brothers, some of whom once taught at St. Augustine. At the March for Life in D.C., the band hopes to set up at a corner near the Washington Mall and play continuously as hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers pass by.

“In the past, when I brought 40 boys, they would stand out from the crowd, and I loved it when other churches would be looking at us saying, ‘Why can’t we be like them? They’re so well-disciplined and organized,’” Father Ricard said. “That made me stick out my chest.

“The whole tour is to get the students to understand how hard people fought for their freedom. Then, when we get to the March for Life, they’ll be making the connection about how valuable their lives are and why people fought so hard – and now we have to fight to defend others.

“The March for Life is more than an anti-abortion rally. It’s about all phases of life, from abortion to the death penalty to euthanasia. By the time our boys get to the March for Life, they will understand that.”

The #iGiveCatholic campaign, which started in New Orleans in 2015 and then grew to include a few additional dioceses last year, was the most successful Catholic crowdfunding event ever, said Josephine Everly, president of the campaign.

“The model that was created in New Orleans is replicable and is something that is being embraced in other dioceses, from bishops to diocesan leadershi

p to ministry leaders,” Everly said. “I have a vision that there will be an international day of Catholic giving. We’ve had interest from Canada and the UK about participating in 2018.”

Casting a wide net

There were more than 13,500 online contributions, including more than 3,000 in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, during the 24-hour giving period. Gifts came from 29 states beyond the states represented by the participating archdioceses and dioceses, as well as six countries, including Afghanistan, Great Britain, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Honduras and Canada.

The Catholic Foundation had set a $1.8 million goal for New Orleans, and it was exceeded by $700,000.

Everly said a survey will be sent out to participating dioceses, donors and organizations to compare this year’s effort with previous years’ results.

“Last year, of the donors who responded, 40 percent indicated it was their first time giving online,” she said. “Think about that. We have challenges in the church, especially with parishes encouraging their parishioners to give online. It’s my hope and prayer that this campaign, which was fun and safe, will encourage them to make further online giving to their parishes.”

Everly said about 20 percent of donors last year gave to entities they saw on the online platform even though they may not have known much about the organization.

One Catholic entity – the Magnificat House of Discernment for women – received a donation from a soldier stationed in Afghanistan, Everly said.

“That’s the power of the platform,” she said. “You can reach former parishioners who are halfway around the world. The pastor of Sacred Heart in Cutoff said he was astounded by the number of donations he received from people living outside the parish.”

Parish leaders

The following parishes had the largest number of advance-day unique donors: Ascension of Our Lord, LaPlace, first; St. Angela Merici, Metairie, second; and Our Lady of Lourdes, Slidell, third.

Parishes with the largest number of gifts were Mary  Queen of Peace, Mandeville, first; St. Angela Merici, second; and Ascension of Our Lord, third.

The schools that had the largest number of advance-day unique donors were St. Benilde, Metairie, first; St. Catherine of Siena, Metairie, second; and St. Peter, Reserve, third.

Schools did well

Schools that had the largest number of gifts were St. Benilde, first; The St. Paul’s School in Covington, second; and Archbishop Hannan High School in Covington, third.

The nonprofits that had the largest number of advance-day unique donors were the Southern Dominican Province, USA, Metairie, first; Second Harvest Food Bank, second; and Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center, Metairie, third.

The nonprofits with the largest number of gifts were Second Harvest Food Bank, first; Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, second; and Dumb Ox Ministries, Mandeville, third.

Participating archdioceses and dioceses were the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archdiocese of Kansas City (Kansas), Archdiocese of Mobile, Archdiocese of New Orleans, Diocese of Allentown, Diocese of Austin, Diocese of Baton Rouge, Diocese of Biloxi, Diocese of Helena, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Diocese of Jackson, Diocese of Knoxville, Diocese of Lexington, Diocese of Lubbock, Diocese of Memphis, Diocese of Owensboro and Diocese of Paterson.

Next year’s #iGiveCatholic campaign will be Nov. 27, 2018. Registration for organizations interested in participating will open in September 2018.

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

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