By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator

Fresh off a record-setting campaign that topped the $1 million mark for the third time in the past four years, the Bishop’s Annual Appeal will soon be launching with a renewed sense of optimism, said Tammy Abshire, stewardship director for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

The BAA, which raised a record $1.05 million a year ago, began Oct. 1.

“We were thrilled and so thankful to our donors that made last year such an overwhelming success,” Abshire said. “This year the excitement has been heightened by the arrival of Bishop (Michael G.) Duca. He has certainly hit the ground running in preparing for the BAA.”

“We are also incredibly grateful for the support of Bishop (Robert W.) Muench for so many years and wish him a blessed and prayerful retirement,” she added.

New for this year is The Shepherd’s Society honoring Bishop Duca, who was installed as the sixth bishop for the Diocese of Baton Rouge on Aug. 24. Donors who donate at least $5,000 will be charter members of The Shepherd’s Society.

“For decades contributors to the BAA have extended the love of God to our neighbors, fellow parishioners and friends and a timeless call directs us to all those who long for our care and compassion,” Bishop Duca said.

From family life to Catholic education and disaster response, the BAA offers spiritual hope and practical assistance to those most in need of God’s provision, Abshire said. She added that only through the generosity of parishioners are those services provided.

Nearly 50 percent of BAA funding directly goes to caring for the needy and supporting church parishes, with the rest of the funding assisting a myriad of agencies. Services benefitting from the BAA include caring for expectant mothers, preparing for disasters through Catholic Charities Diocese of Baton Rouge, educating children through the Catholics Schools Office Tuition Assistance Program and bringing Mass to the homebound through Catholic Life TV.

Funds also go to the Parish Generator Program, which assists church parishes in securing generators to be used during natural disasters. The program helped Father Jason Palermo, pastor at St. Joseph Church in French Settlement and St. Stephen the Martyr Chuch in Maurepas, purchase a much-needed generator.

During the historic flooding of 2016, St. Joseph served meals for more than 100,000 people, the first 15,000 without electricity.

“Our new generator will ensure that we have power when our parishioners need us the most,” Father Palermo said.

The Tuition Assistance Program provides some financial aid for students and their families who might not otherwise be able to afford a Catholic education.

“As good stewards of God’s blessing, we support those in need, contributing to works like the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, welcoming the chance to honor Christ by addressing the concerns of those he loves,” Bishop Duca said. “When we give, we honor Christ. We follow the shepherd’s lead.”

The BAA has steadily grown, from $850,000 in 2012 to $1.05 million in 2017-18.

“The remarkable growth of the BAA speaks to the generosity of parishioners in the Diocese of Baton Rouge,” Abshire said. “They continually live up to the reputation this diocese has rightfully earned as always being ready to help those most in need.

“This was never more relevant than during the flood of 2016, when so many were in need. We are grateful to all of our donors and to their pastors, who through their own faithful leadership plant the seeds of mercy in so many.”