“Our advisory board has done a lot of planning over the last year revising our mission, vision and values,” said Arthur Peters, ShareLife’s executive director. “Over time people may have believed or seen ShareLife as a collection, that ShareLife is money. We want it to be seen and understood that is what ShareLife is, that it is more than a collection, it is the mission work of the Church.”
And to help cast that light over the annual campaign, established in 1976 by Toronto’s former Archbishop Philip Pocock, Peters said efforts have been made to realign ShareLife with the archdiocese’s pastoral plan.
“One of the core components of the Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese of Toronto is Catholic outreach in justice and love,” he said.
“ShareLife is one of the ways that we fulfill that. We want ShareLife to be seen and understood that it is one of the ways how we carry out the mission work of the Church.”
Carrying out that work does take money, though, which is why ShareLife aims to raise $14.925 million this year overall, up from the $13.7 million raised last year.
About 90 per cent of the money directly supports one of 42 social service agencies, 24 of which are funded through Catholic Charities.
Parishioners at the 225 parishes in the archdiocese provide the bulk of donations, with a parish campaign goal set at $13.1 million.
Last year parishes raised $12.065 million.
Collection Sundays are scheduled for April 2, May 7 and June 4.
“Catholics across the archdiocese have been very generous to their parishes,” said Peters. “We pray that this year they will continue to respond to ShareLife with the same and increased generosity recognizing the needs of our agencies. There are tremendous needs.”
Those needs include offering access to counselling through the regional Catholic Family Service outlets, providing a place like Rosalie Hall where teen moms can continue their high school education as well as caring for the elderly and disabled.
Last year ShareLife fell $1.1 million short of its overall goal. Peters said that despite shortfall, allocations this year have been increased by $485,000.
“As we begin our 2017 ShareLife campaign we are very mindful of the needs and demands that our agencies experience on a daily basis,” he said. “We’re asking people to show mercy to those who need our help and to support the ShareLife campaign.”
Both Peters and the Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, are seeking the help of clergy to get the message out to the laity.
“I invite all clergy within the archdiocese to encourage parishioners to support ShareLife most generously as a way in which each of us can fulfil our mission as disciples of our Lord Jesus, reaching out to those who are most in need,” said Collins. “For many many years the ShareLife campaign has been a way in which we can do this.”
Collins also praised parishioners for the generosity he’s seen since becoming Toronto’s Archbishop in 2007.
“Our parishioners respond when they are presented with the needs of the Church,” he said. “I would hope and pray that this generosity might be focused in a particular way upon the ShareLife campaign, the way in which we seek to fulfill our Gospel mission.”