By Tim Harfmann
Father Ralph Edel is the chaplain at Saint Francis Prep High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens. His job is to strengthen the faith of each student so it lasts a lifetime. “The hope is that, one day, they’ll go to college and be involved in that way; and God willing, one day as parents and adults, they’ll do the same thing in their parishes,” said Father Ralph. It’s a mighty mission in need of great support. Father Ralph receives that through the Annual Catholic Appeal, a campaign conducted in every parish of the Brooklyn diocese.
“The Annual Catholic Appeal is an ongoing way of sustaining the programs that happen in Brooklyn and Queens for all parishes,” said John Heyer. He’s the executive director and explained how the eight million dollars raised in the latest campaign funds a lot of projects. More than a quarter of donations, 26.25 percent, supported vocations. Faith formation received 25 percent. Other programs included Catholic Charities (13.75%), Catholic Migration Services (8.75%), care for retired priests (7.5%), Catholic school scholarships (6.25%), chaplains (6.25%) and parish assistance (6.25%). When an individual church beats its assigned goal, there’s a bonus. “Anything over a parish’s goal goes directly back to the parish in order to help support that parish, in perhaps a project or something that they’re doing,” said Heyer.
As of January 25, 2019, parishes received over 1.2-million dollars from last year’s campaign. Father Ralph said the Appeal helps nearly 2,500 students; “We’ll be introducing freshmen to the foundations of their faith and to the spirituality of the school. We’re going to get an outside speaker to come in. That’s because of the funds of the ACA.”
But members of the Saint Francis Prep community said having a full-time chaplain also fills a void. “What Father Ralph does best is establish relationships, and they’re so important. Now, I see people filtering in and out of his office,” said Patrick McLaughlin, the school’s principal. “It’s not only about having a chaplain. It’s a friend, not only spiritually but also socially. Father Ralph helps guide us what to do, the best in our lives,” said Anthony Olivieri, a junior at the school. “It’s really nice to have someone there who you can talk to and understand things that you might not be able to learn from a teacher or guidance counselor,” said Ashley Caturano, a St. Francis Prep senior.
You can donate to the cause by the end of the year. Go online to coh.annualcatholicappeal.org.