By Larry Urish     3/15/2021

The year 2020 was like no other. A pandemic stunned the world with a host of medical, social and economic challenges. The Diocese of Orange, not immune to COVID-19’s effects, had to pivot quickly, adjusting its many programs and services to face a new, uncertain reality. 

Despite these challenges, last year the Diocese and local parishes stepped up to provide support to the faithful and to the wider community, thanks in large part to those who gave generously to the Pastoral Services Appeal (PSA), the Diocese’s annual fundraising initiative that in 2020 raised over $10.2 million.  

“If we think back on how much the pandemic shut things down midway through 2020, it’s remarkable to see how much didn’t shut down throughout the Diocese,” says Ian Rangel, the Diocese’s PSA and Fund Development Director. “What we saw was a beautiful witness of our faith in action, only made possible by the generosity of so many.” 

The PSA is unique in that donations fund both Diocesan ministries and other programs, while helping every local parish. “It’s an opportunity for supporters to make a difference for someone living a community/city over, while also helping someone sitting [with them] in their parish,” Rangel says. 

Along with formation for clergy and seminarians alike, PSA funding supports the outreach arms of the Diocese, among other programs. One such organization, Catholic Charities, is more critical than ever in today’s uncertain times. 

“As we’ve worked through this pandemic this past year, we’ve had to adjust how we deliver our services,” says Ellen Roy, executive director of Catholic Charities of Orange County. “The dollars we get from the PSA … is the gas that keeps us going. Every day there are people at our doors who are in dire need of help. Because of the contributions, we’re able to help these people and make their lives a little brighter.”  

Beginning last year, and moving forward, all PSA efforts will remain aligned with Bishop Kevin Vann’s Diocesan Strategic Plan. “A significant focus within the Strategic Plan [involves] utilizing resources in a way that allowed for the greatest reinvestment of focus and funds to the ministry work of the Diocese,” Rangel says. “Our administration of the PSA this past year was a wonderful example of this coming into form. Not only were we able to greatly reduce the expenses related to administering the appeal – over 40 percent, year-over-year – we were able to reallocate those savings directly to the ministries supported by the appeal.” 

New this year is a PSA fund set aside for retired priests. “Our donors get to say thank you to these men of God who have spent their lives dedicated to the faith,” Rangel says.  

Deacon Bill Weeks, who serves at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Tustin, concurs: “Our priests work around the clock,” he says. “It’s about time that we more directly support our priests in their retirement years.”  

St. Cecilia’s is one of the many local parishes that benefit year in and year out from the PSA. More than $3.7 million (roughly 37 percent) of the total funds raised in 2020, a huge assistance in the form of surplus funding, was given back to the parishes. In the spirit of Catholic giving, some parishes designate a percentage of their surplus money to parishes in economically disadvantaged communities, notes Rangel.  

Deacon Bill is grateful for what the Pastoral Services Appeal has meant to his parish. “We have a five-year plan to add a meeting and a spirituality center, as well as expanded offices, and remodel our parish hall,” he says. “The PSA has been fantastic. It’s instrumental because all of our [surplus] rebates have been used for this.” 

Deacon Bill adds that parishioners have been extremely generous through the years, particularly in 2020, knowing that their donations serve more than their parish. Formation is but one example. “It’s been phenomenal to see how our parish supports the PSA. Parishioners have been pleased with how the dollars go to form clergy, to educate them and develop them for the ministries of the Diocese.” 

The first phase of St. Cecilia’s new meeting and spirituality center will begin in a few months. “We look forward to breaking ground in May,” Deacon Bill says. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the PSA. We’re all so thankful. Our dream is being realized because of this.” 

Along with funding to support 44 retired diocesan priests, this year’s PSA will provide formation for 24 seminarians, ongoing education for clergy and deacons, support services for more than 342,000 families through Catholic Charities, education and learning supporting to more than 17,000 families through the Diocese’s Catholic schools, and much more.  

Those who wish to give to the 2021 Pastoral Services Appeal can do so through their local parish or by visiting rcbo.org/psa. 

“Look at all the benefits and the thousands of people who are being helped by this appeal,” Deacon Bill says. “I’ve seen it here, in action, alive and well at our parish.”