Together We Serve is an annual appeal in the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton. It was launched in 2014 to simplify giving by combining recurring special collections in parishes (sometimes called “second collections”) and inviting Catholics to work together to serve those in need at home, in Canada, and abroad. Together We Serve shows both Catholics and those around us that we are all one Church, acting together to advance the Mission given to us by Jesus Christ.
Catholics are obligated to “assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his or her own ability” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2043). That is why every parish has a regular collection during Sunday Mass, a portion of which goes to support the Pastoral and Administration Office of the Local Church (Archdiocese). At both the parish and Archdiocesan levels, these funds pay for salaries, facilities, contracted services and other material needs of the Church. Together We Serve is a unique opportunity for all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Edmonton to work together to support our fellow workers in the vineyard, by giving generously and joyfully to Catholic causes that are outside the immediate needs of our parishes and Pastoral Office. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the churches in Macedonia and Achaia: I can guarantee that they were willing to give to the limit of their means, yes and beyond their means, without the slightest urging from me or anyone else. In fact, they simply begged us to accept their gifts and so let them share the honour of supporting their brothers and sisters in Christ. (2 Cor 8:2-4)
The original Together We Serve goal in 2014 was determined by looking at overall giving to special collections over the previous five years (2008-2013) and then calculating a 5-year average. When Catholic Social Services Sign of Hope was added to Together We Serve in 2015, the goal was increased by the 5-year average of parish giving to the Sign of Hope special collection. In 2016, the Together We Serve goal was increased again, by 3% to $2 million, and has not changed until this year (see Question 6).
The original Parish Targets were determined by looking at parish giving to special collections over the previous five years (2008-2013) and then calculating a 5-year average for each parish. Parish Targets increased with increases to the overall Together We Serve goal (see Question 3) and have not changed since 2016.
Not surprisingly, overall giving has been affected by the significant challenges faced by our parishes and parishioners in 2020-2021. Nevertheless, many Catholics continue to give to both their parishes and to Together We Serve. In each of 2020 and 2021, Together We Serve achieved approximately 65% of its target. We recognize that it will take time to return to former giving levels in most parishes. The 2022 Together We Serve goal has been reduced in response to this reality (see Question 6).
The campaign goal for 2022 is $1.5 million.
Parish targets have been adjusted to reflect the lower overall campaign goal and other factors, including pre-pandemic trends (e.g. stability, significant variance, year-over-year decreases since 2014) and increases/decreases in parish membership since 2014. For example, some parishes have closed since 2014 and their members have joined other nearby parishes.
Any parish that exceeds its target will receive 100% of excess funds back as a Parish Share rebate. But Parish Share is much more than a rebate cheque. It is an opportunity for your parish to raise money for its own building fund, charitable giving, or other initiatives that are important to parishioners – and to do it without running a separate fundraising campaign. Parishes can also choose to give some or all of their rebate to Together We Serve, 100% of which will be allocated to our beneficiaries. Contact the CAEDM Campaign Team to find out more.
Local needs (70%) include Catholic Social Services Sign of Hope, St. Joseph Seminary, Newman Theological College, St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta, and St. Joseph Priests’ Foundation. New in 2022, Together We Serve will allocate up to 15% of funds to Archdiocese Priorities & Projects. Specific priorities/projects are selected by the Archbishop, from recommendations made by the Together We Serve Advisory Committee, and could include a pastoral priority (such as youth), urgent or emergent needs in a parish, or specific needs in the local community. Canadian needs (15%) include the Needs of the Church in Canada, which supports the work of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and much-needed financial support for the northern Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. International needs (15%) include three special collections mandated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops: Evangelization of Peoples, Needs of the Church in the Holy Land, and the Pope’s Pastoral Works.
Development and Peace – Caritas Canada was established in 1967 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to promote alternatives to unjust social, political and economic structures in the global south. The D&P Share Lent campaign is a long-standing tradition in Catholic parishes in Canada. As one of a number of special collections, Share Lent was included in Together We Serve from the beginning. However, unlike most Together We Serve beneficiaries, D&P had a well-established presence in parishes that pre-dated Together We Serve and has continued to produce a wide variety of resources in support of its Share Lent campaign. In consultation with D&P, the decision was made to allow the organization to return to running its own Share Lent campaign in Archdiocese of Edmonton parishes, starting in 2022. This will enable D&P to tell its own story and reach out to a new generation of Catholic donors, especially those who share its vision and priorities.
St. Vincent de Paul has conferences set up in many of our parishes. Each conference works to collect donations of money and household items to assist people in need within their own communities. The good works of St. Vincent de Paul certainly answer the call of our Holy Father to reach out to those on the peripheries of society. It would seem to make sense, therefore, to include St. Vincent de Paul in Together We Serve as it is a charitable organization that fits within the mandate. However, inclusion in Together We Serve would require that St. Vincent de Paul cease the poor box collections in our parishes, just as all other Together We Serve beneficiaries have ceased their own asks in our parishes. We believe there is great value in the visibility of the poor box collection and the direct invitation to Catholics to, literally, “dig deep” to help those in their local community who are hungry and in need of the basics of life. That is not to say that St. Vincent de Paul could not be considered as one of the Archdiocese Priorities & Projects (see Question 9), to meet a need that exceeds the resources of local conferences and serves the broader community.
As part of a national effort announced by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Bishops of Canada have made a $30-million collective financial commitment to support healing and reconciliation initiatives for residential school survivors, their families, and their communities. Fund development for the Indigenous Healing and Reconciliation Fund in the Archdiocese of Edmonton will be completely separate from Together We Serve. No funds raised by Together We Serve will be allocated to the Indigenous Healing and Reconciliation Fund. The Archdiocese of Edmonton will undertake initiatives to provide funds that support local programs and initiatives focused on three pillars: education, linguistic and cultural preservation, and family support. Archbishop Smith encourages all Catholics in the Archdiocese to discern how they might support this tangible expression of our commitment to the Indigenous Peoples on the long road towards healing and reconciliation.
The administrative cost for Together We Serve is 7% of the $1.5 million goal, or $105,000. This amount includes the “hard costs” of producing items like the TWS donation envelopes, information resources, and tracking posters for over 80 parishes. More importantly, it includes a portion of the staff time dedicated to Together We Serve, including parish support and liaison, development of campaign resources (including the TWS webpage, videos and bulletin information), and finance and administrative support to process donations and create financial reports. At 7%, Together We Serve administrative costs are well below typical administrative costs for Canadian non-profit organizations and charitable appeals (~12-15%). But then, Together We Serve is neither a charitable organization nor a “typical” charitable appeal. As a special initiative of the Archdiocese of Edmonton, Together We Serve benefits from the existing administrative and parish structure, while offering the opportunity for parishes and the Archdiocese to work together to meet a wide variety of needs.
Before Together We Serve, the Archdiocese incurred the administrative costs for processing special collections and included these costs in its overall finance-administration costs. When all beneficiaries – including some new ones – were brought together under the Together We Serve umbrella, Archdiocesan administrative costs went up, while many of the beneficiaries’ own administrative costs went down. Also, before Together We Serve, most special collections received little or no promotion, other than a pink or green envelope among the white collection envelopes. While some organizations produced and distributed their own promotional materials, others – especially the international special collections mandated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops – received little if any promotion. Together We Serve was designed, in part, to provide more information about all beneficiaries to help donors discern a meaningful level of giving. These efforts require staff time and effort. Taken together, the shared administrative and promotional costs have significantly reduced costs for our beneficiaries and contributed to the more efficient use of limited resources for promoting local and Canadian Catholic organizations and causes.