The “largest private provider of charity and education in Fairfield County” is an undisputed claim of the Diocese of Bridgeport. The Bishop’s Stewardship Report (June 2008) notes current “extraordinary economic hardship” has “many people” with “nowhere toturn” for services in Fairfield County including “the core services-feeding the hungry …counseling the troubled.”
As hopeful and faithful Catholics looking “to the common good of society and to the dignity of each person,” Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) in the Diocese of Bridgeport maintains a Voice of Compassion (VOC) fund that makes annual grants to charities of 100% of contributions. Programs are selected by a volunteer laypersons serving as a grants committee. An open and transparent record of grants since 2003 is located at http://www.votfbpt.org under “finances” as part of VOTF’s accountability process.
In the spring of 2008 the 2007 VOC committee invited all grant recipients to tell a brief story about their services to the poor and needy at the Annual Conference at Fairfield University. Subsequently an increase in contributions to VOC 2008-09 was noted. The Grants Committee this year focused 75% of funds to food programs and 25% to programs supporting victims of sexual abuse. Six food programs and 3 abuse victim support programs were selected and each was invited to attend the VOTF Conference to share their story of helping the needy and to receive a check for program financial support.
Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport and New Covenant House of Hospitality in Stamford were invited to attend, share their story of need and service to the poor and receive a check for at least $1,500. These two programs that had previously received funds from VOC declined the invitation this year explaining that they were part of Catholic Charities. (It is important for the reader to realize that a food program can translate fifteen hundred dollars of cash into almost $10,000 of buying power or 5,000 meals when a food pantry works with the CT Food Bank.) VOC funds did not go to waste but were promptly allocated to other programs that recognize the dignity of all people and the dire circumstances facing the poor in all places.
Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Inc. received Federal, State of CT and United Way funds to support varied programs amounting to 65% of its 2007-08 budget. Did these funding sources raise no issues, political, moral, doctrinal, or otherwise, on the part of the leaders of Catholic Charities or the Diocese? And while the Diocese spent nearly $1,500,000 in fund raising expenses last year, the checks from Voice of Compassion have cost neither the donor nor the Diocese one penny.
This situation is curious and a question lingers, “Why is the Diocese, which allocates 30% of Catholic Charities funding to ‘food services,’ refusing funds for two important food programs from faithful Catholics, involved in parish and community ministry, in a time of historic need?” What do you think of this stewardship news concerning “the household of God here in Fairfield County?”
John Marshall Lee 4-05-2009