Catholic Charities launches first appeal since change in diocesan leadership

Jan 14, 2020

Catholic Charities of Buffalo has set a goal of $10 million - one million dollars less than the year before - for its 2020 Appeal, which formally launched Tuesday morning.

The theme of this year's campaign is "Think of Me," a reference to the individual served by more than 50 agencies supported by Catholic Charities. The 2020 appeal chair, Rick Cronin, says more than 160,000 people throughout the eight counties of Western New York were assisted by Catholic Charities last year.

Catholic Charities of Buffalo president and chief executive officer Steve Schumer speaks during the official kickoff of the 2020 Appeal. Listening at his side are (from left) Catholic Charities client Todd Ventura and Diocese of Buffalo apostolic administrator Bishop Edward Scharfenberger.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

"Catholic Charities helps at all stages of life, from prenatal to dying," he said. "When considering your donation, think of that hungry family, or that young person struggling to take control of his life. These are the individuals who benefit from your contribution."

One such individual is Todd Ventura, a disabled single father who has utilized some of the services supported by Catholic Charities. He explained about the tough situation he entered when his wife left the family, and when he suffered an injury which resulted in his disability.

"Catholic Charities has helped us when we had nowhere else to turn," he said. "Helping to pay for food or transportation costs, all through Catholic Charities. I could go on and on about what Catholic Charities has meant to my family."

It's the first appeal for Catholic Charities' new president and chief executive officer, Steve Schumer, who joins the organization after more than three decades working in the banking industry. Schumer took the position following the retirement of longtime CEO Dennis Walczyk at the end of 2019. He also serves as a deacon at Our Lady of Charity parish in Buffalo and told the audience that "the Lord has had this path in mind for a long time."

"My desire to serve people is really what led me here," he said.

It's also the first appeal since the departure of Bishop Richard Malone from the Diocese of Buffalo. Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, who is serving as the apostolic administrator for the diocese, spoke during the appeal kickoff and indirectly acknowledged the clergy sex abuse crisis which has, he admits, eroded trust by many throughout the community. The way to restore trust, he added, was through goodness.

He also recognizes the concerns some still have over how the diocese will move forward, including an increasingly likelihood of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. He was asked whether he could reassure the public that donations to Catholic Charities would stay toward the business of Catholic Charities.

"I would like to reassure everybody that the goals we have are immediate goals for things that need to be done right now," he said. "Whatever else might develop, we're looking at all possibilities. All the money we are collecting is going towards immediate goals."