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Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh nearly doubles goal with $230M pledged in largest fundraiser

| Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, 10:00 p.m.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh raised nearly double its goal in the largest fundraising effort it has undertaken, church officials said Sunday.

The five-year Campaign for The Church Alive! set a goal of $125 million. More than $230 million is pledged, Bishop David Zubik said.

“I am most grateful to God for planting the seeds of faith and generosity with the hearts of the people,” Zubik said at a news conference in St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland.

The diocese has collected about $62 million so far. It expects to collect about $230 million in the next five to seven years.

The money will finance tuition grants at Catholic schools, support religious education, purchase technology for secondary schools, pay for the education of priests and provide for retired priests and other senior citizens.

It is the first such campaign in the history of the diocese.

“These are extraordinary times, and our people are responding in extraordinary ways,” the bishop said.

The largest gift to the campaign was an anonymous contribution of $10 million.

The smallest gifts were from three children who donated the contents of their piggybanks, Zubik said. Those children participated in a special Mass on Sunday at St. Paul's Cathedral.

The average donation was $5,000.

“Our people stepped up to the plate. They are not a wealthy group,” said the Rev. Lawrence DiNardo, whose members at Holy Wisdom Church in the North Side pledged $742,000 — three times the goal for that parish.

Zubik said he especially appreciated the $4 million that priests donated.

“I am doing this out of gratitude. I want to stay on and work. I was ordained to serve,” said the Rev. Mike Harcarik of Prince of Peace parish in the South Side. Harcarik has been a priest for 52 years and is donating half his salary to the campaign.

The effort occurs at a difficult time for the church. Membership and enrollment has declined at many churches and schools.

From 2000 to 2010, church membership among Catholics in Allegheny County declined 27.2 percent, according to the congregational membership report from the State College-based Association of Religion Data Archives, which conducted a national county-by-county survey.

Nationally, the church has spent more than $3 billion to settle sexual abuse lawsuits, according to the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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