They feed the needy, provide financial assistance, and offer counseling and support.

But, truth be told, the Diocese of Allentown wouldn't be able to make a difference in the lives of others if not for the contributions of its congregation.

That was the message conveyed by James Friend, Director, Office of Stewardship and Development of the Diocese of Allentown, to members of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Palmerton during Sunday morning mass.

Friend discussed the importance of the Bishop's Annual Appeal fund, and asked congregation members to find it within themselves to contribute whatever they can in these harsh economic times.

"Like you, this economy has been hard on us," Friend said. "There has been a tremendous increase in needs." Friend said the Bishop's Annual Appeal is essentially the backbone of everyday operating expenses that ensures the Diocese's ability to provide help to those in need.

As a result of the donations received, the Schuylkill/Carbon Office of Catholic Charities has reported the largest numbers to date in their foster care program, Friend said.

Also, he said Pregnancy Support Services for Catholic Charities have reported 336 women have used these services last year, while 88 families received counseling services from Catholic Charities.

Other local services include Holy Family Adult Day Care in Orwigsburg; care for retired and infirmed Priests who have served all throughout the Diocese; Education of Seminaries, including Kevin Longeran, a native of Schuylkill County featured in this year's video; Catholic High School scholarships to Marian Catholic and Nativity BVM high schools; St. Joseph Center for Special Learning in Pottsville; and Catholic Life and Evangelization Ministries.

In addition, the Diocese provides services to parishes and schools that include, but are not limited to, human resources, accounting, fundraising, real estate/insurance services, information technology, banking and investments.

Of those funds, 48 percent goes to Health & Human Services; 23 percent to Education; 13 percent to Catholic Life and Evangelization, 10 percent to Education and formation of Seminarians, Priests and Deacons, and 6 percent to Administration.

Friend expressed his thanks to the congregation for their support.

"The Diocese is really doing the best it can," he said. "Thank you for your past generosity."

Pastor William Campion thanked Friend for all the services the Diocese provides.

"I'd like to express my gratitude to Jim and for all the hard work you do," Campion said. "Last year, we had 60 more donors, and were able to increase our donations by over $5,000."