The final of five receptions kicking off the Bishop's Annual Appeal of the Catholic Diocese of Allentown was held Thursday night in St. Joseph Catholic Church hall, Summit Hill, during which time His Excellency, the Most Rev. John D. Barres, Bishop of Allentown, stressed the "needs are intense" to help the less fortunate during difficult economic times.

The event was designed for the Catholic community of Carbon County. Previously, the diocese held kickoff receptions in Lehigh, Northampton, Schuylkill and Berks counties.

Citing various social and educational programs that are funded through the appeal, Bishop Barres said the $4-million goal of the diocesan crusade "is so important for the church's mission in the world, and so important for the church's mission in Carbon County."

Thanking parishioners for the past success of the appeal, Bishop Barres reminded about 60 persons, "That warm generosity makes our service to the poor possible ... I commend the holiness and heroism of the people of our diocese."

Jim Thorpe residents Patrick and Pamela Reilly are serving as co-chairpersons of the Carbon County initiative. Patrick Reilly said the program "is important and challenging of you folks to be committed to a project such as this."

His wife explained various programs that benefit from the appeal, including those for the elderly, terminally-ill, physically and mentally handicapped, homeless, retired priests and education and formation of future deacons and priests.

"Love your neighbor unconditionally," she urged, reminding those in attendance that participation in the appeal are "acts of love." She said, "we are not on this earth for ourselves, but to love one another and to love Him. All that we have is a gift from God, and we should be willing to share it."

Patrick Reilly added, "It's important to recognize our blessings. But we don't have to look very far to see the needs that others have."

James Friend, the diocese's director for the Office of Stewardship and Development and who is in charge of the appeal, said each of the parishes in the diocese have a goal established based on their Sunday offerings from the previous year. He emphasized how the appeal benefits the less fortunate, saying, "There are many needs, and the needs are very local as well."

Friend said the 2010 appeal strives to attract more parish participation; includes an outreach to attract young adults, including those in their 20s and 30s as a means of increasing their participation in faith-endeavored activities; and seeks assistance of a newly-formed Catholic Business Alliance, an initiative of parishioners of the diocese who are partners in business aimed at networking and mentoring.

Appropriately dubbed "Feed My Sheep," the Bishop's Annual Appeal allows the diocese to support the social service and ministerial needs of people in the five-county region. Forty-eight percent of the funds contributed are earmarked for health and human services, including the Catholic Charities program, Catholic Senior Housing, health care services at Holy Family Manor Nursing Home, Holy Family Assisted Living and the St. Francis Center, assistance to the retired and informed priests and grants to Catholic hospitals in the diocese.

Another 23 percent of the funding will go toward educational programs in the diocese, 13 percent is aimed at Catholic Life and Evangelization, 10 percent will be spent on education and formation of seminarians, priests and deacons and 6 percent is set aside for administration.

In his closing remarks, Bishop Barres said one of the main objectives of his administration is to reach out to people across the diocese, especially youths.

"I always love coming to Carbon County," said the Bishop. "You can count on my presence here. I so want to reach the youth with ministry initiatives with our schools. Young people are important."