Contributions are being accepted at Sacred Heart Parish in Palmerton as part of the 2012 Bishop's Annual Appeal.

The Rev. William T. Campion, pastor of the church, discussed the need for parishioners to donate toward the cause during Sunday Mass.

Campion then introduced Helen P. Kelleher, secretary for Catholic Human Services, and Executive Director for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown.

Kelleher told members of the parish that she appreciated the opportunity extended by Campion to speak to them.

She then thanked members for their "long history of generous support from Sacred Heart Parish for the Bishop's Annual Appeal."

Kelleher said Campion also shared with her the initiative of the parishioners of Sacred Heart, Family Promise.

"I know it takes a lot of support from individuals and coordination of all to provide this wonderful service to homeless families," Kelleher said. "Congratulations for the effort being put forth to keep these families together; a demonstration of a faith filled community."

Kelleher quoted Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est., which states "the Church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the work of God, celebrating the sacraments and exercising the mission of Charities."

"These duties presuppose each other are inseparable," she said. "For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being."

Kelleher said Catholic Charities serve all people "because we are Catholic."

"Catholic Charities does not exclude those in need; we just struggle with the limited resources and the number of people in need throughout our Diocese," she said. "With the difficult economy these past few years, Catholic Charities has increased the number of people served each year."

Last year alone, Kelleher said Catholic Charities served over 32,000 people.

Kelleher noted that Catholic Charities provide assistance to pregnant women through counseling and material needs, as well as parenting education to new parents; serve refugees who are fleeing persecution in their home country; children who are in need of permanency through adoption; and counseling for those who struggle with stress, family or marital issues.

Through its community support program, she said they provide hot meals at the Ecumenical Kitchen, food from the food cupboard, as well as housing assistance and case management services to individuals, families and older adults.

Kelleher said the Service Center in Pottsville, and St. Katharine Drexel Parish, in Lansford, where case managers are available to meet clients in their parish or home.

"These are a few of the services that your dollars go to from the Bishop's Annual Appeal," she said.

Other than Catholic Charities, Kelleher said the Diocese of Allentown provides services through the benefit of the Bishop's Annual Appeal by providing children with special needs in education; retired priests receive care; academic scholarships are provided to students; and seminarians are trained through the priesthood.

A very special pro-life mission is Project Rachel, in which women who have had an abortion are helped with forgiveness so they may heal and peacefully go on with their lives, Kelleher said.

"It is so important that we all understand the fact that God is with us and loves us," she said. "Through your very generous donations to the Bishop's Annual Appeal, the love of God can be brought to so many."

For those who questioned why they should consider a gift or pledge to the Annual Appeal, Kelleher quoted an excerpt from a letter from Bishop John O. Barres, where he suggests their gift is "a gift of faith, hope and charity for all God's people."

"That seems to me to be a powerful statement," she said. "I conclude with a challenge for each to seriously consider your own individual ability to help meet the goal of Sacred Heart Parish in contributing to the Bishop's Annual Appeal this year and continue the marvelous tradition here that the parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish are a very giving community."

Campion thanked Kelleher for her time, and stated that the goal for the parish was to raise a little under $25,000. At present, he said they are at about $5,000.

He said that last year, about 37-percent of the parish contributed, and added it would be nice if every family would contribute.