Dear friends in Christ,
As 2020 draws to a close, I want to thank you most deeply for the support you have given in this year to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and ultimately to the suffering Church. It has been a year of severe disruption in so many ways. Personally, I am relieved to be now moving through the familiar season of Advent as we look towards the birth of Christ. Despite all that is happening we can – and we must – ask Christ to be born again into our own lives. As part of this mailing, you will find enclosed a Christmas holy card which I hope you will appreciate and pray with in the weeks ahead.
Lebanon: In this final mailing for the year we have included an important update on the situation in Lebanon following the August explosion. ACN recently announced the provision of $8 million to assist with rebuilding churches and convents. The insert includes information on some of the key projects as well as links to some moving videos. Also included is a slip inviting you to offer a prayer to the people of Lebanon. As such, I ask you for two Christmas gifts. One, is to make a Christmas donation to support the swift rebuilding work. Two, is to write a message of hope and love which we can send to the people of Lebanon.
Cardinal Pell: Many of our benefactors followed closely the trial, conviction, jailing and subsequent overturning of all accusations against Cardinal George Pell. Cardinal Pell endured thirteen months in solitary confinement and even though restricted from every activity – including the celebration of Mass – he filled numerous notebooks with his spiritual insights, prison experiences and personal reflections. The Cardinal’s notes are being turned into a multi-volume book, and volume 1 of The Prison Journal has just been released this month and ACN has secured stock directly from the publisher. You can purchase a copy via the enclosed form, and as with every product we sell, the proceeds will help us to keep the faith alive. Please note that due to the December delivery timeframe given by Australia Post, we cannot guarantee the book will arrive in time for Christmas, but it will make very worthy summer reading so be sure to order your copy.
The cost of raising money: I very much appreciate correspondence from our benefactors, and I have had a few letters of late asking me why ACN spends so much on sending mail (especially in a digital age) and why we offer free gifts (e.g. rosaries). The concern is that both activities cost money and question whether we would be better to dedicate those monies completely to the projects that need immediate support? These are fair questions - ones you might also have considered - so I thought I would offer a general response for all our benefactors.
You may recall our 2019 international annual report (sent in August) which outlined that for every dollar offered to ACN in that year: 80 cents went directly to the projects; 12 cents went to fundraising and information sharing, and 8 cents went to administration. What this means is that every dollar raised does two things: the vast bulk of the dollar goes directly to the current projects, and a small portion of the dollar ensures that we can support future projects.
That small portion of every dollar then is partially used to share the stories of the suffering Church with our benefactors and to ask for their spiritual and financial support. The simple truth is that if we did not send mail and offer gifts, we would struggle to raise sufficient funds to support the projects in most need. Here are two working examples:
Earlier this year we sent out the Global Campaign on martyrs. Our decision to begin sending the global campaigns came about last year and while there is a cost attached in sending extra mail, we were able to raise ten times what it cost to send it. Further to that, the reason we still send mail (and not just email) is because we raise 18,000% more in a mail appeal as opposed to an email appeal.
It is a similar story as regards offering a gift. Even factoring in the cost of buying and sending a gift the amount raised in a mailing that includes a gift can be up to 150% greater than a mailing that does not have a gift. I know this has come as a great surprise to some of our benefactors who generously give without seeking anything in return. The truth is though that many people (myself included) like to receive a devotional item, and we are very happy to offer such items as it allows us to express our deep thanks for their gift, and to also send into Australian homes religious items which we pray act as a source of grace.
The task of each national ACN office is threefold and we try our best to carry out all three faithfully. First, to share the stories of the suffering Church. Second, to encourage prayer for the suffering Church. Third, to raise funds in support of the suffering Church. I know that there are many charities seeking your support and you must discern your giving wisely which is why it is important that you are able to trust the operations of ACN. I hope the above explanation has shed some light on why we operate in the way we do. We are eternally grateful for every dollar entrusted to us by our benefactors, and like the parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30), we are working hard to ensure that everything in our care is used prudently and for the ultimate growth of the Kingdom of God.
Thank you once again for walking with us in 2020. Thank you for your solicitude for those who share our faith but live that faith through a series of hardships. Our support of seminarians, priests and religious, our training of lay catechists, our building of churches, our supply of pastoral transport; all of that comes only from the hands of our benefactors.
On behalf of the staff and volunteers at ACN Australia, and on behalf of our brothers and sisters in faith, I pray that you and your loved ones will experience this Christmas a deep and lasting peace. I look forward to being in touch in the New Year.
National Director - ACN Australia