Catholic Foundation of Michigan launches COVID-19 fund to support parishes, nonprofits

A health care worker in full protective gear takes a man’s temperature outside the Pope Francis Center in downtown Detroit. The Pope Francis Center, which ministers daily to Detroit’s homeless population, is one of dozens of local Catholic organizations continuing to serve during COVID-19 despite funding challenges. (Courtesy photos)

‘Catholic Faithful Response Fund’ directs needed aid to local parishes, schools and ministries serving those most at risk during pandemic

DETROIT — As the coronavirus pandemic ravages southeast Michigan, Catholic-based organizations are serving those facing the greatest hardships even as their own resources are becoming stretched. 

In response to the unprecedented needs and uncertain future facing local families, schools, nonprofits and parishes, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan has set up a system to help those who are helping the most.

In late March, the foundation launched its Catholic Faithful Response Fund for COVID-19, which calls on donors to support the work of faith-based organizations during the pandemic.

The Catholic Foundation, established in 2017 with the blessing of Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron to help Catholic parishes, nonprofits and other faith-based groups raise funds to support their mission, set up the emergency fund to address critical needs in the community.

“When there is a disaster, there is a giving among our Catholic community that is unbelievable, and this Catholic Faithful Response Fund allows us to allow other Catholic charities and other community faith-based organizations to continue to do God’s work,” said Chris Allen, a board member with the Catholic Foundation of Michigan. “I can’t stress enough for our Catholic community to rally around this important fund.”

A resident of Lourdes Senior Community in Waterford talks through the window with a family member. Lourdes is one of 30 local faith-based ministries supported by the Catholic Foundation of Michigan’s Faithful Response Fund.

An easy-to-use webpage features a list of recipient organizations, a brief description of the work they do, and a donate button where a donor can enter how much they want to give. 

As of April 14, the fund has raised $28,661.79 on behalf of 30 Catholic parishes, schools and faith-based nonprofits. Donors can give to individual organizations or to the fund as a whole.

The platform was first discussed March 16 and came online on the week of March 30, said Angela Moloney, president and CEO of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan.

“All the organizations have been pre-vetted by the Catholic Foundation, as well as any organizations who have (previously) received a grant from Catholic Foundation of Michigan,” Moloney told Detroit Catholic. “We sent out 300 invitations, inviting them to participate in the Catholic Faithful Response Fund grant catalog. These are the organizations that have responded, and if there’s an organization that people love, we’re happy to include them as well.”

During this time of crisis, many parishes, food banks and homeless ministries are understaffed and busier than ever serving the community and might not have the time to solicit donations, Moloney added.

“If I was on the front lines right now, the last thing I would have time to do would be to go make a social media post, or go to the bank, or sit down and write thank you letters,” Moloney said. “The Catholic Foundation takes the administrative burden off of these organizations, allowing them to simply to do the work they are doing and allowing us to send the thank you notes.”

Volunteers package and deliver food for St. Moses the Black Parish’s food pantry, which has seen more than three times its usual need in recent weeks. 

One of the organizations that’s benefited is St. Moses the Black Parish in Detroit, whose food pantry is facing a greater need as Detroiters lose job their jobs and food options become scarce. 

The parish's St. Vincent de Paul food pantry is working in two six-person teams, picking up food from Gleaners Community Food Bank, organizing the food into bags and delivering them to guests’ cars. 

Camille Graves-Douglas, the food pantry’s coordinator, said demand has dramatically increased in the past few weeks.

“We jumped to 100 households served last week, when normally we would serve 30 households,” Graves-Douglas said. “We deliver 60 pounds of food to each household we serve. Last week we served 100 households in less than an hour, which is amazing. The people we are serving are coming from all over the city, when it used to be just the people in our geographic area (four ZIP codes in northwest Detroit and Highland Park). But the need now is far greater.”

St. Moses the Black so far has received about $690 in support through the Faithful Response Fund.

In downtown Detroit, the Pope Francis Center continues to serve the city’s homeless, but has transitioned to all-outdoor services in the wake of COVID-19. 

The center made the decision to cancel a fundraising gala that was scheduled for April 24, which accounts for 30 percent of the center’s annual revenue. Through the Catholic Foundation’s emergency fund, the Pope Francis Center has received $650.

“We have converted to a completely outdoor program and installed portable showers, hand-washing stations, restrooms, and heated tents where our guests can enjoy a hot meal while keeping a safe distance from one another,” said Fr. Tim McCabe, SJ, executive director of the Pope Francis Center. 

“The Catholic Foundation of Michigan understands that this is the time to be generous and increase our ability to serve,” Fr. McCabe said. “All of this would not be possible if it weren’t for our community of faithful Catholic supporters.”

With the economy reeling, Allen said its understandable that now might be a difficult time for some people to give, but he said its moments like these when generosity shines brightest.

“The time to give and the time to recognize need is now,” Allen said. “These individuals and organizations don’t have a fallback; they don’t have deep resources; they don’t have an extended family that can step up in time of need.

“The beauty of the Catholic Church is that we’re grounded in the healing ministry of Christ, and doing what’s good in the eyes of God,” Allen continued. “And I believe the fund will allow us to continue our missions, our values and support families when they need it the most.”

Lend your support

To make a gift to the Catholic Foundation of Michigan’s Catholic Faithful Response Fund for COVID-19, or see a list of participating parishes, schools, ministries and nonprofits, visit the organization’s website or call (248) 204-0332.