PORTLAND – A two-year capital campaign for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has raised more than $42 million to benefit parishes and ministry programs across Maine, Bishop Richard Malone said Wednesday.

The campaign, which will end officially June 30, surpassed its $40 million goal, set in April 2008, Malone said during a news conference at the chancery on Ocean Avenue.

“Catholic people in Maine want to support the church, even in, and perhaps because of, hard times,” Malone said. “Our many ministries will all be strengthened.”

It was the diocese’s first statewide capital campaign in 40 years, coming at a time when parishes across Maine are losing active members, struggling to pay bills, and closing and consolidating churches.

Malone said only 25 percent to 30 percent of Mainers who identify themselves as Roman Catholic — about one-fifth of the state’s 1.3 million residents — are active in the church.

The last statewide capital campaign, in 1968, raised almost $2 million to establish the Newman Center for students at the University of Maine and to seed an expansion of Diocesan Human Relations Services of Portland, which is now Catholic Charities Maine.

Money from the latest campaign will fund a wide variety of parish improvements and outreach efforts, social service programs operated by Catholic Charities Maine, scholarships to Catholic schools and other faith-building programs.

The money won’t be used for political campaigns, such as the church’s opposition last year to same-sex marriage legislation, or for settlements of sexual-abuse cases, which are covered by insurance, Malone said.

The diocese paid $2.25 million in settlements to abuse victims from 2005 to 2009, said Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the diocese.

It spent $561,024 to support the referendum that repealed same-sex marriage legislation last fall, according to campaign finance reports.

Malone said several church members told the diocese that they withdrew support for the capital campaign because they were upset about the diocese’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

“I was surprised that it wasn’t more,” he said.

The campaign took in 8,886 individual gifts. The average donation was $4,793.

The donations will be managed by the Catholic Foundation of Maine, a nonprofit organization that is distinct from the diocese and overseen by a board of trustees composed primarily of lay people.

Sixty percent of the money will be held in endowments and invested in professionally managed, separate portfolios, Malone said.

Twenty-five percent of the amount raised by the parishes — about $10 million overall — will be returned to the parishes to support current needs and establish local endowments.

Fifteen percent of campaign funds will be spent on immediate projects and programs throughout the diocese, Malone said.

The diocese plans to spend $6 million to $7 million each on priest formation and retirement benefits, Catholic school tuition, Catholic Charities Maine and various outreach efforts.

None of the money will provide any direct benefit to the bishop, the chancery staff, the foundation staff or trustees, Malone said.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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