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Archbishop Walsh, Southern Tier Catholic says Gala fundraising increased in light of diocesan subsidy cut

Tue, Nov 6th 2018 10:00 am
  • By TOM DINKI, Olean Times Herald

    OLEAN — Archbishop Walsh Academy and Southern Tier Catholic School officials deem last month’s Eagles Gala Auction a success, saying the community rallied in light of Catholic Diocese of Buffalo funding cuts.

    “We were up a little bit from last year, and part of that is people seeing the situation that happened with the (diocesan) funding and realizing, ‘Hey, I want to help out,’” said Director of Development Joe Sempolinski on Thursday. “It’s a way to show that they want to make sure the school is here to stay.”

    The Oct. 20 auction and dinner in the school gymnasium had all the more meaning this year after the diocese cut subsidies to Walsh and five other Western New York private Catholic high schools earlier this year.

    Walsh’s $100,000 subsidy represented 8 percent of the $1.19 million Walsh budget and 5 percent of the combined $2.05 million Walsh/Southern Tier Catholic budget. School officials reduced $70-80,000 from this school year’s budget with plans of fundraising the remaining $20-30,000.

    Walsh officials declined to disclose how much this year’s gala raised, only saying it was more than last year. Officials never disclosed the 2017 amount, but previously reported yielding roughly $125,000 in 2016 and roughly $150,000 in both 2015 and 2014.

    In addition to more support the night of the event, school officials said they also saw more donated auction items. The donations allow school officials to keep the event’s overhead costs down and thus have a greater net fundraising amount.

    “Why did we have that many? I think people are saying, ‘We’re going to contribute so you can raise some money for the school to overcome this fiscal handicap that’s been thrown your way,’” said Principal and President Thomas Manko.

    One of the donated auction items was a homemade pie every month for one year from Sister Regina Aman of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, which school officials said went for $1,600.

    They said the winning bid reflects both Aman’s baking skills and generous attendees.

    “There’s a good-natured competition knowing that the winner gets to donate to a good cause — and (gets) 12 good pies,” Sempolinski said. “Nobody loses in this. The kids win and the winners win as well.”

    Other auction items included trips to New Jersey and Las Vegas, as the gala’s theme was Vegas.

    The subsidy cut came in wake of diocesan financial troubles. The troubles are partly due to the diocese’s ongoing clergy sexual abuse scandal, which is now being investigated at both the state and federal level.

    Many are calling for Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone to resign, as there are reports he allowed priests accused of misconduct to remain on the job and purposely excluded the names of others from a list he released in March.

    Among those 42 priests identified in March, three taught at then-Archbishop Walsh High School during the 1980s.

    Although Walsh been independent from the diocese since the early 1990s, school officials said they had concerns the controversy engulfing the diocese might negatively impact fundraising and community support.

    “Initially — speaking just for myself — I wondered what that reaction was going to be, but it wasn’t that,” Manko said. “It was very supportive.”

    Sempolinski said while Walsh is proud to be the only Catholic high school in the three-county area — it’s just “one of the lenses” they’re viewed through. He said the school is also viewed simply as an Olean institution.

    “And when you view it through that lens, the reaction becomes we as a community need to come together and make sure that institutions like Walsh are successful because of what they provide the community as a whole,” he said. “I think that reaction from people has outweighed any trepidation or concern based on what they’re seeing at the diocesan or national level.”

    Walsh officials are already gearing up for their second-largest fundraiser of the year, the St. Patrick’s Day Party and Raffle, which is set for March 23.

    “I literally had some of the preliminary discussions of how we get the ball rolling with that about an hour ago,” Sempolinski said. “ … It sort of never stops.”

    (Contact reporter Tom Dinki at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)


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