Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago have once again demonstrated their generosity to the Annual Catholic Appeal. The 2011 appeal, which began in February and runs through the end of the year, had collected $18.6 million in pledges as of mid-August, up $2.8 million from the same time last year, and $14.8 million in payments, up $1.8 million from the same time last year, said Barbara Collins, director of the Annual Catholic Appeal. What’s more, the pledges and gifts have come from 93,300 donors, up 4,300 from the same time last year, Collins said. At the same time, the Office for Stewardship and Development is celebrating the recognition of its Lumen Cordium Society, which consists of people who donate more than $1,000 a year to the Annual Catholic Appeal. The National Catholic Development Conference will bestow the Lumen Cordium Society with its Sixth Annual Lumen Award for the best major donor appeal at its meeting in Orlando this month. According to the conference, “the Lumen Awards acknowledge excellence in the ministry of fundraising and are awarded on the basis of excellence in creativity, copywriting, design, mission loyalty, call to action, results of the campaign and overall concept and quality.” Collins said the success of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal is even more remarkable given that donors have passed the bar set in 2010 — which was more than $1 million more than was donated in the previous year — and done so despite economic uncertainty. “We are so grateful to all these wonderful people who even in these difficult times want to support the mission of the church in Chicago,” Collins said. The appeal supports the ministries of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Proceeds are used to make grants to needy parishes and schools, especially offering school scholarships and providing religious education in economically disadvantaged parishes, and recruit and provide education and formation for lay ministers, deacons and priests. The appeal also supports Catholic Relief Services in its emergency response and development work around the world; pays for ministries that provide care, comfort and counseling to those in need; and promotes respect for life from conception until natural death. Money donated to the appeal also supports local parishes that have met their goals for funds to support archdiocesan ministries. Each parish has a target of 6 percent of its annual ordinary collection income. As long as the parishes follow the appeal procedures — which include announcing the appeal the weekend before, playing Cardinal George’s homily on commitment weekend and offering an opportunity for anyone who missed commitment weekend to pledge the following weekend — there is no penalty if they do not meet their goals. If parishioners from any given parish exceed the parish’s goal, the extra money is rebated to the parish for its own needs, Collins said. Last year, $2.5 million was rebated to parishes, Collins said. This year 235 parishes have already met their goals. The Office for Stewardship and Development will not have a final figure for this year’s appeal until early next year, Collins said. Generally, the fourth quarter has proved to be important, as donors make gifts that can be deducted from their taxes for this year.