Marilú Camacho and Pedro Pérez, a married couple who lost their home in Southern Oregon fires, speak during the Catholic Charities online fundraising gala.
Marilú Camacho and Pedro Pérez, a married couple who lost their home in Southern Oregon fires, speak during the Catholic Charities online fundraising gala.
It’s been a season of online fundraising for Oregon Catholic organizations, and the financial results have been promising. Benefit galas may never be quite the same.

With a March 13 digital event, Catholic Charities of Oregon raised more than $630,000.

Blanchet House held an online brunch March 7, raising $216,000 from hundreds of donors to pay for meals, clothing and shelter for people who are homeless.

Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary held a digital benefit focused on Eugene March 8. A similar Portland-area online gala was held in the fall. Both used a video that included dozens of seminarians singing, playing music and offering heartfelt testimonials.

These fundraising totals are not stagnant; since the events are recorded, organizations are urging viewers to see them in the weeks ahead and to continue to donate.

Also different in the past year: Donors have more free time. That’s because while in-person dinners last multiple hours, the online events tend to take only 60 to 90 minutes. What’s lost, organizers say, is the fellowship and networking that long has been part of the Catholic philanthropic community.

At the Catholic Charities event, Archbishop Alexander Sample explained that he is proud that the agency and its workers have been able to serve through the suffering and tragedy of 2020, which included the pandemic and wildfires. “We see the face of Christ, especially in those who suffer,” the archbishop said, adding that the people of the church then show Jesus’ face of compassion, love and hope.

Marilú Camacho and Pedro Pérez, a married couple who lost their home in Southern Oregon fires, spoke on the Catholic Charities recorded video, saying that despite their loss and pain, they know God’s will for them will prevail. Meanwhile, Pedro is trying to recover from leukemia. Catholic Charities has helped the couple — and many other families — with housing, replacement documents and other aid.

“Catholic Charities was a fountain of strength for us to be able to move forward,” Marilu said.

“It’s like there is a second wind for us,” Pedro said. “We can breathe again.”

Deacon Rick Birkel, executive director of Catholic Charities of Oregon, told viewers that the disasters provided a moment to dream big and rethink priorities. “We choose to believe that we can overcome the extraordinary losses people have suffered by coming together in solidarity — by walking alongside the victims and by sharing in their suffering and their dreams — and trusting that the Lord will show us the way to a better future,” Deacon Birkel said.

At the Blanchet House event, which was livestreamed into more than 200 homes, emcees Rich Ulring and Misty Marquam presented stories of the life-saving services that Blanchet House has provided over the last year.

Notable guests included Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Commissioner Lori Stegman.

Jordan S., once homeless on the streets of Portland, told viewers in a recorded message that he has found health and healing at Blanchet Farm while participating in the therapeutic beekeeping program.

Jesuit Father Gary Smith, a longtime street minister, reminded all that their generosity is “a bridge of life” to those served by Blanchet House.

Viewers watched videos showing the behind-the-scenes work Blanchet House staff and volunteers did to serve more than 500,000 meals in 2020. Scott Kerman, executive director, and board chairman, Jerry Quinn, took guests on virtual tours of Blanchet House and Blanchet Farm.

Event honorees included the Jesuit High School community, which received the Founders Award for service. Jesuit students and faculty made more than 20,000 sack lunches to help Blanchet House

meet the increased need for to-go meals. Jim Christianson and Ed O’Hanlon received the Al Riley Award for their life of volunteer service managing Blanchet House’s finances. Katy Fackler of Wells Fargo was

honored with a Service Award for her effort to build and sustain beekeeping at Blanchet Farm. Alaska Airlines employees were honored with a Father Kennard Award for daily volunteer service during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Mount Angel, to start the seminary benefit, Abbot Jeremy Driscoll said since the seminarians could not come to Eugene this year, viewers could come to the seminary virtually via video.

“Being in love with Christ, they are in love with you,” the abbot said of seminarians.

Baker Bishop Liam Cary, a proud Mount Angel Seminary alumnus, hailed the Benedictine spirituality, liturgy and hospitality that leads him to send his seminarians there. He is glad that seminarians from around the Northwest meet there and form friendships that are helpful when they are later neighboring priests.

Steve and Sally Killgore hosted the event. “So many gifts flow to us from the hilltop,” Sally said.

Also hosting were Eugene native Father John Kerns and Father Chuck Wood, a trustee of the seminary foundation.

“I cannot say enough about the importance of Mount Angel Seminary in my formation as a priest and as a human being,” Father Kerns said in a live portion of the program.

Marcos Alvarado Trasmonte, a seminarian from Eugene, answered questions sent in to seminarians live from viewers. To a question about what he has given up, Alvarado responded, “All the sacrifice we do is for a reason. … I found out that Jesus-God is providing.” Alvarado also snuck in a hello to his mother who was viewing from Ecuador.

Denny and Kelli Braud of Eugene discussed their support for the seminary, saying that seminarians follow their vocations not just for themselves, but for everyone else.

Learn more and contribute

Catholic Charities Celebration of Hope:

Blanchet House Lend A Helping Hand Brunch:

Mount Angel Seminary Eugene Benefit: