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For Western New York Catholics, Sunday was about more than the St. Patrick’s Day revelry. It was about giving back to those who need it the most.

Catholic churches from the Diocese of Buffalo’s eight counties reported their totals for the 2013 Catholic Charities Appeal, which kicks into high gear this week.

Staffers said the organization raised $7.2 million as of Sunday night, putting it on a par with last year’s fundraising to support the needy of Western New York.

That didn’t surprise Bishop Richard J. Malone. “The Buffalo area is loaded with people with generous hearts,” he said. “Even when they have to struggle to give, they do it.”

As the Appeal Week fundraising drive picks up in advance of Easter, the charitable organization was well short of its $10.7 million goal.

But an uptick in corporate donations and a new social media campaign to encourage younger residents to contribute has Catholic Charities officials confident they will reach that goal, either before week’s end or by the final deadline in June.

“We call ourselves the City of Good Neighbors, but it’s really the eight counties of good neighbors,” said Appeal Chairman Stephen M. Ulrich. “We think that spirit will carry us and will get us there.”

More than 60,000 donors are expected to contribute to the appeal, Ulrich said, adding that the organization’s wide-ranging social services have moved leaders of small-business and large corporations to donate this year.

Funds raised during the campaign are used to help run the more than 70 programs offered by Catholic Charities for the poor, the homeless and those in need of various types of social assistance.

“We really need more than that to respond to all there is, but if we can get this goal, we can keep doing what we’re doing,” Malone said.

Malone delivered that message after stepping off the Delaware Avenue parade route wearing a top hat.

That hat – discovered after decades of collecting dust in a parish basement – belonged to William Turner, the sixth bishop of Buffalo.

It was appropriate, workers at the charity’s headquarters remarked, because Turner founded Catholic Charities in the 1920s.

The hat – despite the St. Patrick’s Day Parade traffic – was in good condition, too.

“It fits me perfectly,” Malone quipped.

email: cspecht@buffnews.com