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For the third year in a row, Catholic Charities of Buffalo exceeded its annual fundraising goal, topping its $10.7 million target by more than $100,000.

It was the first appeal for Bishop Richard J. Malone, who was installed last August.

The bishop noted that more than $2.2 million was raised since March 25.

“After months of planning, we launched this year’s campaign on a cold but sunny morning in early January, with hopes of raising $10.7 million,” Malone said Friday, when he gave the final 2013 campaign report at Catholic Charities’ downtown headquarters. “Much like a long-distance runner facing the last several miles of a marathon, our appeal leadership team, our many volunteers ... and, of course, our dedicated staff, simply refused to give up until the race was complete.”

The contributions help pay for more than 70 programs for the poor, the homeless and those in need of various types of social assistance in the eight-county diocese.

In the midst of the economic downturn in recent years, Catholic Charities endured financial hardship, similar to the people it serves. Campaigns failed to meet their targets from 2007 to 2010.

Through mid-March, the pace of this year’s campaign lagged. But Catholic Charities officials, encouraged by an uptick in corporate donations and a new social media campaign geared toward younger donors, expressed confidence at that time that the goal would be met.

Sister Mary McCarrick, Catholic Charities’ diocesan director, highlighted the work and dedication of the community’s youngest and most faithful supporters.

“The compassion and help demonstrated by students this year show us that the future of the appeal is in good hands,” McCarrick said Friday. She recognized the efforts of the 412 students at St. Mark Elementary School in North Buffalo, who raised $12,545. The students, under the leadership of Principal Lee Brenner and Assistant Principal Margaret Smith, raised “an impressive” amount, McCarrick said.

St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, whose students raised $4,500, was honored for raising the most among local Catholic high schools.

The Rev. Michael Sajda, president of St. Francis, and student Matt Unger were honored with a plaque.

“The efforts of the young men at St. Francis during Lent are especially significant because they gave dollars of their own, from their hearts, which is what we are all called to do,” McCarrick said.

Appeal Chairman Stephen M. Ulrich acknowledged the ongoing challenge of attracting new donors, both Catholic and non-Catholic.

“While challenges remain, we have a lot to celebrate today. Curbing the impact of donor loss, our average gift each year continues to grow,” said Ulrich.

This year’s average gift was $185.64, up from $175.68 in 2012. “It’s the highest in the history of the appeal,” Ulrich said.

The corporate, community and leadership divisions each recorded significant increases in donations.

The more than $1 million raised by the corporate division, under the leadership of Bill Lawley, Kathy Lawley Best and Anthony Delmonte Jr., represents a 20 percent increase over 2012 and is only the second time that million-dollar milestone has been attained.

Community division donations increased by 64 percent, from $170,161 in 2012 to $279,385. Leadership gifts increased by 17.5 percent, from approximately $2.93 million to more than $3.44 million.

The parishes of Immaculate Conception in Wellsville and St. Joseph-University in Buffalo were recognized for significantly surpassing their 2012 totals.

Immaculate Conception went from $38,900 last year to $69,000. St. Joseph-University recorded the largest increase, from $175,000 in 2012 to more than $209,000.

Ulrich also applauded the Faith Formation program at St. Gregory the Great Church in Amherst, the top program contributor among such groups. Through a bowl-a-thon, spaghetti dinner and hot chocolate sale, the program raised $4,400.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com