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The number of Catholic parishes and schools in Western New York has shrunk over the years, but the presence of the church’s main human services arm, Catholic Charities of Buffalo, continues to expand.

Catholic leaders gathered Friday morning in Kenmore to kick off the latest appeal for funds in support of Catholic Charities.

Bishop Richard J. Malone, head of the Diocese of Buffalo, announced the 2014 appeal will seek to raise $10.8 million for Catholic Charities programs at 61 sites across eight counties.

About 60,000 people donated to last year’s appeal, which had a goal of $10.7 million and brought in $10.8 million.

“As many people as we reach, we always know that there are more out there that we need to reach and serve,” Malone said.

The bishop described Catholic Charities as “the compassionate face of the church” and said it “is one of those ministries of the church that people have great confidence in.”

Michael and Maureen Pratt will lead the 2014 Appeal as co-chairs.

The appeal traditionally is supported mostly by Catholics – about 93 percent in 2013 – even though Catholic Charities provides services to clients regardless of their religious affiliation.

But as the population of area Catholics continues to shrink, Catholic Charities officials are trying to reach more non-Catholics with the message of the organization’s good deeds.

“We are continually able to grow because we are able to drive up the per-person gift,” said Sister Mary McCarrick, diocesan director of Catholic Charities.

This year, the agency will employ search-engine optimization to reach beyond traditional Catholic communities.

McCarrick pointed to the agency’s four-star rating for fiscal management with Charity Navigator, a national watchdog group, as a selling point for donors seeking accountability.

“We’re a worthy investment, but you have to know about us,” she said.

Assisting this year’s appeal is a gift, from an anonymous donor, of a 1998 Harley-Davidson Road King with Jimmy Buffett detailing.

The agency plans to auction the motorcycle on eBay to benefit the appeal.

email: jtokasz@buffnews.com