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The Catholic Charities Appeal raised a record $7 million Sunday, the opening day of the eight-day campaign.

Leaders and volunteers were smiling just after 9 p.m. Sunday when the general chairman of this year's appeal, Brian E. Keating, announced that $7,026,599 had been collected.

The gathering at appeal headquarters was cautioned about being overconfident, however.

"We still have significant dollars to raise," Bishop Henry J. Mansell said in Catholic Charities headquarters, 525 Washington St. "This next week is a very urgent week. People are depending on us in a very urgent way."

The total represents 78.8 percent of the $8,915,000 goal.

This year's goal is 3.3 percent higher than last year's, and the first day's total puts the appeal on a good pace, said Monsignor Henry J. Gugino, diocesan director of Catholic Charities.

"These numbers are very gratifying," said Keating, regional president of Marine Midland Bank. "I think having a sunny day was helpful."

"We're just glad this wasn't last week in the midst of the snowstorm," Monsignor Gugino said.

With an additional $1.8 million to be raised in one week, Catholic Charities is hoping for a lot more good weather.

"It really depends on several things," Monsignor Gugino said. "It depends on the weather; it depends on people working hard, people understanding there is more work to be done. We can't be satisfied that this is a strong start because we need a strong conclusion."

The bishop thanked the volunteer workers in the 276 parishes and missions throughout the eight-county Diocese of Buffalo.

"Once again, they are showing how clearly they understand the social vocation, the service vocation of being a Christian, of being a member of God's family," Bishop Mansell said.

He noted that the administrative costs of Catholic Charities are 5.4 percent and that every dollar raised generates about $7 in goods and services.

"People should know if they're looking for the maximum return on their charitable dollar, they get it here," he said.

"Catholic Charities is very important to the community," Monsignor Gugino said. "Without us, there would be 180,000 people unserved; there would be children not taken care of; there would be nursing homes not functioning; there would be abuse situations that would get worse; there would be preventative situations that would get worse.

"It's not really about raising money, it's about providing service. If we don't raise money, we don't provide service."

The theme of this year's appeal is "Every Day, a New Reason," and the patron is St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as "The Little Flower."

Sunday will be the final night of the appeal.

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