Illinois Catholic Archdiocese Hopes to Raise $350 Million for Education Programs

A Catholic Archdiocese located in Illinois has launched a charity aimed at raising $350 million to fund its education programs, reportedly the largest charity drive any American diocese has attempted.

Francis Cardinal George, head of The Archdiocese of Chicago, announced the effort at St. Stanislaus Kostka School on at a press conference Wednesday.

"The Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Chicago and our faith formation programs make their case in the lives of those transformed by them," said Cardinal George in a message posted online.

"Our schools are free to teach the truth, even about God, and our formation programs show people that true freedom is grounded not in personal control but in personal surrender to those who love them."

Called "To Teach Who Christ Is," the campaign has already raised $82.5 million of its goal via the drive's "major gift" component, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The remaining sum is expected to come from the Archdiocese's parishes.

The campaign will take place over a span of a couple years and is comprised of a "Pilot Phase" that is ending this month. The last of five "Wave" phases concludes in December 2015.

For the pilot phase, the "To Teach Who Christ Is" website lists 16 participating parishes in Chicago and the surrounding area.

"Every parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago will be asked to conduct their own 'To Teach Who Christ Is Campaign' between 2013 and 2016," reads an entry on the campaign's site.

"During the next three years, each Archdiocesan household will be given the opportunity to consider a prayerful, informed commitment to the parish-based, 'To Teach Who Christ Is Campaign.' Archdiocesan-wide support is needed to achieve the Campaign goals."

"I hope and pray that the campaign we are now engaged in will be successful," said Cardinal George in a statement. "I hope and pray that many will come to experience, in responding to its appeal, a deep happiness in helping others, especially children, learn the most important lessons of life."

Sixty percent of the funds raised by the parishes will stay in the individual parishes, while the other 40 percent of the funds will go into a pool and distributed to parishes that are in greater need, according to the Sun Times.

In April, The Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools received four national awards from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) at their annual convention, which was held in Texas.