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“In the past 10 years, we have spent nearly $60 million,” the archbishop said, “but the number of schools has gone from eight to 14. That has overtaxed the sources. The board is working to see how we can keep as much Catholic education in the [inner-city] as possible while also being able to pay for it.”

It’s not that the archbishop is lax on fundraising.

His annual archbishop’s appeal is far ahead on donations, having raised $11.3 million in pledges, about $3 million more than it had at the same time last year. This year’s goal was $11.1 million.

Monsignor Ronald Jameson, rector of St. Matthew’s Cathedral downtown, said his parish pledged 114 percent of its goal for the appeal.

“I am very impressed with him,” Monsignor Jameson said of the archbishop. “He is so organized. He spends a lot of time in preparation for ceremonies [at the cathedral] to make sure everyone is on the same page.”

In the confessional

Perhaps the archbishop’s biggest success was his first pastoral letter on the sacrament of confession, released near the beginning of Lent.

Called “The Light is on for You,” it evolved into a press campaign with 100,000 brochures in English and Spanish, a Web site (, ads on the Metro system, one billboard in Prince George’s County and radio ads.

“It was an extremely successful effort,” Archbishop Wuerl said. “A large number of priests have said to me, ‘Some of the confessions I heard in one day made the whole thing worth it.’ ”

Other pastors reported having to reorder brochures and hearing confessions of Catholics who had not taken part in the sacrament for several decades.

The Catholic Church requires its members to go to confession at least once a year, but a 1980 University of Notre Dame survey — the most recent one available — showed that one out of four Catholics never go. The archdiocese received inquiries from several other dioceses and press requests from overseas about the pastoral letter.

The success of the penance campaign raised questions at the chancery about what else can be done to reach the region’s many Catholics.

“We’ve had some meetings on how to get my voice out as pastor,” Archbishop Wuerl said. “We found out those ‘Light is on for You’ radio pieces got responses from thousands of people. I’d like to get into that whole world of popular communications.”

So when does he intend to begin a blog? The 66-year-old archbishop acknowledged that this technology is beyond him.

“Down the road I’d like to,” he said. “But you have to use sound bites and be brief and repetitious. Many of us were trained and formed in literature, philosophy, theology — the very disciplines that don’t train you to release everything into sound bites. So you have to reprogram your way of speaking.”