In previous articles, I have been providing an overview of the various aspects of St. Monica – a kind of “State of the Parish.” I outlined what St. Monica was doing to steward the goods that Lord has provided us in order to accomplish the mission of the parish. I wrote about how, through the generous support of parishioners to underwrite the parish “Master Plan,” a significant amount of repairs, renovations and maintenance issues have been addressed. I gave a score of a B to Projects Financed by Our Master Plan “Financial Campaign”
Considering the scope of the various tasks accomplished and the aggressive timeframe in implementing Phase I of the “Master Plan” (7 weeks), we did a lot of things right. I gave a score of an A to Repair and Maintenance Projects Financed Out of Parish Operational Funds. This had been an exceptional cooperative effort between the Finance Council, Facilities Committee, Parish Staff and Frank Pantano (Director of Operations) and the various companies with whom we contracted to do the work. In the coming weeks, I shall be discussing what we might consider beyond the 5-year scope of the “Master Plan,” outlining the sacramental and pastoral status of St. Monica, as well as what has been put in place to help energize the spiritual health of the parish.
This week I would like to give an overview of the State of Our Parish Finances. We currently have over 6 months of cash available that, in an unforeseen emergency, would cover parish expenses for 6 months (Between $500,000 – $800,000 depending on whether one considers “restricted” or “unrestricted” assets). In, addition, our parish debt has been totally paid. Based on the positive status of these two items, one would think that the State of Parish Finances of St. Monica would be quite positive. In reality, looking deeper into the numbers, through a 3-year lens, the status is a bit more precarious.
The true financial health of the parish mission rises and falls on the Sunday collection. This is where one truly sees what parishioners think of the parish mission and thus the viability of the worshiping community. Over the past three years, we have seen a declining trend in weekly Saturday/Sunday collections.
Some reasonable explanations for this could be:
Family Demographics – Last year 70 new families registered at St. Monica versus 40 families that came off of our rosters. A number of cases involved the death of elderly parishioners. To ensure that there were no other factors causing people to leave St. Monica, we called each of the remaining families to see why they left the parish. Overwhelmingly families moved out of the parish because of work, because they “downsized,” because of their age where they had to move into a retirement community or because they moved to be closer to other family members. Thus, on a positive note, no families left because of something negative about the St. Monica community.
At issue is, first, the positive financial status of elderly parishioners. With no college debt, little or no mortgage payments and few large-scale financial commitments, our more senior parishioners have been exceedingly generous to St. Monica. Younger families have smaller children, greater debt, more expenses and are less evolved in their careers with correspondingly smaller salaries. Thus, these families cannot be as generous on a week-to-week basis to the parish at this time. The problem is the critical, negative, financial threat facing St. Monica if a number of our more senior – and more generous – parishioners move away or pass away.
Catholic Giving Patterns – Studies have consistently shown that Catholics traditionally give the least percentage of their income to the church. For example, one study found that members of the Assemblies of God contributed 8.3% of their income to their church. Baptists gave 6.9%, Presbyterians gave 3.9% while Lutherans contributed 3.7%. Catholics were at the bottom of the study offering 2.9% of their income to the church (Dean R. Hoge, et al., “Money Matters: Personal Giving in American Churches”).
This is unfortunately reflected in our own parish contribution records. A recent 3-year analysis from our Finance Council has shown that:
- 56% of people give $13.00 or less each week.
- 85% of people give $32.00 or less each week.
- Almost 50% of our parish finances are provided by just 14% of parishioners.
Should the “Uber-givers” move away, become disenchanted with the St. Monica or pass away, even with significant cost cutting measures, the parish would find it difficult to pay the most basic of parish expenses.
Leasing of New School Facilities – The term with the current tenant (Green Valley Academy) expires this summer and GVA will be moving to another facility. We are currently in negotiations with another school who would potentially move in August 1. Rental income provided by this arrangement could fall between $60,000 per year to a figure more than $100,000 per year. This potentially represents up to 10% of the parish’s yearly income. This is certainly fortunate and represents solid stewardship of parish resources. Nevertheless, the problem is that the parish cannot rely on this kind of “outside income” for the long-term, viable support of the parish mission. That needs to come from Sunday collections which spiritually represent the hearts of the people of God in support of God’s mission.
“Campaign Fatigue” – Over the past decade, a segment of parishioners of St. Monica have generously stepped up to provide not only for the parish, but for the larger church as well. Parishioners financially supported three significant fund drives:
The St. Monica “Sustainability Campaign” (Internal Parish Campaign) – This 5-year campaign was implemented immediately after the school closing with the intention of stabilizing the parish financial situation. People who pledged were loyal and consistent over the course of the campaign which enabled St. Monica to pay off the parish debt, increase reserves and show consistent positive financial results over the past few years. It is important to note that this campaign was completed last year. Thus additional funding from this campaign can no longer be anticipated.
Heritage of Faith (Archdiocesan-Wide Campaign) – St. Monica was given a “pledge target” which was exceeded. A portion of the campaign funds collected from the parish were returned to St. Monica and eventually used to purchase the new organ as well as to enhance the sound system/choir area renovations.
Financial Campaign (Internal Parish Campaign) – This is the 5-year campaign in which we currently find ourselves. Around the archdiocese, I have seen parishes crushed under the weight of unachievable, yet necessary, repairs, maintenance and renovations. This is typically because no long-range facilities planning was done nor were funds put aside in the parish budget on an on-going basis to account for ongoing routine maintenance and the replacement of “big ticket” items such as air conditioning and heating systems, roofs and building deterioration. After a detailed analysis of our parish grounds and facilities, and on the recommendation of the Facilities Committee and Parish Finance Council, I recommended this campaign to ensure that our parish facilities and grounds were brought up to proper standards, that safety issues were addressed and that the comfort of parishioners and guests were ensured. Some parishioners were very generous and the results were impressive. Unfortunately, as I mentioned previously, close to 75% of parishioners who were asked to contribute gave nothing.
This is a lot of money that has been asked from the good people of St. Monica over the past few years. It could be that our most generous givers are” tapped out” and that giving more generously on Saturday/Sunday is simply not an option.
Electronic Giving – This is a positive development at St. Monica over the past several years. Over 40% of weekly collections are received electronically and is a huge benefit to the parish. During summer vacation and holidays, parish cash flow takes a substantial hit because non-electronic giving parishioners are not in the parish and thus not contributing. Nevertheless, in spite of the increased number of parishioners who have signed up to give electronically, parish funds during June, July and August continue to decrease dramatically.
Thus, I would give a score of a C to the State of the Parish Finances. The picture presented is a mixture of positive and negative factors. In spite of a “positive balance sheet,” the current state of parish finances is reliant on too many factors that, should they change, could dramatically and negatively affect the financial support of the parish mission.
What’s the Solution? Improving the finances of St. Monica involves a multi-faceted approach. First – Increased Giving. We can’t keep hitting the same generous givers over and over again. I am aware that there are people on a strict fixed income and that asking them to be more generous to the Lord and the Church is unrealistic and unfair. However, this does not involve almost 85% of the parish who are contributing only $32/week or less and 56% who give only $13. Quite frankly, there are people who have the capacity and need to give more. In conversation with God, parishioners need to intentionally and prayerfully consider how and where their money is being spent, where their priorities are in terms of stewarding the blessings that the Lord has provided to them and whether they need to reconsider their approach to supporting God’s mission.
Second – Electronic Giving. If you already give electronically – thank you! If not, consider signing up. There is a link on the parish website or call Terry Carey at the rectory and she will be able to answer any questions or concerns that you might have as well as help you sign up.
Third – Evangelization. This is the big one! It’s a simple numbers game. We have close to 3,200 St. Monica parishioners who do not visit us on a regular basis. I have spoken to many of them. Their reasons are varied and legitimate. Nevertheless, many are simply not being asked about their faith or asked about their spiritual experiences or being offered an invitation to return. Parishioners can no longer remain passive-people-in-the-pews. Church is not an activity. Church is not just something we go to on Sundays. Pope Paul VI said “The reason that the Church exists is to evangelize” and St. Monica primarily exists to bring a presence of Jesus in a concrete way to individuals in our neighborhood. The Pastor and the Parish Staff cannot be responsible for sharing the faith with others. Parishioners have to do this – but – in a way that feels natural and comfortable to them. The prayer needs to be, “Ok Lord, you set up my next appointment. Wegmans or car wash, Handel’s or hockey game, yoga or YMCA – put the right person in my path who needs to hear my faith story so that they can feel encouraged, uplifted and I can share about you, my faith and my parish with them.”