The Finance Council and I were recently examining the St. Monica parish financials. We have data for the first 6 months of Fiscal Year 2019-2020 including figures for this year’s Christmas collections. Some of the picture is good. Some of it is disconcerting.
Cost wise the parish is right on budget – within 3% of budgeted figures. This shows an accurate assessment of parish financial capabilities, putting together a reasonable budget and careful monitoring and management of monthly and year-to-date cost figures.
Income figures show a different story. 6-month “year-to-date” income was close to $25,000 under budget. This year’s Christmas collection was $47,078. This was 28% under a budget of $66,000 and 29% less than last year’s figure of $66,272. On Thursday January 17, the Finance Council will get together for our monthly meeting. We are already gathering further figures so that we will have a detailed and honest conversation about these issues.
Let me offer some comments from a bigger picture. Certainly the less-than-hoped-for Christmas collection is disappointing. In November, at the last “Parish Deanery” meeting (See list of parishes below) the priests and pastors were curious to see how the events of 2018 were going to play out. These events included (among others) the issues surrounding Cardinal McCarrick, the Pittsburg Grand Jury, Pope Francis’ reaction (or lack thereof) to US events, the investigation of St. Charles Seminary.
Priests/Pastors said that they had not been seeing a mass exodus of parishioners but “fraying at the edges” was certainly evident. This included lower “October Counts” of actual parishioners-in-the-pews (not dramatic but certainly evident) and collection declines. On the other hand, school enrollment numbers seemed to be holding steady. Ministry participation and volunteerism actually seemed strong and, in some cases, growing (confer WWP participation across the Deanery and TMIY at St. Monica/St. Norbert for example). For the most part, we all agreed that Christmas was going to be a clear signal how Catholics were feeling.
I heard one anecdotal story this week. For Christmas, one relatively large, active, Chester County parish employed 10 professional musicians, 4 paid singers, a male child soloist (Keystone Boys Choir-level), an adult choir and a children’s choir and had a brand new sound system installed just in time for their Christmas Masses. In spite of all that, their Christmas numbers were noticeably down, especially compared to previous years.
Some additional comments:
- This is not a local issue and – let’s be clear – certainly not merely a St. Monica issue. There is no better person to comment on the scope of this than George Weigel. See his comments here:
- Buckle in for the long haul. This is most likely going to get worse before it gets better. 2019 could see more of the same.
- By “more of the same,” I include the positive as well as the negative. Pope Benedict XVI predicted a smaller, yet more vibrant, Church. People who stay are in it for the long haul, and for the right reasons. Take a look at who attends weekend Masses. They’re hopeful, they’re engaged, they’re happy (They’re also really angry as well. Let’s not get too Pollyanna here …). Regardless, plan for smaller numbers and less income.
- Keep our eye on the ball. Christ is the target. He has indicated to us that He wants to encounter us. Specifically at St. Monica, He indicated that he wanted that encounter to occur through His Word, reaching out and helping others and through liturgy. We tried that this past year. We saw undeniable fruit. 2 years ago, “Service To Others” received the worst score of all categories in the St. Monica “Disciple Maker Index” survey. In just one year, after listening to and doing what Jesus Christ asked us to do, we saw what happened: https://d2wldr9tsuuj1b.cloudfront.net/16499/bulletins/20181223.pdf. Same with Encountering Christ in His Word in terms of WWP and TMIY. I’ll soon be sharing remarkable testimonies of St. Monica men whose lives have been dramatically changed through this encounter with Christ’s Word.
- This is a movie, not a snapshot. Every “thriving” parish has said that it takes close to 15 years to move a parish from “maintenance-to-mission.” We’re in year 6 and, although we’re seeing progress (Look at recent Coyle Tournament, Advent By Candlelight, Beef-and-Beer fundraiser) we have a ways to go. There are issues at St. Monica that have us still stuck in “old wineskins.”
- We have (God’s) work to do.
– Prayer is the start. It needs to be personal (what fits and works for you), intentional, daily, committed and “formalized.” By that I mean that it has to be personally “scheduled” in our daily lives much like monks do so in their daily schedule.
– We need to watch the numbers. We have to have a dispassionate, honest discussion about the finances, parish priorities, stewardship and how we will spend the money according to those priorities.
– We can’t keep doing what we’ve done. There needs to be a shift. I sense that this is already occurring but further discussion is merited. I’ll have more to say on that soon.
– We need to get better. There are thriving parishes throughout the United States. Let’s learn from them. What are they doing well? What practices and tendencies have to be avoided?
– We need to take care of each other. People are hurting. Marriages are hurting. Families are hurting. It’s the theme I keep hearing. How do we address this? How do we support one another?
Sure I concerned, but I’m not worried and I’m certainly not scared. It’s not my parish. It’s His. He can do with it whatever he wants. Nevertheless, something seems to be occurring. There is fruit. There is just too many good things being done by too many wonderful people at (as a priest friend refers to us…) “Big Mo.”
Parishes in Deanery 4: Archdiocese of Philadelphia: Our Lady of the Assumption (Strafford), SS. Philip and James (Exton), St. Ann (Phoenixville), St. Basil the Great (Kimberton), St. Elizabeth (Upper Uwchlan), St. Isaac Jogues (Wayne), St. Joseph (Downingtown), St. Joseph (Spring City), St. Mary of the Assumption (Phoenixville), St. Monica (Berwyn), St. Norbert (Paoli), St. Patrick (Malvern), St. Thomas More (South Coventry).