Every so often, every pastor has to talk about money. For me, that is right up there with going to the dentist. While I love the ministerial parts of priesthood and celebrating the sacraments, the financial and administrative parts certainly aren’t all that enjoyable.
Of course though as a non-profit Church, we require money so we can serve the needs of the faithful. Our budget covers the costs of the building; the salaries and benefits of a staff; an investment into a school so we can educate both mind and soul, and numerous other areas all centered around one word: “ministry.” Our goal is to create saints and to help people on their faith journey. This we do through our time, talent and treasure.
In coming weeks as we head into fall, we’ll be discussing the budget a little bit more, and ways of future giving to the parish so we can continue to provide for the needs of the faithful. But I thought I’d devote a little space to the topic this week because as we mark Labor Day, the labor and the fruits of labor that are shared with Saint Joseph’s do so much, and that’s something to think about.
First, there is the generosity of those who work our parish. I’m consistently amazed at how selfless our staff is. It really feels like family when you go into the office. On top of this, there is this remarkable attitude of service. There are some in the world who view a job as a stepping stone to a higher paying or more “important” position; others are just there for a paycheck. And in some places, even in Catholic parishes, there can be in-fighting on a staff and it can be toxic. But the staff here at Saint Joseph’s is so remarkable in how they care so deeply about the parish. There is never a “what’s in it for me” kind of mentality, and even when things can become overwhelming at times in the parish office (for we could certainly have plenty to do for a much larger staff) there is never complaining or bitterness. I see the same thing in the school. We welcomed back our teachers last week and this week is of course the start of the new school year. We are blessed with a remarkable team who is dedicated on helping children grow and give so much to their vocation. I have to tell you, it’s a great feeling to come into the office every day and know you are surrounded by a supportive, hard-working team. Our parish is so blessed with the great people who work and serve us.
Second, there are those who labor by volunteering. I was reminded of this when I stopped in to Kayla Rooney’s office, who heads up our lifelong faith formation program. I asked about catechists for this year, and Kayla shared with me how so many were willing to give of their time to teach the faith to our young people. That’s amazing. I did that once upon a time too, teaching 8th grade faith formation in my college years. It was a little intimidating, but rewarding too. Of course beyond our catechists we have the money counters, the funeral lunch crew, commission members, the gardeners., many committee members, persons who tend to the flower pots and shrubs and more. What I’ve found in all of our volunteers is, just as with our staff, there is never a focus on the self, but on the whole.
Lastly, there is the giving. People here are quite generous. Sometimes on the national level, it can be disheartening when you hear of a situation where people want to “punish” the Church by not giving, but I can assure you donations do not go to some slush fund to pay off lawsuits. Like all parishes, we pay an assessment of our income to the archdiocese because the archdiocese provides things that all parishes need. This covers the salaries of people who work for the archdiocese and serve all the parishes, along with the Marriage Tribunal, Worship Office, Communication and Parish Services offices which benefit all parishes, along with the infrastructure and technology used at the central offices. As I preached on last week, the archdiocese has done so much to be vigilant in combating abuse and creating a safe environment through programs like VIRTUS and the hiring of a full time staff for Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment. The assessment is 8% of our Sunday income. There is also the Catholic Services Appeal, an annual fundraiser to support various ministries and programs of the archdiocese with a big chunk of that going back to help the parishes in the form of parish rebates. What has been uplifting is how people are generous here with their financial resources. They want to pay down the debt, to maintain our campus, provide ministries and services for one another. People here truly take ownership of their parish, and I’ve yet to meet a person who wants to be known for how much they give, or who has come into the office willing to give a big donation if in exchange the parish will do something for them. Instead, people freely give.
So on this Labor Day, I’d like to say “thank you.” It’s such a joy to be a pastor here at a parish where people have a real attitude of gratitude. The civic holiday reminds us of the importance of work and the difference it makes in building our nation. Through our labor, we participate in God’s creation and building up of the world. And in so many ways, I’ve seen people freely give so much to our parish who want to continue to build it up too. Thank you for your generosity, and for always giving with no strings attached. No matter how much or how often you give of your time, talent and treasure, never forget what a lasting impact you leave on your parish – may God bless you for your kindness.
God Bless, ~ Fr. Paul