After nearly a full year of the pandemic, parishes are in a diminished financial situation, with pastors reporting double digit drops in their offertory.
Father Cyril O’Sullivan, pastor of St. Isabella Parish in San Rafael, estimated his parish’s offertory had decreased 30-35% compared to before the pandemic. Except for a part-time office manager and bookkeeper, the parish cut nearly all its staff months ago, reducing its budget by more than $400,000.
“Without that, we’re dead,” Father O’Sullivan said.
Volunteers have taken up most of the roles staff used to fill, like religious education or parish reception, keeping the parish’s ministries and outreach stable. “It’s a volunteer parish and will be for a long time to come,” he said, adding that the change has meant more work from him, too, as volunteers expect more help from him than staff did.
With the parish’s finances stable, Father O’Sullivan said he will not be emphasizing tithing until a later date. Many of his parishioners have lost their jobs or are still financially distressed, and want pastoral care first.
“This is not the time to be putting the focus on money when we’re still managing,” he said.
At St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo, Father Mark Reburiano said about half of parishioners had stopped giving during the pandemic.
“A lot of our parishioners are business owners, and understandably they have lost their business. Some have lost their jobs, and some have left the state,” he said.
Weekly offerings are down and fundraisers the parish relied on have been cancelled, so the parish has been depleting their savings account to cover the budget shortfall, Father Reburiano said.
The parish received a paycheck protection program loan of $118,300 in April to keep staff employed. The money has been “very helpful” but the parish’s financial situation has affected ministries and it has been unable to fill staff vacancies. Priests and staff have stretched themselves to fill in the gaps, he said, but “If this continues this will affect our ministries, and the time and quality of service our staff members and us priests can give to our parishioners.”
Father John Sakowski, pastor of St. Monica-St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, San Francisco, said the parish offertory at one point during the pandemic had gone down by half.
“I let people know this will go on for a while and if you want us to still be here, you need to start kicking in,” he said. Parishioners responded well but he estimated St. Monica receives 30% less than it used to and St. Thomas the Apostle receives 15% less.
To save money, Father Sakowski reduced staff hours and became more frugal. Turning off the lighting and heat in the churches when they were empty saved him nearly $500 each month on utility bills. He also looks for coupons and sales to stretch parish dollars….
The above comes from a March 8 story in Catholic San Francisco.