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.
The Lord loves his church? I feel so bad for the parish staff who lost their jobs. I doubt the volunteers will do the quality job that a paid staff member would, especially concerning music and religious ed. And this isn’t even the worst of it. The worst is yet to come for the church. If the Lord won’t provide, then there’s not much anyone can do.
The purpose of the Church is not to employ people.
It won’t get very far if it doesn’t.
For all of you who are too young to remember when parish did not have staff, it was better in those days.
I’m a retired Diocesan employee, having worked at a Diocesan school and then for many years in a parish. Our particular parish was a wedding ceremony magnet due to its structural beauty and prominence in the city. The parish relied heavily on the income from weddings, mostly from couples who were non-parishioners and whose fees were therefore higher. This income has all but dried up in one year. All parishes are facing similar financial difficulties, including the loss of income from funeral service fees, flowers, candles, Mass stipends, building funds and, of greater concern, envelope and plate collections. Parishes with schools attached are struggling to provide subsidies to the schools and to offer tuition assistance to parents. Parishes need professional staff with business experience, as well as RE teachers, musicians and maintenance personnel, all of whom deserve a fair wage with benefits. Volunteers are indeed treasures, but they can’t replace a professional staff indefinitely. My fondest hope is that our parishes can rebound, even if it means working at fifty percent capacity for the foreseeable future.
And still the Annual Catholic Appeal rears its head.
A Canadian bishop recently said the concept of parish in his diocese will have to be rethought completely in light of emptying of churches of people and money. Perhaps the Catholic church will be less organized with parish offices that match diocesan ones, which match USCCB ones, which match the Roman Curiae. CCD might best be taught in the family, but that would require a faith formed and faith filled family. The church once was an itinerant church, with home liturgies, traveling preachers. An institutional church now has buildings, offices, money, employees, and on. I offer no simple solutions, but will be watching to see how God works through his pastors of souls to pass on the faith in Word and Sacrament
When people lose their jobs or their business, it is hard for them to consider giving to a parish on a sustaining basis. That is a given. But we must consider how we financed our parishes before the pandemic hit. The Catholic church has a history of charging people for its faith giving. We sell weddings, a sacrament. We sell baptisms, a sacrament. We sell funerals masses, sacraments. We sell mass intentions, sacraments. We sell faith formation, CCD, and other classes. What the Catholic church has never been good at is teaching stewardship. We are not very good at selling the idea of giving of the first fruits. We rely too much on collections rather than offerings. In a pandemic, like we experienced this last year, did the parish live-stream Sunday and daily mass? Did they hold Bible study programs on Zoom? Did the conduct weekly CCD on Zoom? Will they hold a virtual St. Patrick’s day gathering? Will the Mardi Gras festival be streamed. Is the choir still operating? Or, have we given up the idea of the Church as a community of believers? Some parishes are doing very well financially, relatively speaking because they are still functioning as an active organization. Just wondering.
Sacraments are not sold. This would be the grave sin of simony.
Bingo! Bob One, you hit it right on the nose.
A friend forwarded this article to me by Dr. Larry Chapp, about the rot in the church. After reading it, I know that my anger has been completely justified. Chapp feels exactly the same way.
The church suffers from stinking rot that has existed for decades, even before Vatican II, and the bishops are primarily the cause. Parish life is going to continue to deteriorate. What this calCatholic article reveals is not the low point nor the end… not yet.
Pot calls kettle black.
“Parish life is going to continue to deteriorate.” We can hope. The Church is a place of prayer.
Organizations such as SVDP get their own funding.
God is purifying the Church, clergy, religious and lay people.
We don’t need most of what they pay people to do.
Strip it down to the basics.
That’s an impoverished understanding of what the church is.
Please don’t say “community.”
Our diocese and all parishes were recipients of the payroll protection. No one was laid off in our diocese. Our parish in particular has had no reduction in contributions from what they were before covid.
All parishes in our diocese were enrolled in the payroll protection plan and no one lost jobs.
By now PPP funds have long been used up. Mass attendance is, at best, 50% of what it was a year ago in those places where Mass is allowed. We’re approaching a situation in which only about 10% of people raised Catholic go to Mass. That will fall to 2% when the Baby Boomers die. America will be like Europe as far as Catholic religiosity is concerned.