I watch just enough TV to know that the mid-term election ads are ramping up. Perhaps because I am becoming a bit more cynical or a bit more realistic, depending upon how you look at it, what I know is this. Promises made in campaigning are not always followed up upon. (Gasp! Horrors! Say it ain’t so, Joe!) A “yes’ to a position in September or October often is followed by a “No” in January. So too, a “No” during election cycles often becomes a “Yes” once elected.
Jesus warns both his disciples and those who were the ‘keepers’ of the law – the powers that be – to be aware of that tendency within us. Who is the one who did the will of God? The one who’s ‘Yes’ was accomplished not in their words, but in their deeds. That truth remains for us, 2000 years later. So, perhaps as a way to get through this election cycle, as often as you see a political ad, certainly evaluate it for the truthfulness of the “Yes” or “No” contained within. But mostly, let it be a reminder to you on your walk of faith of that important question that Jesus poses to US – “Am I saying yes with my words only, or with my deeds as well?”
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(Now, the ‘state of the parish’ address…)
Today is Stewardship Sunday across the Archdiocese. Many of you have probably already read the short version of the past year’s financial report in today’s pastor’s pen. For those who have not, here is the short summary of the short summary. There are three major issues we face as a parish.
1) We were in the red this past year by $21K. And I am proud to say the culprit is our St. Ann school, specifically, our enrollment. Because of the Missouri transfer ruling, we experienced a huge initial decline in enrollment, and slowly recouped some of those students, but still ended the year with a net loss of about 10 students. No one foresaw that coming, and the resultant loss in tuition revenue explains most of the fiscal crunch that we are in. And, salaries and benefits, determined by the Archdiocese, rose by 4.7% from last year.
2) Parish Subsidy: St. Ann parish has always subsidized our school – usually to the tune of $140-150K a year. Because of that loss of tuition, that subsidy rose to $204.5K, a jump of $52K.
3) Cash Flow: As I have written in the Visitation Drive and the Pay It Forward letters, we are a bit strapped for cash because of the boiler replacement of two years ago, and the shortfall from last year. That has been exacerbated by the Alive In Christ revenues – which are a God send, but ONLY hit the books twice a year. Yet we have to pay into it monthly and pay our salaries twice a month. So the cash flow is still problematic.
That is a brief summary of our financial status for this past year. Check the parish website in the next two weeks for a more detailed report.
What is next for our St. Ann parish? Before I answer that, let me tell you WHY we are going to do what we do going forward. And I say that, not in my own words, but in the words of our 7th and 8th grade students. Here is what St. Ann School has meant to them and what it has taught them:
• “I learned at St. Ann that no matter the color you are, we are all equal. We don’t think twice about our color.”
• “Everyone is so kind and this is where I met my ‘family.’
• (in that same vein) “St. Ann school is pretty much home to me.”
• “St. Ann has changed me/taught me how to strive for peace with God, others, myself; even when I feel I can’t do it on my own”
• “St. Ann has taught me what it means to be Catholic and how to live my faith.”
If you have wondered what you might be able to do in the face of the events in Ferguson, MO, you don’t have to look any farther than our St. Ann school. Here we educate not just our 65 St. Ann Parish students, but 12 students from other parishes and 75 non-Catholic students from the neighborhood. This is their family. This is their home, both for their education and for their development as believers in Jesus Christ. This is why we do what we do.
SO, here is what we have done and what I propose going forward.
1) If you supplied us with a working email, you should have received an electronic survey in your inbox. I ask that you take the time this week to fill that out – 8-12 minutes – so we might better help you use your gifts of time and talent as a way of putting your faith into action. Paper copies for others are coming in the next few weeks.
2) To address the issue of Cash flow, I am encouraging people to consider making their gifts electronically. Your weekly or monthly parish gift would be taken automatically from YOUR bank account and deposited in OUR bank account – either using our system of ACH deposits, or your own bank’s Electronic Bill Pay system. This would be for your weekly/monthly parish tithe. Special collections would still use the envelopes. (SHOW FORM) These forms are by the doors. I am not trying to put our money counters out of business, , but I am trying to make it easier for people to put God first in terms of returning to him the gifts God entrusted to them. If you still want to use your envelopes, you need do nothing.
3) We walk a fine line in our tuition increases because our tuition is right at that magic 8% of median income levels at which experts tell us people can no longer afford private school. Yet, because of the higher parish subsidy than normal, we increased tuition by about 5% this year to have parents shoulder more of the actual costs per student. But even that increase will still leave us with an expected shortfall of about $8-9K.
4) So, for the second time in my 12 ¼ years as pastor, I am asking for an increase in your weekly offerings, to fund the mission of our parish and our parish school. While our salaries have risen yearly by about 4%, our weekly parish giving has remained absolutely static for the past 4 years. You know what happens when expenses go like this (upward line) while income goes like this (flat line). Though I am not a whiz on finance, I know that if each household could give an additional $5 a week, we’ll be able to keep treading water, keeping our head afloat. If each household were able to give more, then many things become possible.
Thanks for all you do to keep the vision alive. Thank you for continuing to make me the most blessed pastor in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. I invite you to pray, reflect on God’s goodness to you, and then decide how you will say “Yes”, not just with your words, but with your time, talent and treasure. Together, with God’s help, we’ll keep living faith here at St. Ann’s, just as we have done every year since 1856.