Last weekend we publish our 2021 Annual Parish Report. Please know how fortunate I feel to serve you. Further, I am privileged to be working with a great clergy and lay staff, and very gifted Finance and Pastoral Councils. In this report, the Finance Council and I hope to provide you with a snapshot of our current state of the parish. As you read the report, we ask that you do so keeping in mind the following: the purpose of the report is more than just a snapshot of where we are as a parish, it is an important point of departure as we move forward in faith towards where we want to go. My experience in the military taught me the value of a very basic yet crucial detail when navigating from Point A to Point B…you need to know where Point A is before you move to Point B! This report is our Point A. This report should help give us a clear yet sobering picture of where we are so that we can begin moving towards where we want to be as a parish community.
As you can see in the State of the Parish Report, while the number of registered families is quite good for a mid-sized suburban parish (1,694), when we look at the actual number of people who attend Mass and who consistently contribute financially, we see a less optimistic picture. If you look at our financial trends, they are worrying, even before you take into account the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Sunday, Christmas and Easter collections have declined in each of the past two years, along with most other revenues. Some of this, we know, is because of demographics – older parishioners leave or pass away and younger families enter the scene loaded down with consumer debt, mortgages, and even student loans. However, we suspect this is largely due to a decreased participation in giving altogether.
You will also notice an increase in Building, Utilities, and Equipment Costs, which is in large part due to the parish assuming the responsibility of paying for the utilities and maintenance of the school building. Thankfully this Fall we were able to successfully negotiate a short-term lease with the Springfield Board of Education (Walton School) for our school building. However, this is only temporary, which means in short order we’ll once again be assuming the cost of maintaining an empty school building that is slowly deteriorating. In our efforts to meet the needs of the present while at the same time assuring a solid grounding for our parish’s future, I have been actively working with the Finance Council in exploring options for our dilapidated convent building and aging school building that would not only service our significant legacy and mounting debt (over $600,000.00) but also address various needs of our parish. Overall, your parish leadership is doing what we can to curb expenses as we creatively seek revenue-generating projects and work towards building a parish stewardship-centered giving model.
While I understand that there have been a number of challenges over these past few years that have impacted us as a community of faith, I am not willing to shrug my shoulders and say that this is just how it is. I am filled with tremendous excitement and optimism at our parish’s potential. Please be assured that I am wholeheartedly willing to do my best and give my best to this parish community – but I and the rest of the lay leadership need your help! As you can see from the annual State of the Parish report, our first hurdle is a financial one. The initial step that we need to collectively take to begin moving from Point A to Point B is to generously increase our weekly giving.
After prayer and discernment, it is our hope that many, if not all, parishioners respond generously to this appeal in a way that gives us the momentum we need to build an increasingly vibrant parish community of faith, dedicated to the mission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need your support to keep going and to improve on what we’ve already achieved.
Friends, I hope you would agree that St. James has the potential to become an increasingly dynamic parish family. The parish clergy, staff, lay leadership, and I are all working hard to make St. James a prayerful place to worship, a great place for families and parish life, as well as a place where anyone can apply his or her talents for the good of all.
Thank you and God’s blessings on you and your families!
I remain sincerely yours in Christ,