SAINT JAMES THE APOSTLE CHURCH
STATE OF THE PARISH 2015
Dear Parish Family,
The year 1924 was a year of firsts: the first ever Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France, the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in New York City, the first regular airmail service began in the United States, and Rhapsody in Blue was played for the first time. Marlon Brando, Doris Day and Jimmy Carter were all born in 1924, and here in Springfield the first St. James the Apostle Church was also born. This building is currently a bank on Morris Avenue. In the ninety years that followed, this parish community would change locations, but the same spirit of faith exhibited in our founding fathers and mothers would remain a hallmark of our people. As pastor for the past year and a half, I wanted to communicate my thoughts on the present State of the Parish, our victories and challenges. It is my hope that his report will help all of us to reflect, to give thanks, and to move forward in our mission as Disciples of Christ. Where appropriate, I wanted to provide you with information that will show you the trajectory of our parish so that we can celebrate the present and plan for the future.
This past year gave our parish family the opportunity to welcome a newly ordained priest as our Parochial Vicar. Fr. Silvano Kim was born in South Korea and ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark this past May. Since his arrival, many of you have come to know and love Fr. Silvano. As he acclimates himself to the parish priesthood at St. James, he is has already begun to work diligently in several areas of parish life. Our newly formed Young Adult Group (young Catholics from 21 to 39 years old, married or single) have begun the process of getting to know one another, sharing faith and friendship, and dealing with the issues young adult Catholics face in the world today. Fr. Silvano has brought them together for social events, cooked a traditional South Korean meal for them, and fifteen of them are joining him every Thursday night during Lent to watch and discuss the “Catholicism” series by Fr. Robert Barron. In addition to his regular duties, the celebration of the Sacraments and outreach to the sick and bereaved, Fr. Silvano has also been working to expand our Respect Life Committee, is working with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and helped to form a new Baptismal Team. This Team will assist new parents as they prepare for the baptism of their children, and will help the parish develop a follow-up program after the celebration of the Sacrament itself. Fr. Silvano has also been seen on the basketball court and the ski slopes with our Youth Group. We look forward to the expansion of his ministry as he continues to become comfortable with his English skills (especially preaching, which is difficult for any new priest but especially for those who are learning) and his new role as a parish priest.
Also, 2014 brought several others into our midst to minister to our people. We welcomed Deacon Art Bandel (and his wife Nancy) from upstate New York who moved into the area and was assigned by Archbishop Myers to ministry here at St. James. Deacon Art joins Deacon Jerry Bongiovanni and Deacon Dan O’Neill in their ministry of service to the parish community. We are blessed to have such wonderful Permanent Deacons here at St. James! Also assigned to assist us is Fr. Everest Baniyet, a priest from Nigeria who will be in residence with us while he studies Moral Theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary. We welcome Fr. Everest to our family.
This past year also saw several other new ministries emerge here in our parish. The New Evangelization Committee is a dedicated group of parishioners whose task is to discover ways that our parish family can respond to the calls of our recent Holy Fathers to embark on, as Pope St. John Paul II termed it, a “New Evangelization.” Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis have all called the Church to a new springtime and a new energy and enthusiasm to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to others, especially those who have never heard of Christ or who have been indifferent to the faith of their baptism. This committee is currently learning more about several different programs that can guide each of us as we discover more and more about our call to share Christ with the world.
An important initiative of the New Evangelization Committee has been to install the Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk in the gathering area of the Church. This kiosk provides solid Catholic CD’s, books and booklets on important topics of faith and spirituality for a small donation. Parishioners are asked to visit the kiosk often as titles will change regularly.
We also thank God for the work of another new ministry in the parish, the Adult Faith Formation Board. This ministry, formed at the request of so many of our parish family who attended last year’s “A Time to Dream” listening sessions and who asked for more opportunities to learn about faith, assists the parish in providing ways for adults to grow in their understanding of the faith. Last autumn, eighty of our parishioners signed up for the eight week “Bible Adventure Scripture Study” series. Others have enjoyed the “Pot Luck Lunch and Learn” series where members of the parish have gathered on Sunday afternoons to share lunch while learning about some topic of our faith. A full busload of parishioners attended the Christmas Trip to the Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini and the Cloisters Museum in New York City, and together over 300 of us enjoyed our Lenten Mission. The AFF is continuing to strive to provide more of these wonderful opportunities for growth and knowledge.
This past year also saw the formation of several seasonal Lectio Divina Advent and Lent Scripture Sharing Groups, a Mom’s Group where moms of all ages can come together for mutual support, and a support group for Divorced and Separated Catholics. The Liturgy Committee also came together last year to assist in our parish prayer and sacramental life, most especially Sunday liturgy and the Art and Environment in our Church. Many of you have expressed to me your feeling that last Christmas the Church looked more beautiful than ever. We can thank this talented and dedicated Liturgy Committee! In the area of Music Ministry, this past year welcomed the formation of two new musical initiatives: a St. Cecilia Choir (children who will sing at the 9 a.m. Mass each Sunday) and a Contemporary Ensemble.
One of the most important new initiatives at St. James has been our “Children of Hope” Eucharistic Adoration. Once a month on a Friday evening all children from second grade and up are invited to spend some time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. There the children encounter Christ face-to-face. There they can learn the importance and joy of contemplation through vocal prayer, stories, song and silence. There is a vast difference between talking about Jesus in a book and spending time with Him truly Present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament. One of our middle school children said to me: “Father, I thank you for Children of Hope! There I can speak to Jesus and open up my heart to Him.” Exactly!
Liturgy and Sacramental Life
St. James the Apostle Church has a strong history of inspiring and beautiful celebrations of the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. Priests, deacons, music ministers, Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, Lectors, Ministers of Hospitality have all worked together to ensure that ‘full, conscious and active participation’ in Holy Mass as described by the Second Vatican Council. Our beautiful worship space, built twelve years ago through the generosity and sacrifice of the people, stands as a testimony to the importance of prayer and liturgy here in Springfield. Our goal is to increase the participation of our people in the weekly celebration of Holy Mass, both in the numbers who attend as well as through singing and in other ways we truly participate.
Music is key to the liturgical life of the Church. We are grateful for the continued ministry of Janet Natale, Director of Music, and Dan Palko, Organist. The Adult Choir, Cherub Choir, Choristers, St. Cecilia Choir, Contemporary Ensemble as well as the Lazarus Choir all help to make our sacramental life rich and varied.
Sacramentally, we have much to be thankful for here at St. James. A look at our sacramental registers for the past five years reveals the following:
- 2010 81
- 2011 57
- 2012 53
- 2013 68
- 2014 49
Children Receiving First Eucharist:
- 2010 92
- 2011 88
- 2012 72
- 2013 69
- 2014 71
- 2010 66
- 2011 64
- 2012 74
- 2013 65
- 2014 69
- 2010 11
- 2011 5
- 2012 11
- 2013 10
- 2014 6
Sacraments are never just celebrations of an individual but are always situated within a family of faith. We encourage all those who celebrate Sacraments at St. James to recognize their value as active members of our faith community. Parish policies call people to accountability not only in registering, being present and supporting the parish financially, but in cooperating with God’s grace given in the sacraments for the good of the Church. As Christ Himself told us, we don’t light a lamp to put it under a basket. We place it on a lampstand for all to see.
Catholic Education and Catechesis
For the past sixty years, an important part of the mission of St. James Church has been to provide the opportunity for Catholic education to the children of the parish as well as others who desire what Catholic schools can provide. Our excellent faculty under the direction of Principal Mrs. Patricia Dolansky continue the mission of those whose vision began the parish school by providing an excellent academic experience for the students as well as a moral and spiritual foundation rooted in the teachings of Christ and the Church. Currently our school has 193 students for which we are most grateful. However, in recent years the enrollment of our school has declined. For the past few years, the school has been unable to meet all of its financial obligations. Financial realities dictate that we do our best to increase enrollment so that our school can be as healthy as possible moving into the future. Continued excellence as well as creative marketing and publicity are the means to be employed by our School Advisory Board and Home School Association to meet the goals and objectives we need for a strong school.
Of great assistance to our parish school in particular this past year has been the Archdiocese of Newark program “Lighting the Way.” As part of this program, the Archdiocese assumes the temporal administration of each of the grammar schools within the Archdiocese. Salaries, faculty and staff, tuition, expenses, etc. are all determined by the Schools Office in Newark and administered by that Office. In the case of St. James, this program has allowed our school to remain open and ensures a positive future for our children. Each parish of the Archdiocese of Newark pays “assessments” to the Archdiocese, a percentage of all monies raised by that parish (usually 12% – 15%). Monies raised through assessments, as well as the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal (now called “Sharing God’s Blessings Annual Appeal”) are used to fund the ministries of the Archdiocese, including Catholic Education. Assessments paid by parishes who do not have their own schools in a very real way are helping to keep our school open since we are currently unable to meet school expenses through our own revenue. In this we can see the Church as one Body of Christ, working together for the common good of all. We ask and encourage all parents of school age children to consider sending their children to St. James the Apostle School. As I often say to the children, St. James is a “School of Heaven” where we not only help children to have a good life on earth, but prepare them for entrance into the next life by living a grace-filled and holy life here.
St. James Parish has also had a history of excellent Religious Education programming. This year, our Religious Education has 441 children in our program, an decline from previous years. We are most grateful to Nancy Caputo, Director of Religious Education, and her assistant Maggie Keffer, along with the 34 catechists and 13 aides who selflessly share their faith with the public school children who attend our religious education programs. Programs such as “Mary in a Box” and “Jimmy the Bear” as well as Home School Retreats encourage families to participate in the religious education of their children.
Buildings and Grounds
St. James the Apostle Parish Campus is a beautiful setting in which we live out our call to be Christ’s Body here in this place and time. As with all buildings and grounds, maintenance is essential to ensure safety and accessibility. Although our Church is relatively new, soon enough the parish will have to deal with issues of lighting and temperature control. I have been told that the exterior of the Church should be painted this year, and the dissolving decorative paver stones in the front plaza of the Church need to be replaced since they are becoming hazardous to those who enter the Church. There are also some repairs that will need to be done in the parking lot. The school building also has repair issues that will need to be addressed. Several years ago under the pastorate of Msgr. Bill Hatcher the roof on the rectory was replaced. However, because of water damage many of the walls in the rectory were in need of repair and repainting. This project was completed through the generosity of an anonymous donor, and we are most grateful. Still to address are plumbing and flooding issues in the rectory basement. Meeting space still continues to be an issue for us. Last year, I took a smaller office in the rectory so as to make the larger office a meeting room available for parishioner use. I would like to call this room the “St. John Room” (named after the brother of St. James who was also a disciple of the Lord).
Perhaps the greatest Buildings and Grounds concern for St. James parish is the convent building. Since the building is land-locked, renting it out as a means of parish revenue seems out of the question. The building itself would make a great Pastoral Center with space for our children, Seniors, youth group, parish offices and even a chapel for smaller prayer gatherings. Unfortunately, the building has been left in disrepair for so long that now it has some major needs before it can become useable space for the parish. I asked the Archdiocesan Office of Plant Services to come and look at the building to tell me what would need to be done to make the building available for parish use. Repair/replacement of the existing roof, repointing of the entire building, new furnace and hot water heaters, as well as mold remediation are immediate needs before the issues of interior renovation could even be addressed. The Archdiocese estimates a cost of approximately $400,000 for the things listed above (not including interior renovation). The cost to raze the building would be even greater. At this time the parish is unable to fund a project of this scope. So, we will need to continue to wait and see what happens, aware that the longer we wait the more expensive the project will become.
Stewardship of Treasure
“The priests in that parish are constantly talking about money!” Certainly no one can say this about St. James Parish. But when I hear people say this about any parish, it always makes me sad. In some ways, it is a statement lacking in trust: perhaps the priest is focusing on money too much and too often because he is lacking trust that God will send what the parish needs. Perhaps the people are failing to trust in the judgment of their pastor. If a pastor is telling his people that their parish needs increased revenue, he is not doing so for his own sake. Whether a priest is in the richest parish of the Archdiocese or in the poorest one, his salary is the same as all priests in the Archdiocese. In fact, for most pastors dealing with financial and administrative issues are a burden he must carry that have little or nothing to do with why he became a priest. In a parish, pastors might bring up the issue of finance for several reasons: perhaps he sees the reality of his parish and knows that, if the parish is to remain healthy and grow, increased revenue is needed.
As with most parishes, a relatively small group of committed parishioners bears the weight of the ministerial and financial burden of the parish. Many parishioners do not support the Church regularly yet expect the Church to be there, clean, well lit, heated, cooled and beautiful when they show up for the baptism or wedding of their child or the funeral of a parent, or for Christmas or Easter. In this regard, St. James is no exception. In most parishes, the number of parishioners who meaningfully support the parish must grow or parishes will close. In some of these cases, the closures make the evening news and many come forward to complain about the bishop who closes the parish. One wonders where these people were during the decades when their parish was languishing.
In addition, while Protestants generally have a good understanding of Stewardship of Treasure (often a small Protestant congregation of 100 people will generate more revenue than a Catholic parish of 1000 registered families) Catholics tend to be uncomfortable with the topic of money. They believe that Jesus didn’t care about money and rarely spoke about it. They are surprised to discover the truth: Jesus talked about money more than He did heaven and hell combined! One pastor wrote about it in this way: “Jesus talked about money more than anything else except the Kingdom of God. Eleven of 39 parables and one of every seven verses in the Gospel of Luke talks about money. The word money is actually used in connection with Jesus (whether He uses the word or it is used in connection with Him) approximately 25 times throughout the four Gospel accounts.” When our parish speaks about money, it is not to build up the parish bank account, it’s so we can continue to grow our ministries and care for those most in need.
Our Financial Report for the past year follows. Here is a brief snapshot of our financial progress over the last 5 years:
Sunday and Holy Day Revenue
- 2010 $431,385.00
- 2011 $443, 157.01
- 2012 $433,140.60
- 2013 $429,965.75
- 2014 $432,014.99
- 2010 $84,997
- 2011 $80,199
- 2012 $71,627
- 2013 $70,058
- 2014 $55,987 (current Fiscal year)
- 2010 $52,928
- 2011 $56,581
- 2012 $53,807
- 2013 $50,721
- 2014 $43,899
Archbishop’s Annual Appeal Rebate
- 2010 $4,873
- 2011 $11,271
- 2012 $13,283
- 2013 $0
- 2014 $0
- 2013 $29,345
- 2014 $22,264
As you can see, while many of our parishioners have been very generous, the overall financial trajectory of the parish is downward. The level of parish stewardship has decreased significantly. So far this fiscal year (July 2014 – February 2015), the weekly collections have decreased 10%, the Christmas collection (the largest collection of the year that parishes typically use to pay larger bills) decreased $15,000. In the past, St. James exceeded its contribution to the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal and would receive a significant rebate, but in the past few years we have not met our goal, so the parish did not receive a rebate. And last year, because of bad weather, the parish festival made significantly less than the year before. In addition to decreased revenues, parish expenses are up, most notably in the areas of medical benefits for parish employees, and assessments. The reality is that St. James the Apostle Church is no longer able to sustain our operating model. What this means is that, at the current level of giving, our parish will not be able to continue with the staffing and ministries we currently have, let alone grow in any meaningful way. This concerns me greatly, and it should concern anyone who loves this parish and wants to see it thrive.
Often when parish revenue decreases several explanations are possible: perhaps people are dissatisfied with the pastoral staff, perhaps the economy or the demographics of the community have significantly changed, perhaps significant numbers of parishioners have ceased contributing to their parish because of death, sickness, apathy, or have fallen away from the practice of religion. The parish leadership here at St. James will continue to discuss possible reasons here in this parish. But at this point in time it seems important that each parishioner reflect on their hopes and dreams for St. James Church and their personal willingness to commit to the parish through their stewardship of time, talent and treasure. Remember, God’s plan for giving as outlined in Sacred Scripture (called ‘tithing’) is that each person give 10% of their income back to God, usually 5% to the support of their parish and 5% to other charities of their choice. If you haven’t thought about your weekly giving to your parish, I ask you to think about it now. If, after prayer consideration of God’s generosity to you, you find yourself unable to increase your giving to the parish, then we thank you for all you give and ask God’s continued blessings on you. If you find that you are able to increase weekly giving, the parish community will be most grateful. In a few weeks, members of our Finance Council will be speaking at all Masses about increased giving and our newly instituted option for Online Giving available through the parish website.
Hope for the Future
I know I speak for the entire parish staff when I say how grateful we are to God for the opportunity to serve in this part of the Lord’s vineyard. I want to thank all of our parish family. I am most grateful for those who assist me in leadership roles, most especially the Pastoral Council whose love for the parish is so evident in all they do, and for the Finance Council who advise me on how to proceed with financial issues. I am also grateful to all those who volunteer to serve in the many ministries present in our parish, those new ones I’ve outlined here as well as those ministries of long standing who continue to serve Christ and His Church. I look forward to all that is still yet to be.
As we look to the future, some of my priorities would include (in addition to the ones already mentioned) the development of a more organized bereavement ministry for those who’ve lost a loved one, and more hands-on involvement with the poor, sick and elderly. I would like to begin a yearly “Vacation Bible School” week in the summer for our children, and most importantly I would like us to continue to challenge ourselves in the area of evangelization, reaching out to fallen away Catholics and welcoming them home when possible.
I thank you for taking the time to read this “State of the Parish” Report. The Finance Council of the parish will be speaking at all Masses on the weekend of April 19 to share some of their thoughts. If you have any questions or comments on this report, please let me or the pastoral staff know. May our good God continue to bless our lives together as we move into a future filled with challenges, yet mindful of the example of those who have come before us.
Fr. John Gabriel, Pastor