As was noted last week, we have started a new initiative in the parish as we bring our capital campaign to a close. I am so grateful to all those who supported our campaign. Your generosity has allowed our parish to regain its splendor and become debt free. The success of our campaign was not due to any one person, but the entire parish coming together and each family doing what it can. Through the many gifts made, we were able to reach and exceed our goal. We are truly a blessed parish and I thank God for each one of you.
Now that the campaign is coming to an end, we need to review our regular income. As I said many times when we introduced the campaign, there are several things I will remain committed to achieving. The first is that we not spend any money that is not already in an account. Throughout the campaign, all the projects were paid for without incurring further debt. The second thing I repeatedly mentioned had to do with a future goal of being financially solvent following the campaign, which means our regular income has to exceed our expenses. Part of that solvency is being able to save some money each year to insure we have reserves should another project become necessary. It is this second item that our new initiative hopes to address.
One of the most difficult aspects of being a pastor is speaking about financial stewardship. As I said a few weeks ago when I introduced this initiative, Catholics do not like hearing about money, and tend to be the lowest givers. This dearth of giving has forced parishes to rely on fundraising to balance the budget. Our parish has been no different. To be honest, I do not believe any parish should have to struggle to remain solvent by relying on fundraisers. The reason is that the amount of energy that must be expended for these events takes away from advancing the mission of the Church. As I said a few weeks ago, our mission is not to raise money, but to save souls. Yes, money supports the mission, but it can never become the mission. When many of our parishioners and staff members are mired in coordinating fundraising events, effort is taken from offering ministry to our parishioners and reaching out to the lost.
I recently read a good book in this area and the author noted, “Fundraisers always create sideways energy that casts parishioners in the role of consumers and puts the focus on raising cash rather than growing disciples.” In this regard, he concludes that, “It is our responsibility to raise up givers, not funds, because it’s our responsibility to make disciples, not money.” This author has forced me to rethink the mission of the parish and how best to accomplish that mission. Based on the points made by this author, it quickly became clear that we needed to know what our mission is. Taking up this challenge, our staff engaged in discussion and developed a mission statement – Serve God and Others; Unite Cultures; Make Disciples; Share the Gospel. It is our hope that every parishioner becomes a disciple, and that every parishioner can recite this mission statement from memory.
The importance of being clear about our mission gives us a gauge by which to measure our activities and where our energy is best used. Notice in our mission statement there is no mention of “fundraising” or making money. Implicit in the mission statement is that every member of the parish become a disciple, and disciples are givers, not consumers. As a disciple, financial support of the mission, that is, your regular offering to the parish, should always be planned and proportionate to the blessings you have received. It is for this reason we are asking each family to pray about the amount given to the parish and to make a written commitment as to what amount will be given.
This reflection will be continued next week.