Sunday, September 23, 2012

Looking at the glass

Some days I see how much is in the glass, and some days I see what isn’t in it.  I suppose I wouldn’t be much of a pastor if I couldn’t identify both.  Take a look yourself at the annual report for the parish we offer this week, and see what you can find.
What’s in the glass?  We have a vigorous parish, with new members and families registering every month, and families growing in size as well as faith.  We have an increase in marriages, a strong trend of baptisms, and a decrease in funerals.  We have a strong school that is one of the best in the Archdiocese, and a burgeoning Religious Ed program.  We have a growing youth program, and a thriving network of young adults.  Our teachers, ministerial staff, and catechetical leaders are energized, on target, and effective.
We paid off the mortgage from the addition to the school complex, which was heart-stoppingly near $800,000 when I got here six years ago. (can I hear a “Woohoo!” for that, please?)   Simultaneously, we put a new heating system and for the first time ever air-conditioned the entire school complex without a fundraising campaign of any sort.  We did it in three years, though it was budgeted over four, so incurred a new debt that we will pay off by June of next summer.  
We can pay all our bills and meet our payroll.  We give a lot of help to families to participate in our excellent school.  We do little things around the place to improve and maintain it.  We received a few specific donations to enrich the chapel and the church, and to get a couple of bonus goodies for the school.
What’s not in the glass?  Well, honestly, as good as all that sounds, we are running very, very lean.  General capital improvements to our extensive plant were suspended over the past year except for little necessities and the one big thing I mentioned.  I still do not have the resources to replace the rectory roof, which is perilously close to causing damage to the structure.  I plan to spend on that what I would be paying to have a second priest on staff here this year.  Think of it as Fr. DeRosa’s salary, if you will; but I should not have to do that.  I am not talking about grand improvements, here, either, but the basic things that keep our splendid campus functional, safe, and effective, and one would even hope, improve its efficiency.
What are my concerns?  Our offertory has been what I think you would call “soft,” rather than weak.  Well do I know how expensive everything has become, and how little our personal resources have risen to meet that expense.  The administrative burdens, school and rectory, have increased to the point that our tiny but tireless staff are constantly at about ten percent above maximum output.  We do not help the poor enough.  We cut back on our giving to maintain our expectations.  I know a lot of people are looking forward to “when things get better.”
Honestly, this parish near an intersection in Silver Spring is full of faith, life, and desire to please the Lord.  Amazing things happen here; just this week we had a small, matter-of-fact outburst of help to fund scholarships for some families who cannot pay even the small Religious Ed fees.   But are we generous enough?  Are we too anxious to see what we will get out of something before we are willing to put in?  Do I include myself in that examination?  You bet.  Does this affect the spiritual health of the parish as well as the fiscal health?   Truly, no – it affects the spiritual health more.  Else I would have no business asking.
So look at the numbers and rejoice, as well as reflect.  The blessings of the Lord are abundant, and cause for gratitude; all that remains to ask, is that we be more like Him. 

Monsignor Smith

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