As I sit here at my desk in the rectory, I hear two things: telephone conversations, and keyboards clacking. Both can have to do with almost any aspect of parish life. The telephone makes possible all the conversations that we need to understand what folks need, and let them understand what we are doing. And the keyboards help us input a never-ending stream of data. This too helps us understand what people need, and what we need to do or make or get in order to provide it.
The Church has always, and will always, require written documents for certain things. Baptismal registers, for example, will always be pen on paper – in big, impressive books that we keep forever. All of the documents assembled for each wedding that occurs are kept, physically and safely. Official petitions, credentials, and testimonials, similarly, must be on paper. Email will not suffice. A word, spoken in person or over the telephone, will not suffice.
But that does not mean that the Church does not recognize the value of other means of communication and data collection and storage. For decades, in addition to our files of parish registration cards, we have kept electronic records of all parish members and families.
Unfortunately, we have had the same database system for those multiple decades. It is not just old, but antique! It is slow, cumbersome, and limited.
Finally, after years of promise and possibility, we are implementing a new electronic database for parishioner information. After several efforts by the Archdiocese, we have finally settled on a system and provider. We converted to the matching financial database system last year, and it is going great. Even as I write this, the new provider has our entire database is converting it to the new system.
The rectory staff has undergone training for the new program; that was why nobody was in the rectory offices for two days last week. There was an awkward frustration on Monday when it was not possible to enter the weekend contributions into the system, because, well, there is no system quite yet.
You see, one of the things that takes the time and care of a number of people is carefully recording every gift and offering the parish receives. You see that on some weekends we have two collections. You also know there are other envelopes – flowers, education fund, etc. Beyond that range of possibilities, parishioners and guests can and do designate their gifts to any collection, fund, or use they wish, sometimes even splitting up a single check toward different ends. Every such designation is carefully noted and respected.
And of course, every gift is carefully attributed and acknowledged. After our fearless counters have tallied and noted and attributed everything that we receive, that takes a lot of keystrokes!
We try to keep our records as accurate and current as humanly possible. Our new database system will make it easier and faster to maintain the records of every parishioner and family, including sacraments received and new members welcomed. Once the program is installed, that will mean more keystrokes!
Add that to the clatter of bills received and paid, payroll, tuition paid and aid given, census reports submitted, reports prepared, and even the occasional real letter, that will make for a lot of typing. Listen for the clack of keyboards in the background the next time you call the rectory.Monsignor Smith