February 8, 2023 Column Father De Celles

PARISH FINANCES (continued from last week)
“President Biden to end COVID-19 emergencies.” That’s what the
headline last week said. I hate to break it to the President, but most of us thought
the Covid emergency ended over a year ago. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be
concerned about the virus, but not in the “panic mode” emergencies bring with
Some people may feel the need to wear masks and take extra precautions.
But most of the fear and anxiety should be behind us now. And almost everyone
has adjusted back to more or less “normal,” that is to say “pre-covid,” behavior.
One noticeable exception to this is found in parish life. The
recent October Mass attendance count showed that Mass attendance throughout
the Diocese is down 21% from 2019, or pre-Covid. Our own parish count
showed our attendance still down 41%–twice the average of the Diocese.
Now, since Advent I’ve sensed the numbers increasing, but it’s hard to say.
I’ll probably do another count one Sunday in the near future. But in any case, the
numbers are way down.
There are many reasons for this. Some are still afraid to come to Mass
because of Covid (some of this may be legitimate considering individual or family
health issues; I don’t question this); some have just found it “easier” to watch
Mass from home; some have just found it hard to get back into the habit; some
have just become lazy; some have discovered that going to Mass isn’t as
important to them anymore; and some have simply lost their faith.
Well, it’s well past time to put all that behind us. Americans needs to get
back to living and working, and Catholics—especially Peñafortans (I just coined
that)—have to get back to participating in parish life and coming to Mass.
So, no more excuses, my children. Unless you have a strong medical
reason you need to come back to Mass. And you need to remind your friends
and family to do the same.
In imitation of Christ, the Good Shepherd, I go searching for my lost sheep.
And as Scripture tells us, “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens
everyone he accepts as his son.”
Side Effects of Covid. Besides a drop in attendance, another side effect
of Covid on parish life is a large drop in total regular contributions/donations
(e.g., Sunday Offertory, Long Term Maintenance, other unrestricted donations).
For the first six months of the current year, through December 31, 2022, this
amount is down $72,555, or 7.6%, from the same six months ended December
31, 2019 (last period before Covid).
Now, there’s some good news in that. Consider that attendance is down
41% or so, but regular contributions/donations are only down 7.6%. This tells us
one of two things, or a combination of both: 1) some people are not coming to
Mass but are still giving (Great! Thanks!), and/or 2) most of our regular givers are
the folks who are more dedicated to coming the Mass every Sunday.

But there’s another problem: since December 2019 inflation has risen by
15.5%. And when you apply that factor to regular contributions/donations for the
six months ended December 2019, and compare that number to the 2022
number, we find that in “real economic terms” the 7.6% decline is really 20%.
But again, 41% decline in attendance versus 20% decline in regular
contributions/donations isn’t bad.
Unless parish expenses return to pre-Covid levels, or increase from pre-
Covid levels by 15.5% inflation! And they have: we’re 100% open to pre-Covid
levels, and whether we have 500 or 300 people at a Mass, 300 or 200 kids in
CCD, costs (e.g., utilities, salaries, maintenance) remain relatively fixed, except
for that nasty 15.5% inflation!
So, with giving down and expenses up, we are on track to run the first
deficit in years—and a large one. And there are only two conclusions I can reach:
either I just spend from our savings, or parishioners must increase their
Now, I know that many of you are giving the best you can. And I know that
the same inflation that has hit the parish budget has hit your personal budget.
And I know that some of you have redirected donations from the parish to pay for
Catholic school or Homeschooling (with my approval). And I know that some of
you have had huge financial/economic setbacks due to Covid. And I know that
some of our loss in revenue is due to the 41% who aren’t coming.
I appreciate all that, and you know I hate asking for money, it really pains
me. It’s your money and you worked hard for it and you need a lot to keep
your family going, safe, fed, housed, and educated.
But here are some things I’m going to ask you to consider and pray
1. Have you kept your donation what it was before Covid to the extent
honestly possible (maybe you temporarily reduced it during Covid)?
2. Have you increased your donation since 2019 to account for inflation?
—all your other costs are up, is your contribution to St. Raymond’s up?
3. Were you really giving what you should or could even before Covid?
Actually, there is a third conclusion I could reach: I can cut back on
expenses. But I think that would be cutting meat, not fat. I mean, which expenses
do you think I should cut back on? Which of the staff should I lay off (salaries and
benefits compose about 40% of our total expenses)? Should I ask the Bishop not
to send me a Vicar (that will be an additional $40,000 in salary and benefits we
don’t have right now!)? Should I not repair the HVAC this year (I can save
$60,000 if I hold back on one major project right now!), or cut back on cleaning
expenditures, or Youth Group activities, or emergency family assistance?
Although these questions are a bit tongue-in-cheek, they are real worse-
case possibilities, and I’m open to suggestions, charitably and thoughtfully

Please take some time to think and pray about this. And then please
be as generous as you can be—beginning as soon as you can. I trust you
will make the right and charitable decision.
Bishop’s Lenten Appeal. And then there’s that. The Bishop still needs to
send future priests to seminary, fund the priests’ retirement, and purchase land
for new parishes, etc. etc. Last year we missed the goal set for us—we tied for 3 rd
place in lowest (“worst”) percentage of our goal among all 70 parishes. I wasn’t
worried about that because the Diocesan Office of Development set an
unreasonably high goal: our parish offertory sharply declined in 2021, but they
increased our goal in 2022 even over our 2020 (pre-Covid) goal! This year, after
discussion with the Bishop, our goal has decreased by 8.1% from last year and
even 5.4% less than 2020 to a more reasonable $280,000.
I know, I know: all I talk about is money. Not true, and you know it.
Please be as generous as you can. And God bless you.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles