December 2, 2023 Column Father De Celles

Advent. Today we begin the Season of Advent, 4 weeks preparing for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Actually, this year we celebrate the shortest possible Advent: 3 weeks and 1 day, as the 4th Sunday of Advent falls on Christmas Eve so there is only 1 day in the 4th week. Hmm.

                   This is a most wonderful time of the year, but I exhort you not to let yourself be overwhelmed by the hype of the world around us that ignores Advent and all its spiritual meaning and turns this season of preparation into a pre-mature and secularized Christmas celebration. Advent must remain for us a season of preparation for celebration. We need to spend time thinking and praying about the reason we celebrate Christmas with such joy: that we are sinners, but that God has not left us in our sins, loving us so much that He entered the world as a tiny baby so he could truly be one of us, and communicate that love so dramatically, person to person, and eventually to pay for our sins on the Cross. So that the preparation of Advent must be a time of remembering our sins and opening ourselves and our whole lives to the love of Christ. It is only with this sort of preparation that we can begin to understand and experience the true joy of this most magnificent gift.

Now, this joy should build in us throughout our preparation: as we become more prepared, we become more and more joyful. So that there is nothing wrong if even in the midst of the penance and prayer of Advent we also increasingly partake of the joy of Advent. But don’t confuse the Advent joy of Christ with the merely sentimental feelings of the secular “yuletide” season.

So let this be a season rooted in preparation, first by doing penance, not with the severity of Lent, but doing some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more important than Christ. Also, add extra prayers to your daily routine, for example the Rosary, especially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries. Or reading Scripture, (perhaps challenge yourself to choose one of the Gospels and read at least one chapter a day throughout Advent). And of course, receiving the grace of the sacraments, by going to Mass, Adoration and Confession.

Charitable giving is another great way to prepare for the gift of the Baby Jesus. Try to make generous charitable gifts, according to your means, either directly to those in need or to worthy charitable projects/institutions. The parish Giving Tree is one good way to do this, as are some of the special collections (e.g., for Catholic Charities and the Our Lady of Ransom Scholarship Fund).

Most importantly, make every day about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, especially by keeping the Commandments and the Beatitudes.

Parish Advent Schedule. To help you with all of this, the parish offers many special events and liturgies during Advent. Please find the insert of the Schedule of “Advent & Christmas 2023 Events” in this bulletin. Three parish “special events” I’d like to call your attention to in particular are:

Lessons and Carols. I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir on Sunday, December 10th at 7pm for “Lessons & Carols,” our wonderful program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings. By weaving together prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, the readers lay out God’s breathtaking plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular hymns and spreading their vocal wings in a few more complicated choral pieces. And afterwards there will be an opportunity for joyful fellowship at a brief reception (with delicious seasonal refreshments). Please join us.

Friday Adoration and Holy Hour. Please join us each of the 3 Fridays of Advent from 7pm to 8pm, for our Advent Holy Hour of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We’ll begin with Exposition, then Fr. Bergida will give a short(ish) talk, followed by some quiet prayer time, and then Benediction. This year Fr. Bergida’s topic is “The Mystery of the Church in the Incarnation and Nativity”.

Extra Confessions. We have confessions every day during Advent. You need to come.

Immaculate Conception. This Friday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Remember, this is a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning you are required to go to Mass just like a Sunday. But why wouldn’t you want to come to Mass on this great feast day, which celebrates the conception of Mary, free from original sin, in her mother’s womb?

We have a special schedule of Masses including noon and 6pm (this is different!!). Note: unlike most evening Masses this evening Mass is NOT at 7pm: we moved it so that immediately after the 6pm Mass we can begin our 7pm Friday Advent Holy Hour.

Parish Finances. Please find the Finance Report for the fiscal year ended (FYE) June 30, 2023 (6/23), inserted in this bulletin. We’ve included a 5-year comparison, to show the changes from pre-Covid (FYE-6/19) to now.

Operating Income was $2,309,154.16, up $83,036 (or 3.7%) from FYE-6/22 and, for the first time in 4 years, slightly above pre-Covid FYE-6/19 levels. Operating Expenses were $2,303,342.96, up $265,850 (or 13%) from FYE-6/22 and up $433,705 (23.2%) from FYE-6/19.

That left us a Net Operating Income of only $5,811 down $182,815 from FYE-6/21 and down $382,446 from FYE-6/19.

Although overall Operating Income is up since 6/19, Offertory and Donation (unrestricted) Income has declined since the COVID Shutdown, down $212,000 or 14% since FYE-6/19. This has been offset by a large increase in scholarship donations, but these donations may not be used for general operations of the parish.

The increase in Operating Expenses over 6/22 is primarily due to a large increase in scholarships paid (due mainly to timing of payments between the 2 years, not to an overall increase in costs), increase in activities post-Covid, and large HVAC upgrading expenses (the HVAC system is 16 years old and we have expected and saved for this). The increase over 6/19 is due to inflation, HVAC, and the addition of the Our Lady of Scholarship expenses in 6/21.

In the last two years we have had two large sources of Extraordinary Income and this year we had none. This left us with a Net Loss (the bottom line) of $11,576.80.

Bottom line on income: we need to get our offertory up, which is proving difficult with a 30% decline in post-Covid attendance.

On the Balance Sheet side of things, we had Cash of $227,403 in checking and $1,976,580 in savings, $238,691 of which is “restricted,” i.e., dedicated to paying for Long-Term Maintenance or “extraordinary objectives.” This is excellent.

Please feel free to contact me or Maerose Naduvilekunnel in the parish office with any questions about the report.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles