The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is impacting the financial health of Catholic parishes as much as that of individuals and families.
But thanks to a program of the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia, parish leaders are reaching out to ask members to help their churches in this time of need.
The foundation’s Parish Stewardship Renewal Program launched last fall and offered a plan for every parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that have seen significant declines in weekly offertory collections since the pandemic began curtailing or even ceasing attendance at weekly Mass since last March.
The program offered a plan of “customized and individualized offertory restoration and enhancement” for parishes, according to the foundation’s website.
Restoration tries to recover diminished collection revenues, while enhancement focuses on “raising the sights of (a parish’s) current offertory through an offertory enhancement program,” according to the site.
Initially 25 parishes participated in the program, and each was given a donor solicitation strategy tailored to their community.
Those parishes raised $1.5 million in total since the fall, according to the foundation, which waived the costs of its staff time to assist the parishes.
In Philadelphia the parishes include St. Agatha-St. James, and its Newman Center, St. Helena, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Timothy, Our Mother of Consolation, Holy Cross, Holy Family, St. Martha and St. Francis de Sales.
In the suburbs: Mother of Divine Providence, King of Prussia; St. Kevin and Holy Cross, Springfield, Delaware County; St. Charles Borromeo, Drexel Hill; Sacred Heart, Clifton Heights; St. Teresa of Calcutta, Limerick; St. Joseph and Presentation B.V.M., Cheltenham, St. Katharine Drexel, Chester; Holy Martyrs, Oreland; St. Laurence, Upper Darby; St. Mary if the Assumption, Phoenixville; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Doylestown; St. Katharine of Siena, Wayne; and St. Thomas Aquinas, Croydon.
“Parishes are increasingly aware of the (financial) challenges their parishioners are facing,” said CFGP program coordinator Emily Gambino. At the same time, members “want to know how they can help” their parish.
Expenses don’t stop coming in at one’s home, “and they don’t stop at the parish,” she said, pointing to such unexpected parish costs as sanitizing the church after every Mass and livestreaming video of Masses for parishioners who are unable or uncomfortable coming to church.
“Pastors know that now might not be the time” to ask parishioners for help, but “people need to hear what the (parish’s) needs are.”
And as the 25 parishes above can attest, people are willing to make an extra gift when the parish’s needs are explained.
All other parishes in the archdiocese have until Feb. 1 to join the spring phase of the Stewardship Renewal Program. More details are at the foundation’s website, theCFGP.org, or via Emily Gambino at firstname.lastname@example.org
The parish program is one of three responses to the COVID crisis that the foundation introduced since last spring, including the Emergency Relief Fund and Parish Support Initiative, which collectively have raised almost $2 million.
Gambino said that although most parishes “can dip into savings for immediate needs,” reserves become depleted quickly. She recommended that parishioners not put off making a donation to their parish “in the here and now” for today’s or future needs.
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