My Dear St. Mary’s Family,
I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to those that came last week to attend our State of the Parish. Many of you had sent notes and emails letting us know that you could not join us, and we missed your presence at our gathering on February 4th.
The purpose of this evening was to share, as transparently as possible, the attendance and financial health of our parish community, as this has been strained due to recent events. Due to its delicate nature, I preferred to share this with you in a more open setting and in person.
I have received much feedback on the evening, both positive and negative, which has guided me as your Pastor in formulating my review, thoughts and clarification to follow.
Let me first comment that our diocesan assessments have been suspended until further notice. We reached out directly to the Diocese of Buffalo in September, explaining that we anticipated an attendance and financial fallout as a result of our crisis. This was approved by the Diocese in a formal response. I do want to make this point clear; we are not holding assessments in a protest against the Diocese. The relationship between a parish and a diocese is critical to the benefit of the parish community and we are a diocesan parish and will stay as such. We do plan on revisiting payments on our assessments as soon as we are financially healthy.
The financials shared that evening indicated a decline in our attendance and giving to the parish that has translated into a deficit of $93,185 from June 2018 to December 2018. Should this trend continue; we would be looking at a significantly restructured parish/school community as early as September of 2019. I was not looking forward in having to make those difficult choices on our ministries and programs here at St. Mary’s, as I know how important they all are and they demonstrate who we are as a parish community. As your Pastor, I wanted this information to you as soon as possible.
In sharing this news, I had hoped to appeal to those of you whom I know have either reduced your giving, and or stopped giving to St. Mary’s in protest against the Diocese. I suggested that it was possible to donate to a specific line item expense. In reviewing this, I now stand corrected from an accounting perspective of this parish and I am sorry for any misrepresentation of the facts.
Clarifying now with you, that weekly contributions cannot be specifically designated to a particular expense/department. This would be extremely difficult to execute from an accounting perspective and ultimately, could create financial hardship as well with an imbalance as to where we might have money to pay the gas bill, but not a teacher’s salary. We work very hard to make the most out of every dollar you donate and support all buildings on our campus as needs arise equally. We would ask for your trust as stewards of your money here at St. Mary’s, to best balance our campus financials allowing all departments to thrive.
Just as important, was a discussion that evening, regarding how best to reach out to the many family and friends that have left our parish family. The Gospel calls us to be instruments of healing, forgiveness and peace. Without forgiveness, and a desire to live the Gospel, not just in word but in deed, it is impossible to build the Kingdom of God.
As we look forward to the wonderful season of Lent, a season devoted to redemption and healing, Jesus may just be inviting us to experience the best Lent of our lives. If we are to truly heal as individuals and as our parish family of St. Mary’s, we must open our hearts to forgive one another. The old saying is “it takes a village”. Collectively, if we can all work to bring our family back together, we are doing Christ’s work and will see the fruitful rewards of our labor.
I look forward to more conversations with you; humbly I remain your servant in Christ,
Father Bob Zilliox