My Dear Friends,
Here is a column that I meant to share with you back in March, but then the pandemic hit, and pretty much everything, except the Gospel, took a back seat to the virus.
A few years ago, Father Davis presented the community with a plan to build a handicap entrance with a driveway on the north side of the church. It was a beautifully conceived plan that was warmly received by the parish, and many parishioners donated to the construction of this entrance. We raised around $50,000 towards this worthy endeavor, and he briefed me on its progress when I took the helm of the parish 15 months ago. During my first six months as pastor, I received frequent updates on the progress or lack of progress when it came to this project. Last December, I was told that government entity in our city (in the interest of charity I am withholding the name of the entity) had objections to the architectural plans that had been submitted. A “compromise” was struck between the three government entities charged with helping us with this project and the result was…not what my predecessor had envisioned and definitely not what our parishioners had generously given their donations towards.
What was envisioned and what was presented to all of you was a beautiful side driveway on the north side of the church that would blend in with the landscaping and architectural beauty of our historic church. This would allow our disabled parishioners to be dropped off mere steps from the north door and make our church more handicap friendly. The compromise that we were presented with was carving out the equivalent of three parking spaces along the swale just east of the north door and along Sevilla Avenue. This would not have been a driveway for the disabled and would have turned into an extra three parking spaces. After finding no other recourse in getting closer to the vision that Father Davis had and after consulting with the parish staff, the parish council, and Father Davis himself who began this noble crusade, it was decided to abandon this project. It was not a decision that was taken lightly especially because so many of you donated to this cause.
Because we have been preoccupied with the pandemic, no one has asked me about this project, and I do not blame you if you have forgotten about it or assumed that it had been abandoned. I for one did not forget, and because I consider sacred every penny that you give to your parish, I felt obliged to pass along this news. In the gospel, our Lord saw the sacrifice the poor widow made in the temple and found it worthy. This is how I see every offering you make to the church whether it be in the collection basket, through online giving, or by simply mailing your envelopes in as so many of you have been doing during these last six months. I thank you for your extreme generosity.
I like to be transparent when it comes to the finances of the parish, and no, it is not something I like to dedicate much ink to in this space or much time from the pulpit because I was ordained to preach the gospel and “woe to me” if I don’t preach it. However, this is your parish and you rightly deserve to know where your sacrificial offerings go. Yes, we lost a lot of income during the lockdown when the church was closed, but thanks to the ingenuity of some parishioners a campaign initiated by our ministries helped more than double our online giving. In a short time, my parishioners already knew that their pastor was more concerned about loss of attendance at Mass than the loss of income in the collection baskets. God always provides. The loss of income was offset by the PPP loan giving by the government to small businesses to help pay our employees’ salaries who sacrifice so much for our parish. Because of your generosity, our priests could focus on solely proclaiming the gospel during these difficult times instead of worrying on how to keep the lights on and how to pay for repairs to our aging buildings. Yes, repairs on our buildings are quite expensive, but thankfully we have been covered by your donations the last six months. Covid related expenses such as the disinfectant measures we take after Masses, and the cameras and software we have bought to broadcast our Masses to those who can’t physically join us are going to be reimbursed by FEMA down the line.
I am a priest. I do not like to ask for money. I was ordained to preach the gospel and to administer the sacraments. Yes, one of my tasks as pastor is to administer the temporal goods of our parish and to “keep the lights on.” But in the two previous parishes that I was blessed to administer as pastor and here in my current home, I have always run my parishes with the very simple philosophy: preach the gospel passionately and God will take care of the rest. Aside from ABCD weekend which I do out of necessity and obedience, you will rarely here my speak from the pulpit about financial matters. That time my brother priests and I have up there every Sunday is too precious, and souls are literally at stake. The message of the gospel is too urgent, and the times we live in require passionate preaching about the crucified Christ. This is what you will hear from the pulpit. God will take care of the rest.
God bless you all,