In this special parish announcement you will find some crucial information for our parish plans, put out with invitations to participate in the mission of Christ, a mission to respond to our current times and circumstances as faithful Catholic believers. You will also find some major proposals for the parish:
• My proposed changes to weekend Mass times
• A short appeal for financial support of our family programs
• New suggestions for parish donation practices
• A new parish second collection to focus our mission in terms of our parish budget
• A request for prayers in gratitude for those who have served the parish
Please Pray a Novena as we present these thoughts and plans to the Lord. Nine Rosaries are recommended. That is what I shall do for my novena as pastor, but any given novena will be most appreciated and, I’m sure, fruitful.
The Universal laws of the Church (Canon Law) define a parish as “a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor as its proper pastor under the authority of the diocesan bishop” (Can. 515 §1.). In the mind of the Universal Church a parish is not primarily defined as a church building or the location where people attend Sunday Masses or Saturday vigils. In common conversation most people speak as if this is so, but the Catholic Church defines parishes primarily by designating a certain territory that is assigned to a pastor for the care of Catholic people in that territory. Our parish is a piece of Orleans County, Vermont that spans roughly from Westmore to Albany, from Glover to Brownington.
Consolidated parishes having several churches present new challenges. Let us just remember this one thing, Jesus Christ is the true pastor of every Catholic man or woman, regardless of where they live, or which parish’s boundaries they happen to fall into. It may seem sometimes impractical or impossible to work with old parish systems which are limited by so many conditions (and fallible human personalities like our own). It may be hard to accept compromises over so many things which should not be so. But really the only things that should not be so are the sins of human concupiscence. And it cannot be objected that the Good Shepherd works through sinful people to nurture and guide his Church. For the truth has always been that Christ did everything good for the sake of sinners, and He has directed his love personally to you and me.
Thanks and Recognition
I would like to pause here to express thanks and ask for prayers in another way, in gratitude for those who have allowed the parish to persevere in its Gospel mission. There are so many, but two can receive some timely recognition. In gratitude, please pray for the worthy intentions of Judy Coy and Fern Tanguay, for their many years of service to the parish.
Judy has tendered her resignation from the position of Director of Religious Education (DRE) for the parish. She worked consistently and meticulously at this often-thankless job for many years. What does it take to be a DRE? In every age the overseer of volunteer staffed programs must deal with people complaining on the one hand and few offering help on the other. But more often today one must also promote a mission which is slighted by attitudes considering the religious teaching of Catholic truths as a minor necessity for children. Cultural Catholicism sees Catholic Catechesis as a task to be fulfilled to a bare minimum, rather than a major blessing that deserves overabundant support, even for adults. This parish in particular has a hard history to manage. More than $200,000 worth of business is solicited for a parish school, and the parish budget struggles to give more than 5% of the same figure for the Catholic families in CCD. This task is a venture to meet Catholics of varying devotion, if any; this in the desolate territory between parish demands and Diocesan demands; suffering greatly from a shortage of priests, and the appeal of an entertainment culture which wins that majority of competitions for people’s time and affection (been to a little league game lately?). Should one be patient and make every accommodation, or present the Gospel in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion? Those who do all this certainly embrace a cross. In expressing my gratitude here, I also recount various ways that I should have been more supportive as the parish pastor. Redesigning our religious education program is a proposal that has sprung from this reflection. I pray that the merits of Christ will bring the parish to renew all it labors and fruits for the full and complete formation of Catholic children, with consciousness of the need for support of their parents and families.
This summer Fern Tanguay is ending his time as superintendant of St. Theresa’s cemetery in Orleans. Apart from volunteering for the cemetery, he has been involved as a parishioner in many ways: the work of Pre-Cana engagement formation, the project clerk-of-the-works for the 2007 renovation of the parish hall, and also organizer of the hall maintenance and schedule. At the conclusion of his tenure of service to St. Theresa’s Cemetery, I share the following part of a letter which nominated Fern for the Knights of Columbus Anchor Award, which seeks to recognize one Vermonter a year for extraordinary service to God and neighbor: “One of the most notable contributions to [Fern’s] local parish has been his service to the parish cemetery of St. Theresa’s in Orleans. Fern became the volunteer custodian in 1991 and has been dedicated to this as if it were his actual employment. As custodian he has properly arranged and facilitated all the burials, very mindful of the Vermont burial laws, the policies and practices of local funeral homes, and the need to keep the cemetery’s own policies current. His work has been recognized by the Vermont Cemetery Association, and he has led the way by example, not only for the other three cemeteries in the care of Trinity Parish, but also for other cemeteries throughout the state. It is not an exaggeration to say that the financial value to the parish is well beyond the tens of thousands of dollars in the long term estimation of his volunteer labor, and his competent financial administration of the cemetery. This corporal work of mercy, to bury the dead, is in need of more attention these days, as Catholics have lost the perspective on the sacred meaning of Catholic burial rites. Our Catholic cemeteries are a place not only of business, but of consolation, catechesis, and evangelization.” Praying for the dead is an indispensible part of the Catholic faith, without which we lose the full meaning of the Creed when we confess faith in “the communion of saints.” Therefore we hope that such worthy efforts for a parish cemetery are fruitful for the future. The same faith and same creed should connect past, present, and future generations of believers.
Have we Saved Up for Our Children?
St. Paul, as he made a financial appeal for charitable cause in second Corinthians, asserted this opinion as an Apostle; “children should not save up for their parents but parents for their children” (2 Cor. 12:14). Can we save up for our children and do all for our families? With the support of the Finance Council I have intentionally adopted a deficit budget that would allow the parish to invest in our programs of evangelization and catechesis, even if it is not yet fully funded by our annual income. In truth, just a little more from every parishioner would allow all of these programs to be staffed adequately by parish employees. The Parish will be hiring for the jobs of Coordinator (DRE) and Assistant for Evangelization and Catechesis. Parishioners are encouraged to consider this opportunity to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by building up his body within the parish. The anticipated 12 month deficit is not a given. Given the past fiscal year, this could be fully funded with another few dollars for any given collection from parishioners. It may be suggested that every parishioner considers adding an extra $10 a month to a new collection for Catechesis and Evangelization. This collection will replace our monthly collection for the Diocesan Tax and Priest Benefits. For instance, if you gave $5 when this monthly collection came along to assist the tax and priest benefits costs, then when the collection for Catechesis and Evangelization is implemented in its place, a special $15 monthly donation could be made to acknowledge and approve this parish focus. If all parishioners did this, an extra $120 a year, every initiative for the faith of our families would be fully funded. But can we do more?
Let us reconsider the purpose of the Lord’s Day
Choices or changes of weekend Mass times should always highlight Sunday as the parish day, the Catholic family day, the principle day to recommit to the our baptismal vows. A change in Mass times, from where they are now, may be the best thing for the parish and its future. It is my personal recommendation that the Sunday Mass times be moved earlier (possibly as early as 7:45 AM in Irasburg and 9:30 AM in Barton but likely just 8:00 and 10:00), with the Saturday 6:00pm in Barton moving back to 5:30pm running the months of June through September. Why do I propose such sweeping changes in favor of earlier times? Primarily so that a team of parish evangelization staff can be given adequate time to work with our families after Sunday Masses for a family formation program. St. Paul’s School is still a possible location, but I recommend that this new program be undertaken at St. Theresa’s in Orleans, and this would simply not be possible given our current Mass times. If faith formation is no longer squeezed between Sunday Mass times, and there is an open end to the schedule after Sunday Masses, then the greatest freedom and deference can be given to this effort, for the future faith of our children.
I see an additional potential that it might benefit the Sunday life of the parish if the Parish Council could meet Sundays, perhaps with brunch. The proximity to the Sunday Eucharistic celebration can renew the purpose and focus of the council. Here is the main question we must ask: what are we willing to sacrifice to ensure that our own families and children continue to appreciate and practice the Catholic faith? We should feel personally that the Catholic Church has been valuable enough to ourselves that we are willing to go to great lengths to keep its life alive, and instill a deep faith in Christ in all our parish youth. Obviously such great changes need to receive a recommendation from the Parish Council, and allow for an opportunity for the parish at large to make comments for support or concern. Proposals can be entertained at the July 19th Parish Council meeting.
It must be clear that this is a proposed investment in the future through an expansion of the Sunday activities, with a greater staffing commitment for CCD and parish family formation. One option is to adopt the set program simply named “Family Formation,” purchasing a family package for every family that participates on Sunday, and training catechists to use all the components in an enthusiastic once-a-month session. The added costs are exactly the cause of making a new second collection. Both Mass times and the parish budget are considered here. Therefore some information regarding parish collections and donations is pertinent.
Parish Collections and Diocesan Tax
As said before, the second collection for Diocesan Tax and Priest Benefit Fund will be replaced with a parish second collection for Catechesis and Evangelization. This will start in July. The general tax paid to the Catholic Diocese, and the fee for benefits to priests and pastors, will remain an expense for our parish. But this change in collections is meant to communicate that Catechesis and Evangelization are a larger items in terms of parish priorities.
Regarding second collections and Diocesan tax, the parish had implemented several practices over the past years to try to generate local money that “stays with the parish.” Two of these practices were 1) the start of the Diocesan Tax collection and 2) the allowing of offertory donations to be specified as general “donations” as a category for the parish only. These practices will change given the creation of the Catechesis and Evangelization collection. The parish now pays diocesan tax on every parish collection, with the only exception of the second collections for St. Paul’s School. This may amount to an extra $3000 a year paid to the Diocese (not even 2% of the parish budget). For the immediate future the Diocese will, in turn, support any fund, drive, or need submitted by the parish, up to $5000 a year. Additionally, our parish goal for the Bishop’s Fund has been reduced at least for one year while new budget considerations are underway.
Those who wish to support needs of the parish through donations which will not be taxed with Sunday Mass collections may deliver donations to the parish office through mail, or in-person or at the office. If donations for special parish-only causes are put in the Mass collection baskets, they should be in an envelope labeled with the pastor’s name, with a note as to their purpose. This is a particularly good way to sponsor one-time-only events which are promoted during Sunday Masses, or the many other causes in the parish that have no collection associated with them. The parish has budget lines to take donations for many things, including, Christmas and Easter Flowers, Youth Events and Sponsorships, Catholic Books/CDs which are to be given out for free, Fundraisers, Parish Charity Programs, Maintenance Fund, or any gifts in memory of the deceased.
Last of all, let me end this special announcement with some timely updates.
St. Paul’s Catholic School
We are overwhelmed in gratitude with the support which has been shown this year. Continued expressions of that gratitude in the next year will surely open us up to more blessings. Enrollment will remain steady around 70 students for the next year. Along the same lines as the proposal to make Sunday a focus on families, the faith of the families in the school is the top priority.
St. John of the Cross Church
No general permission has been given for ongoing use of the church building in East Albany. The current status is that permission for sacraments may be granted only on a case-by-case basis by the vicar general of the Diocese. There are no current plans either for the sale of the building or reestablishment of regular services. The parishes of the Diocese are all experiencing pressure to keep their buildings in shape and distribute appropriate workloads upon their priests. Thus, while the sale of the church is not a necessity for Most Holy Trinity Parish at this time, and I have said we could use the church, no extended commitments are being made.
The Clock Fund has almost reached 50% of the estimated cost to repair and automate the clockworks in St. Paul’s Church. This is enough for us to start moving forward with the project according to our Diocesan guidelines. The Gift of Time campaign will continue with plaques for those religious honored in the project, and the remembrances of major donors. Do you remember any religious sisters who taught catechism in the parish, or were your teacher in St. Paul’s School? Please use the remaining forms in the churches to help us accumulate a list of religious who served in Barton, Orleans, Irasburg, or East Albany. I suggest a mere $5 donation, unless a donation to the campaign was already made. The names of the sisters will be most appreciated.
At the end of this special announcement I would like to give you the Scripture of Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Again, please pray a Novena as we present these thoughts and plans to the Lord. Nine Rosaries are recommended. May the Lord Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead and gives to us eternal life, bless you and keep you forever.
Sincerely, in Christ and His Blessed Mother Mary,
Fr. Timothy Naples