Good afternoon – as Fr Bob said, my name is Dan O’Connell and I have been a member of St Kateri parish since my wife Jenny and I and our 3 kids moved to the area about 15 years ago. I have had the privilege to be a part of a number of ministries thru St Kateri in my time as a parishioner, the most notable I suppose is the role I had as head of the OLF pastoral council during the time of the merger between St Helen’s and OLF – it was a time of great change for both parishes but the experience allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for just how special both parishes – and now our merged parish is – both as a community of faith and as a community of service.
This past summer, Fr Bob asked me to take on a new role, that of heading our Admin and Finance Council. The Council has the responsibility to advise Fr Bob on all matters related to the sustainable functioning and long term financial health of the parish. If you have ever sat around your kitchen table w family and talked about how to pay bills or how to set your household budget, you have a pretty good sense of what the role of the Council is, but on a grander scale and with more complexity. Fortunately for me, the parish is blessed to have very talented, devoted and experienced people serving w me on the Council, who have the task of balancing the cold, hard realities of finance with sensitivity and purpose to fulfilling the parish’s mission as we deliberate on matters central to serving you and the surrounding community in all the parish’s works of faith. Likewise, St Kateri is so fortunate to have bright, talented and dedicated staff who have elected to shun a better payday to make their faith and their commitment to others their daily vocation. With all these people to lean on it was easy for me to accept Fr Bob’s request to serve on the council, and it is my role on the Council which brings me before you today.
The merger of our 2 parishes is now more than 6 years in the making. And though there was some anxiety and uncertainty about what the merger would bring I think you would agree with me that the merger has been a success by many measures. From my perspective, I see a vibrant faith community that has benefited from the combining of our resources as well as the melding of our talents, interests and perspectives. The parish truly accomplishes so much in serving so many. For many of us, St Kateri is what you experience every Sunday at weekly mass. I know I leave mass enriched by Fr Bob’s message, by the greetings of friends and acquaintances I see, by the smiling faces of parishioners I see engaged in welcoming conversation with others. In my new role I have come to better appreciate the parish as being so much more, to so many, and today, as Fr Bob did last week in enlightening us about fulfilling our faith commitment thru our wonderful school, I want to spend a few minutes sharing with you just how much the parish means to others beyond Sunday mass – and how we are able to sustain all of these works of faith.
As the finance guy, you might expect me to share a bunch of numbers with you, and I’m well armed to do just that. But before you head to the exits, let me assure you that it is not my intention to to read thru a budget statement or a balance sheet. The numbers I’d like to share with you focus more on what and how much we do as a parish – which is the reason why we do indeed create budgets and maintain income statements.
- The first number is 2,400 – that is the number of registered families in the parish, representing around 7,000 individuals – that’s larger than the town I grew up in
- Out of this population about 1,000 people attend mass weekly
- The number 9 represents the number of paid staff who run most of the programs we rely upon as members of the parish, not including the 40 staff and faculty who devote their careers to serving the students and parents of our school
- The school is not our only ministry – today we support approx 82 distinct ministries, which serve the needs of literally thousands of parishioners and the surrounding community, among these ministries are SICM, Bethesda House, Salvation Army Soup Kitchen, Bereavement Grp, Music, Eucharistic ministers, etc
- Serving the youth of our parish is a significant part of our ministerial work – beyond the 225 students enrolled in our school, we have nearly 500 young people from K-10th grade enrolled in either our FF or YM programs (over 700)
- The number 8 is significant as that represents the number of distinct building structures between both worship sites we use and maintain year round. It is privilege to have these space resources, especially when performing all of the parishes varied ministries
You see, numbers are just as important in telling the story of our mission as they are our financial health. So how are we doing financially as a parish? It may astound you to learn that St Kateri has a bigger annual budget than most small businesses in the area. Between the running of the school and the parish, it takes an annual budget of nearly $2.6M to maintain all of the daily activities and needs of the parish. It is even more astounding to think that we are able to meet this annual budget with nearly 100% support from you all sitting in front of me.
Although most observers would conclude that St Kateri is in good financial shape, over the past few years we have been witnessing a few concerning trends in our financial picture which we would like to address before they become more serious.
Regarding registered parishioners – yes, we are growing modestly, but with that comes a larger need for services, more wear and tear on facilities – more wear and tear on Fr Bob. And despite the modest increase in registered parishioners, our mass attendance is trending flat to slightly decreasing. This is important to us for several reasons, but from a finance perspective, it means that fewer people will be here to add to our offertory. Nearly 90% of our weekly giving comes from collected offertory during mass
Our ECEC has a waiting list of kids to enroll, and our enrollment at the school has stabilized after a few years of decline, but needs based tuition for our K-5 students is also increasing. Our financial support for the school in the form of tuition assistance makes it possible for the parish to provide many of these kids with a unique learning experience rooted in the catholic faith that would otherwise be unreachable for them or their parents. Student tuition assistance is largely subsidized by the parish, not the diocese as some may think. This places an obvious strain on our finances.
Cost increases are not unique to the school – over time, as we have grown as a parish, we’ve also needed to increase our spending to maintain all of the operational and capital needs of the 2 worship sites so that our parish can continue its mission-critical services to our congregation. I mentioned earlier that we have a bounty of physical resources in the form of building space spread across both worship sites. Not to overstate the obvious, but in order to keep these buildings safe and operating efficiently, they need to be heated, cooled, cleaned and require more significant capital expenditures when pipes or roofs leak, boilers fail, carpets wear out, sound systems falter, etc. Over time, our space needs may change, but for now we seem to need the space we have to meet usage demand.
As I have already alluded, one important way we sustain ourselves financially is through offertory, and while many parishes would be envious of the generosity of our congregants, we have seen a slight drop off in collections over the past year, despite an increase in registered parishioners. In fact our offertory collections – which represent the overwhelming source of revenue for the parish, is down 7% from last year. This has required us to spend down a significant portion of our savings to meet planned and unplanned expenses, some of which I noted earlier.
So after hearing all of this you may be wondering – what is my overall message to you?
- We are a vibrant community doing great things to fulfill the mission of our faith to our growing congregation and beyond
- While we are meeting our current financial obligations to support the parish and its many programs, we need to address the decline in offertory and replenish the savings we have expended to meet budget gaps over the past year or two
- We are working to better discern how we continue to thrive as a faith community with ever-increasing expenses as a fully member-supported parish
- We will be putting a good deal of energy and effort into coming up with ways to ensure the parish is financially sustainable and look to you as members of this community to continue your support of the vital mission we serve in our broader community
- And I ask those of you who are looking to help in special ways to support the great works of the parish to seek out Fr Bob, Larry Grimmer our Parish Manager, Tosha Grimmer or school principal, other staff and leaders of programs and talk to them about how you can lend support
When I was a kid growing up in St Peters parish in Utica, NY, we relied on Fr O’Brien, Sr Honora and a convent full of nuns to run the parish and the school I attended. Today, as we all know, we are living in a new era, and as the saying goes, it really does take a village to serve the disparate needs of so many, and I am personally grateful to Fr Bob and the parish for all it has done to fulfill the spiritual and other needs of my family over the past 15 years. I’m sure you are as well.
Finally, you will be hearing more about the state of the parish over the course of the year. In 2019 it is my goal to help Fr Bob and the staff make good financial decisions on behalf of the parish and its mission and I invite others to join me in this important cause.
Thank you for your time and may God’s blessings be upon you.