A reflection on the state of the Church, global and local: A homily for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

_4204527I’ve been thinking for some time that today would be the day to do the annual “state of the parish” address.  How fitting is our Gospel.  Today we hear from Jesus speak about these singular words: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”  Everything that we Catholics should be doing, everything we should be about as Catholics, flows from the Eucharist and goes back to it.  The Eucharist–which is Jesus–is our source, our summit, our very life.

Given the events fo the past week, I want to offer a reflection or two on the state of the larger Church before I talk about our parish.  Here’s some good news about our Catholic Church:

  • 1.3 billion strong
  • 225,000 parishes in the world
  • in last 9 years, # Catholics worldwide went up 17.8% while the # of global population went up 17.3%.  We’re growing at a faster rate proportional to the global increase
  • We are a great force of good and love
    • 140,000 catholic schools in the world
    • 10,000 orphanages
    • 5000 hospitals
    • 16000 health clinics
    • numerous food pantries
    • Catholic charities provides services to millions every year–disaster relief, housing, healthcare
  • We have the sacraments, life of prayer, good priests, good seminarians

We should be proud to be Catholic!

That being said, we have learned in recent days the truth of what some corrupted clerics have done in PA and elsewhere.  It is profoundly disturbing.  We have seen the fracture of the body of Christ the Church, which so many of us love so much and for which I gave up my life.  There are so many broken lives, so much pain and anger, and all of this has given way to deep grief.  It is no use dragging up statistics to show that the problem is much more widespread in other institutions and circles; people expect more from the Church and they should.  There has been a major failure here.  I have always wanted to believe that man is rational and civilized, that every priest and certainly every bishop is as good and holy as my childhood priest Fr. Charlie Chesebrough and my spiritual director Fr. Joe Moriarty and some of the other holy priests I know.  My very priesthood, maybe my whole life of faith, I have rested upon this hope.  I’m afraid that, with you, I have been let down.  And there are no words to describe the anger and sadness in my heart.

The archbishop of Denver notes that, “at its root, this is a spiritual crisis.”  What has seeped into our Church, sadly, is the diseased idea that you can do whatever you want and it’s okay.  This is the root of more local problems in the Church as well.  The faith binds us to a certain way of life. Many have made peace in failing at this. The abuse problem requires a fix and I’m sure Pope Francis will make it.  What we can do ourselves is 1) pray in reparation for these awful sins, 2) be careful to safeguard children everywhere, and 3) we must be as holy as we can be on our local level (as families and as a parish), and that increase in holiness will spread to the rest of the Church and have an incredible effect. We must strive to know our faith more and to love it more.

Let’s talk, then, about the state of our parish and how we’re doing at that goal.  Let’s start with the financials. We will mail out a copy this week, together with some additional information.  I am pleased to announce that:

  • Collections are up.  This past fiscal year collections totaled $805,000. Compare that to the prior year’s (2016/17) $737,000.  We had budgeted for $750,000.  This means that we beat last year by $68,000 and we beat the budgeted amount by $55,000.
  • Fundraisers are up.  This past fiscal fundraising revenues were $149,000.  Compare that to the prior year’s $85,000.  We had budgeted $71,500.  We beat last year by $64,000 and we beat the budget by $77,500.
  • Overall, we ended the year with a surplus of $53,188.13.  This is important news. For many years, the parish had ended with a deficit and turned to savings to balance the budget.  We thankfully did not need to do that this year.
  • The weekly collection need remains $14,200, the same as last year.  I am thankful to those who worked so hard with me on this budget.  I am happy this number is the same.
  • I am very German. That means I’m cheap. We are very careful with how we spend money here and do not take contributions for granted.
  • Thank you for your generosity.  Truly, thank you.

Of course, money is only important inasmuch as it enables ministry, inasmuch as it enables us to be the hands and heart of Jesus in Shelbyville.  God doesn’t say money is evil; he says the love of money is evil.  St. Joe’s is not here to get rich; we are here to be Jesus–to feed, to teach, to heal, to shelter, to evangelize, to love–and that takes money.

Our contributions have enabled us to:

  • Increase our ministry of charity:  Together with SV, we have built a Habitat for Humanity house, gone on a mission trip, and started a St Vincent de Paul Society that has 78 volunteers and has helped 137 people already.
  • Increase our faith formation programming:  We started a youth group, we did lots of trips with youth, we’ve made improvements in the school, we started Family Faith Formation, we’ve had book studies and bible studies, we’ve invested in FORMED, we’ve had retreats, we had a big RCIA class.
  • Hire much-needed staff: We hired a music director in September, a youth minister and parish catechetical leader, we’ve got a Spanish teacher and a counselor in the school.
  • Undertake capital improvements:
    • renovation of the old REP building and offices moved there
    • rectory returned to its original location
    • we tore down some more houses and converted the entire field to green space.  Finally, after 150 years, the kids have a playground!
    • new carpet in several school classrooms
    • new Blessed Mother Shrine out front
    • the principal’s office was refurbished
    • school hallways, stairwells and classrooms were repainted
    • PTO room converted into a youth room, refurbished
    • new basketball court and goals
    • new windows in the sacristy, school classrooms, youth room, and hallways
    • new ceilings and lights in several school rooms
  • Here I add a new surprise blessing:  We have purchased the three properties on Pike Street next to the oil change place. Soon we will demolish those homes and expand our green space.  As I’m sure you understand, it was necessary to keep this quiet until the purchase was official, which just happened on Monday.  This will allow us one day to move forward with some version of the plans that were put together for the Master plan before I arrived.

All of that has happened because of our generosity.  I can’t say thank you enough! 

A lot of things don’t show up on a financial report

  • Sacramental numbers up:  54 baptisms, 41 first communions, 18 confirmations, 9 weddings
  • 36 new families
  • RCIA was biggest class in several years
  • James Velez has been accepted into the deacon formation program
  • parishioners have accomplished 100,000 hours of volunteer work (ish) for the 1st Peter Prokect
  • 150th anniversary joys:  Lessons and carols, Bl Mother Shrine, Oktoberfest, Festival came back, St Joe Show, Organ Recital, Archbishop Thompson came, ice cream social, etc

So many blessings.  Some challenges:

  • 75% of Shelby Co has no religion
  • Only about 35% of parishioners show up to Mass.  Tragic.
  • 7% of parishioners do 80% of the contributions and volunteering.  All that we’re doing is being done by about 7%!  What if we moved it up one percent!  two percent!   What would i tbe like if we were at 100!!!

That’s the parish. We’re doing well, so many blessings, we’re becoming holier and stronger here in our corner of the kingdom, and that’s what will make the larger church holier.