From the Pastor: A Letter From The Bishop
This week I received an email from Bishop Parkes regarding our parish’s participation in the Catholic Ministry Appeal, which replaced the Annual Pastoral Appeal this year. It was a form letter sent out to all parishes that fell below what he and his advisors were expecting as far as the percent of parishioner participation, the average contribution to the appeal per person, and the total amount pledged and collected. I cannot reproduce his letter here, since it was longer than would fit into this slot but I will give you the highlights.
Dear Father Palka,
As you know, last fall we introduced the Catholic Ministry Appeal. This new appeal replaced the Annual Pastoral Appeal as part of a clergy-led effort to lessen the financial burden on parishes and allow 100 percent of contributions to be used for important ministries and programs instead of diocesan administration.
Change is never easy, but I am proud of this transition and am delighted to say that the Catholic Ministry Appeal has been a resounding success so far. Across the diocese, participation is up with 500 more donors than this time in 2020 and 2021; and commitments and donations received are up by $500,000. However, as I said from the beginning, the ultimate success of the Catholic Ministry Appeal requires that every parish put forth their best effort.
I’m writing today because we have completed our active phase and have been looking at the results for all parishes in key categories: percent participation and percent of goal achieved.
Through this review, it appears the results of the Catholic Ministry Appeal at Epiphany of Our Lord vary from the success other parishes are achieving. This week’s reports show 7% of your parish families are participating, compared to national (20%), regional (19%) and diocesan (16%) trends. Additionally, your parish is 23% to goal ($21,460 raised of $94,368), suggesting the appeal may not have been communicated from the pulpit and/or an in-pew commitment weekend may not have been conducted as it was in other parishes.
...The premise in our change with the Catholic Ministry Appeal was for all parishes to put in a “best effort” to conduct a successful appeal. In doing so, parishes would not be assessed the balance as they had in the past. In addition, goals were reduced overall, making it likely for most, if not all, parishes to exceed goal...
The letter included both year to date and end of year statistics for our parish for the last two years of the APA. Year to date in 2021 and 2020 we had 7% participation and 5.4% participation respectively, for a two year average of 6.2%. This year our Catholic Ministry Appeal (CMA) participation is 7%, which is slightly above average. The average gift, though, has fallen from a $621 average to a $550 gift average per person this year. Also, although his letter says, “goals were reduced overall” our goals have gone up because, unlike the other parishes, our parishioner numbers keep going up! In 2020 our APA goal was $44,370. In 2021 it rose to $66,878. Our CMA goal is $94,368. We only have pledges of 23% of that goal, compared to 39% and 35% at this time during the past two years. Obviously, the Bishop wants us to pledge and collect more than we have done until now. He has “suggested” that I “send a personal letter to your parishioners who have not participated to date” and “host an in-pew promotion and commitment weekend.” The Stewardship Office will even “help” in writing the “personal letter” so that I get the wording right!
Before that letter gets to you, though, might I remind you of my opinion about this new CMA campaign so that you can ponder it deeply. As I told you at the beginning of the CMA campaign, I think the bishop is really taking a leap of faith in changing from the APA to the CMA. The APA goal was mandated to be paid, so if a parish did not make the goal through appeals to the parishioners, the diocese would simply take from the parish savings account whatever balance was still due at the end of the campaign. This new goal, on the other hand, does not come with a “bill due” invoice. Assuming that the pastor makes his “best effort” (which the letter from the bishop suggests has not been done at Epiphany up to now), if the goal is not met, it simply is not met as is not paid by the parish. Only if “best effort” is not made is the parish on the hook for the entire amount.
But better than that, the most amazing difference between the two appeals is that for the new one, you get to choose which specific ministries within the diocese you wish to support. If for any reason you don’t like how money is being spent in one area or for any project, you simply stipulate that your money will go elsewhere, to something that you can get behind 100%! If enough people, say, dislike project “Feel Good Doing Nothing Worthwhile” it won’t get financed through the appeal in the next fiscal year. The bishop will get insights into where the people think he is doing good stewardship and where he is off track based on what they support and what they don’t. Easy, informative, and effective!
Anyway, get ready for a letter coming soon. Or whenever they tell me to send it. I support this new diocesan way of raising needed money for its projects and I hope you are able to do so, too.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka