More Responses to Questions About Parish Merging
As a reminder, an important distinction must be made in our use of terminology. To avoid confusion, we must be careful about how we use the words “church” and “parish.” For our discussion on merging, when we use the word “parish,” we are referring to the community or group of persons. In a merger, three parishes would become one parish. When we use the word “church,” we are referring to the building in which we worship. As a merged parish, we would maintain our three churches and the original patronal names of those churches. The newly merged parish community would also take a new name. If, for example, our newly merged parish was to take as our patronage the Holy Trinity, we would be called Holy Trinity Parish, which has as its places of worship the churches of St. Mary, St. Michael, and St. Kilian.
One thing that a lot of people have been worried about is money. Will parishes lose their money and who will have to pay for what? Again, we would be one parish community that together possesses and maintains three churches. To put it as simply as possible, there would be one parish weekend contribution envelope and one “checkbook” or fund that pays for all of our regular operating expenses – heat, lights, snow removal, lawn care, staff payroll, etc. for all three churches – just like each of our parishes do separately right now, but just coming from one combined pot with one envelope rather than three.
So what about the rest of the money that still belongs to each of the original parish churches, such as savings accounts, capital improvement project funds, and memorial money? Those monies would be kept in special restricted accounts to be used only for the improvements of those churches. And, we would also have a regular capital improvements envelope in which people could designate special donations toward the improvements of a particular church building, or the whole parish if they don’t have a preference.
The important thing to remember is that I, as your pastor, am ultimately responsible for the finances of each of your parishes. And if you trust me, and the good judgment of those representatives that we have on each of our parish committees and councils, I want to assure you that I will not permit the money that you have contributed to particular things or specific church projects to be lost or given away to someone else. I’m ultimately responsible, and I’m not going to let financial chaos happen.
Finally, many people have asked about being able to vote on the merger. I’ve stated in a bulletin column a few weeks ago that, generally, all major parish decisions are made by the pastor through consultation with representative bodies such as pastoral and finance councils. This is because not everyone in the parish is necessarily well informed in the details about how the parish operates and its various needs. In light of that, a simple popular vote that alone determines the merger would not be consistent with how such decisions are made in the Church. However, we could, following our town hall meetings (which will come sometime in the next several months) do a sort of consultative vote in which the results of the vote help me as the pastor and the committees make a decision about whether or not to petition the bishop for a merger. In a consultative vote, you would have the opportunity to voice your opinion. But like I said, that is a ways out, and in the mean time, we want to try to learn as much as we can about the merger, lest we simply reject it as a bad idea.
Once again, just a reminder about why we are still pursing this as a possibility: I and our committees so far have good reason to believe that while our parishes have been dwindling over the years, by forming one new and larger community, we will be stronger and more stable together. There is also more we would be able to do together and more efficiently – with staff and administration, with Religious Education and youth, etc. It is something through which we can develop a more proactive plan and goals for the future, and be excited and hopeful about, and Lord knows we need that!