As I mentioned in last weekend’s column, I received very few responses from parishioners regarding the merging process in the question boxes in the back of our churches. While I feel I addressed the biggest question last week, here are just a few more things:
Q: How would regular expenses be divided in a merged parish (e.g., priest salary)?
R: Currently, the priest’s salary, for example, is split three ways between each parish. Because St. Mary’s provides the rectory residence and food for the priest, St. Michael’s and St. Kilian’s split the cost of the priest’s business miles reimbursement, as well as the cost of rectory utilities (heat and light).
In a merged parish however, there is no such division of expenses between congregations. The congregations/parishes become one parish community, but with three church locations. While pre-existing buildings and grounds maintenance accounts for each church are kept separate for each church, there is one overall budget and one general fund from which general regular operating expenses are paid. We would all be one parish, and we would all be responsible as one parish for determining how to best utilize our resources.
A finance and administration leadership committee consisting of members from each original parish’s finance council would be formed (following our January Joint Finance Councils meeting) to work together on establishing a proposed budget for a single merged parish, as well as many other financial and administrative details. If a merger occurs, a new single finance council would be established with representation from each original parish.
C: Based on the comments I received from three out of the four persons who made question box submissions, there still appears to be a preconceived notion that, in the event of a merger, one of our churches (namely, St. Kilian’s) would close, and that everything would be moved to St. Mary’s in Auburndale. Therefore, I would like to reiterate once again that closing a church would not be part of the merger plan. As Fr. Felix stated when he spoke to our parishes in his presentation last March, closing a church does not happen unless we as a parish decide to close one. I believe that if, as part of the merger process, we develop a program for renewed and increased stewardship (which would be needed even if there was no merger), maintaining our three church buildings would be possible. If parishioners desire to generously support their parish community and maintain their church buildings, I see no reason to close a church.
I have also heard numerous comments about parishioners stating they would leave their parish and go elsewhere in the event of a merger. I’m not sure if such persons understand that a merger doesn’t necessarily involve the closing of a church or the changing of a Mass time. What concerns me most, however, in hearing such comments, is that there seems to be an inadequate sense among us of what it means to be Catholic and to be part of a parish community of faith. These are things I would like to speak about more in future columns and in other contexts.