Parish Finance: A Priest’s View
Fr Raphael Thomas, Cape Town – On the subject of sustaining a parish: transparency, accountability (agreed) and even some good preaching inspire parishioners to trust and take ownership of their parish and to pool together resources so that what belongs to them will endure in the years to come.
I have learnt this in the short time I have been ordained, both in a low-income earning parish as well as in a high-income earning parish.
If there is no trust, people will step back, no matter what parish you are in as the appointed priest. And while others might not share this sentiment, nevertheless my experience, though limited, has taught me this.
Echoing the words of St Paul, we “all fall short of the Glory of God”, and sometimes honesty and transparency is not forthcoming from some (not all!) in Church leadership, or those in any leadership role for that matter. We cannot paint everyone with the same brush.
Hard work and using the little that we have (Jn 6:9) will allow a parish to become progressively viable financially and, yes, even from time to time appealing for help from the outside. That’s why the Lenten and the Advent Appeals have their place.
From my own experience, many people see nothing wrong with the parish priest using the parish car and parish petrol on his day off. Rightly so, because, God forbid some parishioner might need to be anointed on the priest’s day off. A priest never really gets a day off anyway because where there is a need, he has to act — even if he’s on holiday.
While certain financial abuses exist within the Church, I think there are many other institutions that require our attention, especially prayers and action in speaking out against the evils of corruption that exist outside of the Church and affect many more people who are not necessarily affiliated to a religious institution.
Here are four S’s that can perhaps decipher this puzzling quest to make a given parish viable both on the part of the priest and his parishioners: Sincerity, Sacrifice, Solidarity and, yes, even Subsidies. It goes without saying all four are challenging, but not impossible.