Pastor’s Perspective – April 18, 2021

 *Use of Apostles Creed during Easter Season

The Roman Missal recommends the use of the Apostles’ Creed during the Easter season. It is the version of the creed we use at baptisms and so is very appropriate throughout the Easter season. In addition, those children and teens who are taking their next step of initiation into the Catholic faith—through the sacrament of First Eucharist or Confirmation—are reminded of the importance of their baptismal identity.  Baptism is what marks us as Christian, what sets us apart when we need to be counter-cultural, and what gives us courage to face all that life brings our way.

A reminder to parents with children, when you are trying to explain the meaning of the Creed — when we say “he descended into hell” we are talking about the realm of the dead, not some place or condition of eternal punishment.  From ancient times the Church has celebrated this “harrowing of hell” on Holy Saturday, imaging Jesus as bringing the souls of the just ones who died prior to his resurrection—Adam, Abraham, Sarah, the patriarchs, Moses, John the Baptist, Joseph, and so forth—into full communion with God. In that vein, “descended into hell” is meant to convey not horror and sorrow but hope and joy.

 *Congratulations to our Newly Confirmed Young Adults!

We celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation for our teens on Saturday with Bishop Robert Fisher. Congratulations to all of them, their sponsors, families, catechists and teachers. Thank you to the candidates as well for publicly taking this step and expressing a willingness to live the Catholic faith for the rest of their lives, and to be active disciples of Jesus now and in the future. Our world needs your witness. Our Church needs your faith and energy.

For our teens this is their third and final step into full initiation into the Church. Baptism, Eucharist, and now Confirmation. In our western tradition Confirmation became the final sacrament of initiation only in the twentieth century. Prior to that, most Catholics would have celebrated Confirmation and First Eucharist at the same Mass, usually anywhere between 10 and 15 years old. However, Pope Pius X saw a disturbing trend—more and more adult Catholics were not receiving Communion because they had stopped learning about the faith as young children and so never were confirmed as young adults and thus were not eligible to receive Communion. The Pope mandated that the age of First Holy Eucharist be pushed earlier to age seven or so, and that one could receive Eucharist without being confirmed. As that new practice spread it became the norm, and so First Eucharist no longer is the final sacrament of initiation for many Catholics. Confirmation has become that, and so takes on an added importance when celebrated with young adults. Confirmation is not an ending but a beginning. A re-affirmation of one’s baptismal identity, now entered into freely as a young adult, with an openness to both receiving and using the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 *Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Commissions

Each year we look for people who are willing to join one of the parish commissions—Christian Service, Worship or Faith Formation—or serve as a member of the Parish Pastoral Council. A great way to see what these groups do is to come to our upcoming Parish Leadership Night on Tuesday May 11th. Ideally we would like several candidates for every open seat on these groups. We would then place the names in a basket, pray for the Holy Spirit to be present, and select as many as needed. In practice, most of these groups have been able to incorporate anyone who puts their name forward.

I would encourage you to not only nominate yourself, but any other parish member whom you think would be a valuable contributor to these groups. The Councils and Commissions form the core of our parish leadership and are consulted on major initiatives which the parish is considering. School families: it is a great way to get involved in the parish and to fulfill your commitment to some type of parish service. Thank you.

 *Parish Budgeting Process

We are currently preparing the budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 which begins July 1. The budget goes through the Parish Finance Council for approval on the local level, reviewed by the Parish Pastoral Council, and then submitted to the Archdiocese for final approval. There are five streams of income which remain key for the fiscal health of the parish. (1) Sunday giving. Please review what type of weekly or monthly gift you can tithe to the parish. If you can make that consistent by online giving, it helps assure that we can count on that money for the budget. We have a parish online platform on the website under “Donations,” but many also choose to use their own online banking sites to send a consistent weekly or monthly donation. (2) School enrollment which allows the school-side income to be strong. It is always a guess work at the budget stage what the final fall enrollment will be. The past few years we have been pretty good at achieving the budgeted amount, which in turn provides for a stable school budget. (3) The Catholic Services Appeal. About 40% of the registered households of the parish give some type of gift. That is more than the diocesan average, but I am always hopeful we can do even better. Even if no other gift comes in during the year, a gift to the C.S.A. helps support the whole archdiocese and equally helps the parish in the process. I would love to see us break the 50% mark. Also, because all monies help the parish 100%, many use the C.S.A. time to give the parish significant gifts. It is the best way to do so. Transfers of stocks/bonds can also be used as gifts, if that fits your financial picture. (4) School fund-raising events. The school is always looking for sponsors for its fund-raising events and participants in the events. If you have a business, think about using those events to advertise the business and help the school and parish in the process. The school is a parish school. Any support of the school helps the parish as a whole. (5) Year-end and Christmas donations. We get a number of gifts at year-end which help us meet our yearly budget. Christmas is also an especially generous time. If you are in a position give something over and above the Sunday and C.S.A. gifts, think about an extra gift at the end of the year.

On the expense side of the budget the largest expense are personnel costs. St. Regis Parish tries to pay just salaries and has good benefits for its employees.  The church, faith formation and school staffs provide the infrastructure of leaders necessary for any parish to thrive. All of that requires a great deal of money. A parish that is financially strong is able to hire such people, which in turn brings creativity, energy and organization to what the parish is doing. After personnel costs, the next largest are maintenance and ongoing repair and capital improvements to keep the infrastructure up to date. A good budget not only covers ongoing costs, but looks to the future projects/expenses that will have to be tackled and sets aside monies for those. Between the church and school, we have been averaging over $300,000 in such infrastructure projects each year. The third big area is to pay off the remaining parish debt incurred during the renovation of the church and building of the chapel in 2015-16. We already put an extra $150,000 toward reducing that debt and hope to pay it off next year.

As a pastor I do need to keep the financial picture in view. But, in the end, I also know that finances are secondary to the mission of the parish. As we move toward a new model of parish called “Family of Parishes” and move past the pandemic-induced restrictions in the coming year, it is a good time to also review how we connect to St. Regis Parish, not just through our financial support but through our time, energy and involvement as well. I know that if we are a welcoming community, if we celebrate with joy the reality of being Jesus’ disciples, if we share our faith as a living faith, extend ourselves toward those most in need and vulnerable, then we will be the community the Lord wants us to be and the finances will follow. So, for me the bottom line is always: be part of the parish’s life; connect to Sunday worship, pray in our personal life and with our families, give time toward service, and be generous and thankful in our giving. If we do those things, St. Regis Parish will not just survive but thrive. Thank you.

Fr. Buersmeyer

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