“Be not afraid for the Lord is with you!”
Dear Friends in Christ:
Not to the extent that so many of our parishioners have suffered, our parish has also suffered due to the recent floods. We were greatly blessed in that we did not have major flooding in our buildings. We literally missed it by an inch, twice! Yet, there were still damages. The final cost estimates have not yet come in, but we are anticipating our damages to run between $250-300,000. Most of this will NOT be covered by insurance. Another casualty of the storm and floods has been our income. We lost two Sundays of collections. Our normal expenditures are approximately $100,000 per week, last week our collection was $68,000. Due to the situation in the energy industry and oil prices we have seen declines in our revenue for the last three years. This is consistent with all of the larger parishes in Houston. Mindful that so many people lost their jobs or were in precarious financial situations, we have not tried to pressure or burden our parishioners in this regard. Instead, the parish administration along with the Pastoral and Finance Councils have closely monitored the situation and we have taken prudential actions to deal with the reality of decreasing contributions.
What have we done? We have cut the budget by reducing spending and reducing staff. This has kept us in the black for the last two years. The fiscal year, which began July 1, included a 10% budget reduction from the previous year. It looked like, with oil prices somewhat stable and some overall improvements in the national economy, we were seeing some hopeful signs of a rebound in July and August. And then came Harvey! We estimate that 20% of our parishioners have been displaced and are now attending Mass elsewhere. This decrease is also seen in the numbers of volunteers and participants in our parish programs and ministries and in our religious education programs for youth and adults. Will these folks come back? Maybe, but not right away. We also are aware that families who are dealing with catastrophic losses cannot financially support the parish as they once did. Up to now we have been able to cover these shortages with our savings. Repeatedly going to savings and depleting our reserves is not a prudent financial plan. Because none of us know what tomorrow will bring, we have put a complete halt to all discretionary spending in all departments. To address our financial situation, our Finance Department has recommend that we immediately reduce our budget expenditures by an additional 18%. This recommendation was brought before the Pastoral and Finance Councils and approved. Where the cuts are all going to come from I cannot tell you at this moment. But it is better to reduce the budget now than six months from now when we could be in worse trouble. As our situation changes we will respond accordingly. A few have asked questions about the Capital Campaign and our renovations. Fortunately, those funds were raised prior to the economic downturn. While a small number of parishioners were unable to fulfill their pledges, this was accounted for in our planning. A bridge loan was secured to cover the gap between the construction payment schedule and the redemption period of the pledges to the capital campaign.
The hurricane, flooding, and the aftermath brought a number of things to light in what we as a parish are called upon to do. In many ways we can be proud of how our parishioners and staff responded to the crisis and how we reached out to help so many in a time of crisis. Sadly, some weaknesses and failures also came to light. While I am inspired by every story of how a family was helped by our parish, I am heartbroken with every report of how our parish was unable to respond to everyone who asked for help. This crisis showed what our responsibilities are and what is required of us. Recovery from this disaster is going to take time. All of us are having to deal with a “new normal”. Dealing with the stressful and precarious situation that we find ourselves in is not easy. In the face of budget cuts, staff layoffs, and the stress and demands of a new unknown situation, some members of our Youth Formation Department have decided that this would be an opportune time for them to pursue other interests. We thank them and wish them well. In the interim we will continue with our normal Religious Education program and are making adjustments in our youth ministry program. In all of our ministries and programs we will be making adjustments. We are going to need to rely more upon the generosity and participation of our wonderful parishioners.
While this is a time of challenge it is also a time of grace. We cannot help but thank the Lord for the many blessings that he has bestowed upon us in the past and for those blessings that he continues to pour upon us today.
This is also a time of opportunity for each of us to step forward in faith and generosity. It is a time for each of us to grow in our discipleship to the Lord Jesus by serving our parish, furthering our mission, sharing the gospel, serving those in need and deepening our love and devotion. We can all be consoled and inspired by the words the Archangel Gabriel spoke to the Blessed Mother at the Annunciation, “Be not afraid for the Lord is with you!” And truly, the Lord is with us!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately