What is your Choice?
Dear Friends in Christ,
We are in the process of closing out the financial books for the fiscal year and completing our report on our pastoral activities for the Archdiocese. While the close of the fiscal year was June 30, there is always a lag time to collect and assemble all the data. The full report will be published for the parish in the Annual Report in September. As we gather the figures for this year, it is looking like a mixed bag. This should not be a surprise to anyone. On the pastoral side, all of our numbers are down. Marriages, Baptisms, Confirmations, converts, First Communions, funerals, persons assisted through social services, program/ministry participation, etc.; a total shut down will do that. Currently, our Sunday Mass attendance is down by more than 80%! This is both heartbreaking and sad. On the bright side of things and, there is a bright side with much good, even though we had to totally shut down for two months and many of our activities and ministries are still suspended, we have been able to continue to minister and serve our parishioners. Babies are being baptized, couples are getting married, youth are being Confirmed, people are still converting to the Catholic faith, Confessions are being heard, the faith is being taught, Funeral Masses are being prayed, the sick are being anointed, shelter is being given to the homeless, the grieving are being consoled, the hungry are being fed, the Gospel is being preached, disciples are being made, Jesus is being adored, people are praying and the holy sacrifice of the Mass is being offered. In other words, God’s grace continues to abound in our parish even during these most trying and uncertain times.
On the financial side of things, we were showing signs of recovery and growth and then the pandemic hit. We are very blessed and fortunate that we responded by taking immediate and decisive action. A strategic response plan was developed, implemented and followed. The experience of Hurricane Harvey helped us in that we had a road map of what to do and how to do it. By drastically and immediately cutting our expenses in a strategic fashion and with the generous financial support of our parishioners, we have (so far) avoided a financial meltdown and catastrophe. We have been able to keep all of our full-time staff on payroll and keep current on all of our financial obligations. It took some juggling and maneuvering but so far, we have been able to pay all our bills. This is especially noteworthy as in the beginning like everyone else, we took a huge financial hit. Here, I would be remiss if I did not thank our Finance Director, Belinda LeBouef, Business Manager, Pete Prados, our parish staff and our parish Finance Council – Bob Hodgson, Stuart Hendrix, Phil Rider, Randy Rainey and John Schell. Their guidance, cooperation and hard work have served our parish exceedingly well. Most of all, I thank you for your continued prayers and support and God above all else for His grace and blessings. That is the good news.
Unfortunately, it is not all good news. The number of contributors to the parish has deceased by 30% since the pandemic hit in March, the number of donors to DSF from the parish is down more than 50% and we are behind by nearly $200,000. Because of the pandemic, we had to shut down our Children’s Youth Program (YCP), the nursery, and all Parish Life activities and we could not continue with our Summer Youth Camp. This meant that our 91 part-time staff members and our 30 seasonal staff members had to be furloughed. These were difficult but necessary decisions. Moving forward, most of our programs and activities are still shut down and we have had to cancel the bazaar for this year. This will have a negative impact on our finances and budget for the current fiscal year (FY20-21). We cannot become complacent as we are not out of the woods yet and none of us have any indication when this might end.
In January, 2020, we were just beginning to see our numbers (attendance, participation, collections) approaching the pre-Harvey levels of August 2017. We were not there, we were still down but there were positive signs of recovery and an upward trend was present. Then, the coronavirus hit. This crisis has been much longer in duration and more far reaching in its impact than Harvey. All current indicators predict that it will take several years to recover from this crisis. This presents us with a choice. We can cry and lament all that is bad and how unfair this is; feel sorry for ourselves, say what a shame it is and give up. That is one choice and it is easy to do. The other choice is not so easy. In fact, it is far more difficult. We can choose to see this time of crisis as an opportunity to grow in faith, hope and love. We can choose to use this time to take stock of our blessings, make plans for the future, and recommit ourselves to building up the Lord’s Kingdom in ourselves, our families and in this part of west Houston! We can choose the path of negativity and complain how bad things are or we can choose to be positive, get to work and make good things happen. We can choose to strengthen our faith in God, grow deeper in holiness, become more fervent, devoted Catholics and make Jesus a bigger part of our lives. We can choose to live for ourselves or to live for Jesus. It is a choice that each of us has to make. Sitting around, doing nothing and wishing things were different is choosing to waste this opportunity.
This may be the first pandemic that any of us have experienced but it is not the first pandemic or crisis that the Catholic Church has had to face. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against His Church and He meant it (Mt 16.18). For 2000 years Jesus has kept His promise. Our dear Lord and loving Savior has guided and shepherded His Church through every trial and crisis and He is with us in this one. The question is, are we with Him? It is our choice.
In pace Christi,