I want to share my Pastoral thoughts with you in advance of Saint Stephen the Martyr’s (SSM) Stewardship Commitment Sunday, which is planned for November 11, 2018. My goal as your Pastor is to get each one of you into heaven. SSM looks to deliver the spiritual tools and maintain a strong Parish community to help achieve this goal. In doing so, we cannot overlook the business aspect of operating our Parish in an efficient and sound financial manner, so we can sustain our Catholic mission for generations to come.
While we are a thriving Parish spiritually, we have not kept pace with the rising financial needs of our Parish. Unfortunately, after several years of maintaining a small annual operating surplus, we are currently on track for an operating shortfall of up to $750,000 for our current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2019. This shortfall includes approximately $300,000 for more immediate repairs to our facilities which are needed to maintain a useful and safe operating environment. These repairs were not originally anticipated in our 2019 financial budget. Our current forecast is especially concerning, as we have no operating reserves to cover a shortfall of this magnitude.
What has happened? While we have consistently managed our expenses well, experiencing only a modest increase over the last several years, our revenues have fallen over the same time. In addition, we have an aging plant, and have deferred needed facilities maintenance in certain areas, which artificially lowered our operating expenses in recent years, and needs to be addressed in our near-term operating plans.
What am I asking of you as Parishioners? I believe we can and need to do better as a Parish family. I would like to cover our projected shortfall and at a minimum, breakeven for our 2019 fiscal year, while also strengthening our financial position going forward. To do so, I would like to make this special appeal to you as we approach commitment Sunday.
- First, I would like to make up at least $500,000 of our projected shortfall by the end of 2018, which will help improve the cash flow challenges we have been experiencing lately, and also allow us to move forward on our needed facility repairs in a timely manner. As you evaluate your end of the year financial planning, I pray you can find it in your heart to make a special donation above your normal stewardship level that would help to meaningfully reduce our projected shortfall.
- Second, to help cover the remainder of the projected shortfall, and better position us going forward, I would like us to target an increase of 10-15% in our overall Sunday stewardship giving, beginning such increase in November where possible for Parishioners. I know this is a substantial increase in one year. However, when you consider we have seen little to no increase in total Sunday stewardship contributions over the last decade or so, this type of cumulative catchup in contributions becomes necessary and makes more sense. We are taking deliberate steps to improve our stewardship program to ensure we do not find ourselves in a similar situation in the future.
Please pray as you discern your level of stewardship support for SSM on commitment Sunday, considering your personal finances and SSM’s current situation.
In closing, I will leave you with this thought. I believe it is our responsibility to best position our Parish to serve future Parishioners in the same way it is has served each of us throughout the years. One of my responsibilities as your Pastor, is to be a good steward of SSM Parish resources. I have undertaken several initiatives over the last year to improve the educational experience and financial situation of our school, and recently have kicked off some initiatives in conjunction with our Parish Finance Council aimed at evaluating our parish operations and finances to ensure we are being efficient in the use of Parish resources. These improvements will take some time to reach their full potential, but I am excited about the direction we are going. I will share more details on these initiatives as we begin to execute on additional improvements.
I want to thank you for being part of the SSM Parish family. It is your contributions of time, talent, and treasure that have made SSM a truly blessed and spiritual community.
Pastor Father Dave Belt