Dear Family of the Archdiocese of New York,
A blessed first week of Lent! I pray that this season of increased prayer, penance, self-sacrifice, and acts of charity is off to a strong start. It is easy to feel downbeat or discouraged these days with last week’s bad weather compounding the continued hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Might I suggest that, in this year when we have all sacrificed so much already, that one way we can observe the season of Lent is to try and let go of some of the negativity we might be inclined to feel about the hardships we’ve all had to endure, and unite whatever suffering we face with the suffering of Jesus on the Cross! What a powerful Lent we will have if we – and I certainly include myself – can accomplish this.
My thanks to all those who reached out with appreciation for my Flocknote of February 11. Many were anxious to tell me of their gratitude for being able to have their children in their local Catholic school, or for the way their pastor has done remarkable work reaching out to parishioners who are homebound, or for the help they have received through Catholic Charities and ArchCare, our health care ministry. A few asked, understandably, for an update on how the archdiocese was doing financially, like I did last Spring. While I realize that this is never anyone’s favorite subject, since we are about half-way through our fiscal year, it might be good to give you some highlights of where things stand. Our annual audited financial reports covering the past fiscal year, which ended August 31, 2020, are currently under review by our independent, outside accounting firm, and will be reported as it is each year in July in Catholic New York.
Long story short: Thanks to the generosity of you, our people, the dedication and commitment of our pastors and priests, and the hard work behind-the-scenes of people in the field and in the chancery, we have managed to hold our own in some ways, but continue to face some uphill battles in others. Allow me to give you some details.
Offertory (aka “The Sunday Collection”)
The offertory shared by the faithful each week is critical to sustaining the operations of our parishes and reaffirms support for the work our pastors and parish staff undertake. Many people went out of their way to continue supporting their parishes during a very difficult time. This stewardship helped to make up the shortfall that resulted from limited parish activity during the lockdown, which has seen the overall offertory income in our parishes decrease by more than 10% since the pandemic began. Fortunately, most of our needy parishes properly made use of the Paycheck Protection Program funds, which went to pay the salaries of parish and school staff, and partially offset this overall decline in offertory throughout the archdiocese. In so many cases, a parish is not just a place of worship but a second home for people. It is important that we continue our effort to support these communities of worship.
One key to the continued parish support was much greater use of online giving, primarily through the WeShare program. I will admit that I am often lost when it comes to technology. Fortunately, our people and pastors are rapidly becoming much more comfortable in utilizing these modern tools. Our parishes, which had already been promoting our online giving platforms, saw a marked increase in parishioners utilizing this tool, and since March 2020, our parishes have seen online giving activity more than double, from 10% to 25% of all offertory. If you have not signed up yet, please consider doing so – it will be a great help to your pastor and parish. You can find a link on your parish’s website to enroll.
Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal
As you know, the Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal helps fund important ministries and initiatives throughout the archdiocese each year. During the 2020 year, appeal activity was lower than previous years, given the uncertainty stemming from the pandemic, yet the demands were towering! This did not deter our pastors, who continued to seek support from parishioners and allowed us to meet our goal of $20 million for 2020. Thank you!
Renew + Rebuild
The Renew + Rebuild Capital Campaign is centrally managed to utilize the resources available to our parishes at the archdiocese. Parishes were not mandated to participate in the program but involvement was encouraged. At the beginning of the campaign, each participating pastor was asked to complete an assessment of its buildings and identify projects needed in his parish, such as replacing boilers or roofs, painting, or fixing cracked windows and walls. Through contributions from parishioners, parishes have been able to make substantive improvements to their buildings, rather than a “band-aid” approach. Pastors are now relying on donors to honor the pledges made at the beginning of the campaign, in order to bring projects to completion. Everywhere I go, priests and people are eager to show me the repair and expansion done in our parishes due to Renew + Rebuild.
Central Services is the administrative body of the archdiocese. It receives funding from a number of sources and redistributes these resources to assist needy parishes and schools. One source of that funding comes from the parishes in the form of the cathedraticum, a small percentage of regular parish income – mainly the Sunday collection. The cost for shared services, which are centrally negotiated to achieve purchasing power, like medical insurance, pension for parish employees, as well as property insurance is billed through what is known as the “consolidated bill.” Because Central Services also acts as the purchasing arm of the archdiocese, with our expansive geographical area and hundreds of operating entities, it provides economies of scale that benefit all. We thank the majority of our parishes that pay this “consolidated bill” in a timely manner. You should know that the annual operating budget for Central Services for the 2021 fiscal year, which began last September 1st, has been reduced by just over 10%. Although “finance people” can get a bum rap for being only interested in money, I can attest that their interest is solely on helping the archdiocese to be able to carry out its pastoral, educational, and charitable work. We’re all indebted to them.
Child Victims Act
Finally, another word about the Child Victims Act. We are still assessing what the economic impact will be on the archdiocese, although it is likely to be extremely significant. Cases continue to be filed, and we are anxious to reach just settlements with those who have meritorious claims, just as we already did through the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. We are prayerful and hopeful that our primary insurance carrier recognizes the moral imperative to resolve meritorious suits as soon as possible though unfortunately we have met resistance in our effort. We will continue to press and will report back soon.
Just like you must do with your family’s budget, the archdiocese and its parishes and institutions must pay careful attention to its income and how it spends its money. It is our sacred responsibility to be good stewards of the funds you entrust to us, and to make certain that they are used for the purposes for which they are given. I thank you for sticking with me through lengthier than intended letter.
Be assured of a continued remembrance in my Mass and prayers each day, that Lent 2021 will be an especially fruitful one for you and your loved ones.
Faithfully in Christ,