You may remember that my article in the bulletin last weekend included some information about the financial stewardship of the parish. I would like to continue with that topic. If you want to see the information in last week’s article, it can be found on our parish website at ololchicago.org. I have had some questions from parishioners regarding parish finances in general. Allow me to explain.
The simplest way to look at this is to understand that the parish operates in a way similar to every household. We have income and we have expenses. If we are spending more than our income, we are unable to pay all of our bills. Our parish is responsible to pay our own bills. I constantly remind people that, neither the Archdiocese, nor other parishes, nor Rome, are responsible for our bills. Each parish is responsible for its own. The one bill that we have not been able to pay every month is the payment to the Archdiocese. Many don’t even know that we pay a good share of our parish overhead expenses through the Archdiocese, in addition to providing a measure of financial support. This share of our support to the Archdiocese is called Parish Assessment. We are paying as much of these monthly billings as we can, but we have not been able to keep up. We support the Archdiocese, which then provides all parishes with many support services. For example, our parish received a very generous grant when we were replacing the dome of our church some years ago. There are many other ways that the Archdiocese supports its parishes.
Our Lady of Lourdes has not been able to keep up, so we have built up a debt of $316,000 to the Archdiocese (as of July 2018). This recent history of not generating enough income to cover all of our expenses has created a permanent budget deficit. I have been working with the parish Finance Council to deal with this issue. So what is the plan?
The Finance Council has agreed to this approach:
1) We will participate in the Parish Turn-Around Project which provides a thorough analysis of our expenses and income with the assistance of a team from the Archdiocese. The goal is to balance our operating budget as soon as possible and for the long run. This will help us avoid getting into a debt situation in the future. I will inform you of these details of the Turn-Around Project as they become available.
2) We have been building up the income from the Dinner Dance, Pan American and SummerFest events. We have seen a generous increase from these fundraising events, and we thank you.
3) We will continue to explore ways to reduce expenses. For instance ,we have reduced some hours of operation in the rectory. We have eliminated most of the maintenance services to the parish, and we are relying on more volunteers for these things. Thank you to all of them.
4) We regularly remind our parishioners of the importance of the weekly collection. This is the main source of income for the parish and covers the costs of priests and staff salaries, as well as the many ministries and services offered to the parish. The church teaches us that as Catholics we must offer material support for our parishes.
5) We continue to remind parishioners of the campaign To Teach Who Christ Is. The income from this campaign is to be used only for the original plan of working on the interior of the church sanctuary and religious education. It is not used to pay our monthly bills to the Archdiocese or any other bills.
6) We would like to ask the Archdiocese to consider allowing the sale of our convent. The convent is currently underutilized and is not generating as much rental income as in years past. The parish does not use the convent at all. The properties / buildings of all the parishes are in the name of the Bishop of Chicago. This means the Bishop would have to give approval for this sale. The Archdiocese Office of Real Estate takes into account the opinion of parishioners in situations like this. This is where I am asking for your support. The Finance Council estimates that the sale of the convent would allow us to: eliminate our debt; address some of our most pressing capital projects issues and; hopefully, create some long-term savings for the parish. The overall goal in the future is to avoid generating an annual operating deficit. Here is what you can expect in the weeks to come:
A. Homilies at all masses on June 22 and 23 and asking for signatures of support.
B. Additional information meeting on Wednesday, June 26 at 7 pm.
C. Seeking signatures again at all masses on June 29 & 30.
D. Submit request to consider sale of convent to the Archdiocese in July.
There is much more to explain. I cannot provide all the details in this article. So, again, please stay tuned to the upcoming bulletin for additional clarification. A Spanish translation of this article can be found at the entrance of the church.
Thank you and God Bless Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.