I know many people have questions about the money situation for St Mary Church. St Mary Church currently has a debt of about $237,000. Because we do not make enough to pay our bills, we are looking at a deeper debt by next July. Some parishioners have come together with me to start a debt elimination strategy. Debt does not go away by itself; there must be a plan, and we need everyone to help.
To be successful in debt elimination, we need two aspects taken care of. First is to eliminate the debt we currently have. The second is to pay our bills through the collection on Sundays. The second part will be a great sacrifice from all members. Looking at the demographics of Freeport, and particularly in St Mary Church, the average parishioner gives a higher percentage of their income than most in our diocese. You are a very giving community. That is why it is so hard to say that we need more; yet that is exactly what is needed. We are putting together a plan to help reduce some costs. The problem is that we are pretty much at bare bones for the budget. So, the strategy also includes forming a committee to maintain the budget. I have asked Fr Ken from St Thomas to come and help us set it up. He is very knowledgeable in this area. This committee will be separate from the finance council. More on this committee will be ironed out at a later date. It also involves getting more people in the pew and giving. This is where we hope the Be Bold, Be Catholic program will help.
Our first agenda is to eliminate the debt. This will mean many fundraisers. We are looking into how we can have two major fundraisers in a year that can make more than $15,000. There may be one that may earn as much as $50,000. Are you willing to help with these events? You do not have to be a St Mary parishioner to help. We are looking at a debt elimination campaign as well. We already have the debt envelopes that we encourage people to use, but at the same time, not reduce what they are giving to the regular collection. We are looking for help from the Diocese, both monetarily and professionally (though nothing has been approved when this letter was written). We will especially need people who have communication and marketing skills. We will need to market outside the parish and even the Catholic Community. Any other skills that would help plan for debt elimination are welcome.
It is important to remember not to burn out our volunteers, so we need a wide base to pull from. We need as many people as possible to help. It may be a matter of going on rotations for manning the events. The big events will take more of us, but there would be fewer of them. It is great to build community through fundraisers. Yet, each event takes money to operate and therefore reduces the profit that helps us pay off the debt. I hope some of you are willing to help us reduce the costs of expenses through donations.
Dr. Wayne Lenell, Director of the Department of Financial and Administrative Services at the Diocese, was at our first meeting and encouraged us with some suggestions. The Diocese is willing to help us succeed in our debt elimination efforts. The diocese has NOT contacted me on closing the parish, as I am sure there are rumors out there.
It is up to you, the parishioners, to decide if you want to eliminate the debt.