Sunday, 27 January 2013
Getting serious about money
I was preaching on vocations in St Anthony's Parish, Bradford this evening and in the notices Fr Maurice Pearce, the parish priest, advised the people that the gift aid donation envelopes were available for collection at the back of church. He also said that he would be giving these envelopes to the parents of First Holy Communion children. That struck me as being excellent financial stewardship. We're caught in a dilemma in the Church. Most of the Catholic families who send their children to our schools do not go to Mass and yet they expect their children to enjoy the benefits of being associated with the Church. The parishes have to pay 10 per cent of various schools costs every year. We invite all the parents to pay a very modest voluntary contribution towards this cost and by and large it is only the parents who are already practising who cough up. In other words, the few faithful ones pay for the upkeep both of the parish (through the Sunday collection) and of the school. It's very frustrating. When I was a parish priest I erred on the side of not offending people. I thought that if people were approaching the Church with a request for baptism or First Holy Communion we should just welcome them and then invite them to contribute once they had acquired a certain pattern of worshipping. At first sight such an approach seems more compatible with the spirit of the New Evangelisation. Unfortunately, most of them never do acquire that good habit. When I return to parish ministry I hope to be much tougher in this area. I'll throw off being Fr NiceGuy and become Fr GiveUsYourCash. The reason is that it is for people's good. This is the Year of Faith and one of the most neglected areas of the Catechism is the section on the Precepts of the Church, the fifth one of which is "You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church." We're not talking about charity or a handout to help the parish out of a tricky situation. We're talking about a solemn moral responsibility which goes with being a member of the Church, proportionate of course to each person's means. I wouldn't say to somebody "Don't worry about coming to Mass; just try and be a good person." If I am so solicitous that they should obey the first precept of the Church, I should be similarly insistent that they obey the other ones. Fr Pearce announced this evening that the church would not be able to install a new central heating system because it was just too expensive. When somebody next says to me, "I should like to have my child baptised, Father," I intend to respond, "Great, how much do you earn?"