Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
This week as I am writing this bulletin article I’m in the middle of signing 5,200 end-of-year statements to all you parishioners for your tax records for giving last year! I have completed 2,800 for those who have no record of giving, and am about to get started on the other 2,400. I was visiting with some friends from a large parish in northern Virginia over the weekend and they said that they had already received theirs last week!
We get mixed responses from people every year, and I wanted to offer some comments which might make the process less irritating. First, we don’t do it to make people feel bad about
how much they gave, or didn’t give. We are required to report back to you how much your charitable giving was last year to the parish for tax purposes, in case we got it wrong and so you have a document to file. There have been instances in the past where we have missed some gifts and people have corrected us—this is why we have to send zero-giving letters, too. Each year I believe we are better at our recordkeeping, but there is always the occasional error, and we have to hear from you.
As I write in the letter, a zero-giving letter doesn’t mean that you may not give cash, or are generous in many other ways. Again, there is no judgment on our part, we just have a report to make.
Some people say that they don’t want a report because their giving is something for which they don’t want a tax deduction. I think this is fine, too, but if you consider what some of our tax dollars are being spent on these days (some things which even violate our conscience rights as Catholics), maybe it would be good to keep as much as you can for things you would really like to support.
Some people say that they are offended that we would make their giving records public. This is also a misunderstanding. Only I and a select few of our staff even have access to the database where we are required to record all gifts, and these same people prepare the statements and mail them each year. There is no publication or opportunity for anyone to review these records. They are only between you and me and God. Even the diocese of Arlington, when they prepare lists of people we are to ask for special gifts (as in the recent Leadership Initiative Campaign), have only at their disposal records of previous diocesan capital campaigns, public records, Bishop’s Lenten Appeal history, or other gifts made directly to the diocese. They do not access our parish database for demographic or financial information.
Another interesting misconception has to do with so many who are coming into our country from other countries. National statistics show that giving is down simply because newcomers don’t realize that the Church in the United States depends entirely on private donations in the weekly offertory. In European or Latin American countries, Central and South America, government subsidies maintain the properties, set and pay for budgets and often even pay salaries for parish employees. Here that is not the case. Each expense of the parish—program, service or outreach—is only possible if you give to the parish. Most churches today do not see an offertory growth that equals the growth in the cost of living, and church utilities, expenses and payroll go up year just like those of everybody else.
As I said, I’m between the letters for those who have no record of giving and all those who do. This many families—2,800—might even give only $20 a year which would be like a second Easter collection. We would be on target for our annual budget. But God has always provided what we need, and he touches everyone at different times to support the parish in various ways.
New means of electronic giving through Faith Direct have made a regular gift to the Church more convenient and more regular for about 220 families, and that number is growing all the time. You might consider this as an option.
Please know how much your support of the parish is needed—and appreciated. We don’t have opportunity to thank you enough for what you
provide. We have so much going on here at Saint Mary and have made a difference in the lives of so many people… it is because you have provided the financial support to make it happen. It won’t—it can’t—happen without you.
Please accept my sincere gratitude as you receive your tax statements from Saint Mary this week, and don’t hesitate to let us know if there is something that needs correction. It is a privilege and a great happiness to serve as your pastor.
God bless you.