From Our Pastor ~ January 31, 2016

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Last weekend was surreal for a place that is normally so filled with people. We had between one person (7pm Sat.) and about 250 (5pm Sun.) and anywhere in between at the other Masses. We went ahead and kept all Masses for the weekend so that brave souls who might venture out would not be frustrated finding that Mass was canceled. We shoveled pretty much all weekend, trying to keep ahead of the storm (and then clean up) to be ready for those who did attend.

I seldom speak about money at Saint Mary, because we generally are moving along fine with our weekly offertory, making our payroll, paying bills and covering our $42K/month mortgage payment on all the renovations which we completed five years ago. The parish voted, when our renovations began seven years ago, to avoid a capital campaign and pay off our debt through the monthly collection and a building fund envelope every month.

This week I have one favor to ask: when it snows like this and we lose, virtually, an entire collection, it is a hard hit for the parish, about $32,000. We rely on every collection, our budgets don’t allow for savings. So if you would, please remember the collection that we lost and help us catch up. (And pray we don’t have another snow Sunday!)

While talking with a Methodist pastor friend of mine, I asked if they were dependent on weekly offertory like we were. He said no, in fact, 80% of their budget was covered with electronic automatic transfers/payments and their endowment. Ours is more likely 20% electronic now (thanks, those of you who have enrolled) and we have no endowment.

Well, last week I was a little down due to the fact that I had signed 2,700+ letters to those who had contributed nothing on paper to the parish. In that letter I reflected on the many reasons why this might be happening. I hope we will distribute two bulletins this weekend so that you can see both of them, as some information has changed.

But this past week I had the time to really look  over and sign all the 2,500+ letter of people who did give to the parish, some a lot, some a little—all very much appreciated. Some people are very generous. Of those who use envelopes, the average is about $17 a week, which represents a profound commitment to the parish. I’m so glad I signed these letters last, because I was left with a powerful thankfulness for all of you who keep the mission of Saint Mary alive. Thank you.

I want to say all of this because, as you know, the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal comes next weekend. The work of the diocese is very important, we mustall of us—support this work that is regional unless we become selfish, even as a parish. Bishop Loverde asks that each and every family make some form of a pledge—even if it is a small amount each month for a few months—to live out our regional responsibility as a local church of Arlington. (So much of it benefits us here in Fredericksburg, anyway.)

That said, I think sometimes we focus so much on other charities that we forget our own parish. An example of this was the outpouring of your loving support for so many charities and collections prior to Christmas—then our Christmas collection itself, about $52K, was $10K below what we had budgeted, based on the previous year’s Christmas offertory. And Masses were fuller than ever…

Last year we went $45K over our goal for the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal, and so our goal has been raised this year by $25K, to $395,000. This seems like a big amount – but if those 2,500 families who give would pledge $10 a month for 6 months, we would be mostly there. Of course, for those who do more, your continued support is very much appreciated.

Let’s try this again this year. Commitment Sunday is next weekend, when we fill out our pledge cards for the Diocese of Arlington. Let’s not put this off, and get it done in a couple of weeks, and make our goal. We will continue to publish our progress in making our goal for the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal. Once it is met, we’re done. If you forget to respond in time before we meet our goal and still want to give, I ask you to consider Saint Mary. That way, the diocese receives what is our obligation to give, and we can start to build a financial cushion in the parish that will help snowy weekends be less worrisome. Thanks.

God bless you,

Fr. Don