Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Happy Winter. Finally it came. When I was a kid “They” always used to say in Kansas that you needed a good cold snap in order for all the flu bugs to die for the coming year. For years I pictured it in my mind like a swarm of gnats. May it be so. Our offices and school are closed two days this week on top of a holiday; I hope you got some rest out of all this, too. There was one parent who sent out an email for the school: “I hope everyone is enjoying the snow and the kids at home. I know I am. If only I could be off work!…” Amen. ‘Cause when the staff is off, guess who does the bulletin! I’m just focusing on all the flu we are beating come April.
You should be receiving your statements for 2013 giving this week in the mail. As I look through them and sign each one I am filled with gratitude for so many of you who really do support the life of the parish in a significant way. The percentages are small — you can see the analysis on page 9 of the bulletin today — the majority of support in every group, church or association in the world is always through the generosity of the minority, what they call the 80/20 rule. We are not really the exception. Although 46% of our families (2,231) have used envelopes at least once during the past year, those who give $20 or more each week to the first collection (20% of the parish, or 997 families) represent 88% of our total donations.
I’m going to study these results in more depth with more time, but a few quick observations are interesting. The level of giving in an otherwise, relatively consistent pattern of giving, indicates that Holy Days of Obligation are largely overlooked. One of the things I’ve been wanting to talk about is the importance of these Holy Days. Not for the collection, either — they are days that are precious to our life of faith and require of us a particular level of attention. All of them are, on a deep level, intimately tied to our identity and responsibility as Christians and days of particular thanks due to God. They are like the birthday party or anniversary of a close family member that you would not dare miss. Something like that annual family event that you might even go to great lengths with travel and expense to attend. In a post-Christian era like ours it is hard for many people to believe that something like one day (24 hours) might be holier than another. Also, the changes about which years they count as days of obligation and which years they don’t have people confused, I think. More about that later.
At any rate, I am so very grateful for your contributions. We have a lot to do here, a lot of work yet to develop and a debt to pay off, and I thank you for keeping it going. Please continue to help the parish as we move forward in our mission of grow together in holiness and witness to the love of God in our world, where it so badly needs to be known. These are uncertain times for so many — which makes your gifts more meaningful, as well as more necessary as we reach out to as many people as we can in charity and compassion.
Finally, let’s remember all our Sisters, our teachers and faculty, our school children and their parents and families this week as we celebrate the wonderful presence of Catholic Education in our parish this week. Catholic Schools Week is a time to reflect on the blessing of Catholic formation and what is for the Church, I believe, one of the most important (if not the most important) apostolate given us by God: to form and educate, nurture and protect these young people and help them find their place in God’s creation. May they go forth from us and bring about God’s new creation in peace and justice, and goodness and truth.
God bless you.