People bring me bulletins from other parishes. I enjoy looking at what other places do for their publications. One of the first things at which I look is their reporting of their collection. Last week a bulletin was brought to me from St. John the Baptist Church in North Burlington, VT. Apparently it is a very quaint and small parish. The collection reported in the issue I received was $4,000. I would have a heart attack and immediately try to sell off property if we only had a collection of that amount. About 8 years ago it was estimated that this parish costs about $8,000 a day to keep rolling. That $4,000 collection would have gotten us a little past lunch on Monday.
We are very fortunate to have a pre-school through 8th grade parish school. I am VERY glad for it. But let me be clear: MOST Catholic parish elementary schools lose money. Our school loses quite a bit of money. These loses are made up from the collection basket and parishes do it willingly because we believe in Catholic education. The Diocese of Cleveland sets soft guidelines that the parish subsidy of the school should not exceed 20% of the Sunday collection and many cross that line. (We are under.)
Most families understand this. But there are always a few (EVERY pastor talks about this) who volunteer no time, do not come to Mass at the parish, nor give anything extra but justify it by saying, “I give TONS of money to the parish through my tuition.” The simple fact is that for most Catholic elementary schools, your tuition does not cover what it is costing the parish to educate your child. The thousands you may be paying is a partial payment to the parish in what the actual costs are. In many cases we are asking the least amount we can and still be able to keep the doors open.
Then there is the interesting situation in which persons send their child to one school but attend Mass at another parish. It is a great thing that they are attending Mass, but they miss sight of the idea that it is the parish community of their child’s school that is helping pay to educate their child. At least occasionally they should go to Mass and pray with the community that cares about their child so much that they are willing to donate extra funds toward his education.
It is a great topic for pastors. Nobody has the silver bullet to solve it. How do you get people to Mass (which is the reason we have a school), how do you get people involved? Unfortunately the ones who really listen are the ones who already pay their bills, give to the parish, volunteer, and worship with the community. Especially in a struggling parish, if everyone did their part, tuition for everyone would stay lower. That is the theory.
What would you do?