Wednesday, December 10, 2014


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?


Anonymous said...

Hi Fr. V -

This is very interesting. I was very fortunate and blessed to attend a Catholic grade school here in Akron, which, sadly, has been closed. But EVERYTHING good I use in my life I learned there.

At my parish, we have repeatedly been told by our good pastor that he is enforcing the boundaries of the parish. I understand his reasons. Most of us, including me and my husband, do not live in the boundaries, since the parish is in a non-residential part of town (we were grandfathered in). We do not have a school.

My husband and I were unable to have children, but if we did, we would definitely be willing to go into debt to provide them with at least a Catholic grade school education. In our position, we would have to apply to another parish to educate our children.

How would you look at something like this? Our parish needs us to take up space in the pews and support the parish. As lovely I know your parish is, it would be impossible to cover both parishes. And we do not live in your boundaries.

I know I am not the only person in this situation, and I do not ask to put you on the spot (you are a first class priest and your parishioners are lucky to have you - really!)

So what do you think?

Anonymous said...

Good gravy, Father, you would faint at my parish (in the Columbus diocese), which collects about $2200 per week. Our parish school closed in the '70's. We are a rural parish and it was just not practical to send my children to the nearest parochial school (45 minute drive away). My children received a good Catholic upbringing through our PSR classes and my own efforts, but I would have paid, volunteered, whatever it took, to send them to parochial school if we had one. A lot of Catholics with access to parochial schools take that for granted. They need wake up and enthusiastically support their schools, or they will not survive and thrive.

Anonymous said...

I would charge parents what it actually costs to send their kids to school. Then make exceptions on a case by case. Require church attendance and adult catechesis for enrollment. I don't mean to spoil the good feelings about Catholic school communities but I have spent a lot of time sitting with the soccer moms and chit chatting... And I can tell you a dirty little secret...

Many people send their kids to Catholic schools because they view it as a "bargain". They care little to nothing about the Catholic character and mostly about what worldly advantage they get out of it.

You should hear the snarling when tuitions go up. And I'm sure you hear some of it. Not because they are penniless, but because they want a deal. They want to be able to afford their club sports and expensive vacations. When the prices go too high, they see no reason not to have the kids attend the local public school so they can keep spending on their lifestyles. The Catholic character of the school makes little (if any impact) on hardened parents. In the meantime, your parishioners are subsidizing their tuitions. It's not right.

So... Charge what it costs. Make some exceptions based on actual need and desire. And stop having the schools suck the everlasting life out of the parish funds. Use the increase to catechize the parish adults who are supposed to be the primary educators of their kids. Institutions can't change hearts.

Trevor said...

Being a leader in any capacity draws criticism with every "yes, no, and maybe" you decide. I'm learning this daily with work, family, and volunteer work. As the saying goes "Darned if you do and darned if you don't". I'm not a believer in that anymore. I believe that with peer and non-peer guidance, trial and error, and a tremendous amount of prayer you can rest easy knowing the choices you make are the best ones. If you don't allow yourself any one of the above, then you'll surely be "darned'. Lower it, keep it the same, raise it. Any way you're right.

Anonymous said...

I've gotta agree with anonymous #3... Many Catholic school parents don't want Catholic school. They want PRIVATE school. If they wanted Catholic school, they'd be at Mass. If tuition was raised, and then lowered on a case by case basis, perhaps any savings could be put towards hiring quality, Christ-centered teachers who want to be in such a position. I've talked to many wonderful public school teachers who would love to teach in private school, but can't afford to.

Anonymous said...

Many wonderful public school teachers who'd love to teach in Catholic school, that is!