March 27, 2020

Giving, ‘no matter how small,’ helps parishes aid others in time of need

By Natalie Hoefer

As COVID-19 affects so many people in so many ways, the Church stands poised to make a vast difference.

“People will be turning to the Church to help them at a time of need,” says archdiocesan director of stewardship and development Jolinda Moore. “People are going to need the light of Jesus Christ now more than ever.”

Across central and southern Indiana, Catholics and non-Catholics alike are already turning to parishes for food both physical and spiritual. A decrease in parish income would result in a direct impact at a time when there is a critical need more than ever, says Moore.

At the same time, the coronavirus has created a financial conundrum for parishes and parishioners alike to meet this need:

Without people in the pews and with some parishioners’ own decrease in income, how can parishes gather the needed funds to serve and to spread the Gospel message in so great a time of need?

And how can parishioners support their parishes when public Masses are canceled, and with their income possibly decreasing or disappearing altogether as government mandates and economic hardships affect businesses?

Three priests in the archdiocese say the answer—and the power—lie in the hands of Catholics themselves, even those whose income is diminished. The key, they say, is in focusing on the Christian values of generosity and stewardship, and a concept called subsidiarity.

‘Ultimately, it’s about loving your neighbor’

That’s why Father Jonathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, reminds Catholics that giving to one’s parish is “always an opportunity.

“It’s an opportunity to fulfill God’s will of tithing, to participate in the mission of the Church, to bestow blessings upon others, and to detach ourselves from our possessions so they do not posses us,” he explains.

If attached to possessions, “people will become selfish and detached from generosity,” he said. Loss of this Christian value would be “the saddest part. Generosity is key to the Christian life. It is what unlocks our hearts. God commends [generosity], … as with the [parable of] the widow’s mite.”

A spirit of generosity helps in practicing stewardship. This Christian value offers another lens through which Catholics can view parish giving “even in difficult times,” says Father Joseph Feltz, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany.

Stewardship is to “receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord,” according the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

“We as Catholics are called to practice—and so develop a habit—in sharing the time, talent and treasure God has entrusted us with,” says Father Feltz. “Continuing to share those gifts—and mainly at this point the gift of treasure—continues the virtue of stewardship. ...

“Ultimately, it’s about loving your neighbor when one supports their parish. When people are supporting their parish, … they’re helping the parish help the community.”

‘We need this subsidiarity of support’

Since parishes are composed of Catholics in a local area, “They’re the ones that know what the local community is struggling with and what its needs are,” says Father Feltz.

So it follows that—if properly supported by parishioners—parishes are best suited to meet the needs of the local community.

It’s a concept called subsidiarity, a practice the Church promotes.

“Basically, subsidiarity means that the larger level does not do for the smaller community what the smaller community can do on its own level,” says Father Nicholas Dant, pastor of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. “We need this subsidiarity of support more than ever at this unprecedented time.”

A problem he notes, however, is that there is an “inclination for folks to give to the weekly collection while one is only present for Mass.

“But parishes do not have large reserves from which to draw. Without regular collection income coming in weekly, our funds will be quickly depleted.”

Such a lack of funds could not only prevent parishioners from helping their neighbors through parish-sponsored charity. The impact could affect other ministries and programs, parish schools and even a parish’s ability to maintain its staff.

“It all depends on how we people of faith … are willing to sacrifice—even as we ourselves are financially suffering—to continue the work of the Church” in spreading the Gospel message and serving those in need, says Father Dant.

‘I have much faith in our faithful’

Parishes are not blind to financial trials faced by their parishioners in these trying times.

“Many are expected to be impacted financially due to the changing economy,” says Moore. “It’s understandable that those in such a situation will need to look at their ability to give financially.”

She notes that in times of crisis, people “often react with an all-or-none attitude. ... I would encourage individuals to give what they can as opposed to ceasing to give altogether.”

Instead of eliminating parish donations, she says, “Perhaps a short-term decrease in giving might be necessary. It might be decreasing the level of support by 10 percent, 20 percent, etc.

“For others, this might be a time when they can reflect on their giving and actually contribute more to offset the hardships of others.

“It is not a one-size-fits-all [situation], but instead a dialogue ... with Christ.”

Despite his observation of the tendency for some Catholics to donate to the parish only when they’re in the pew worshiping at Mass, Father Dant is still hopeful.

“Personally, I have much faith in our faithful,” he says. “I believe many of them do see the importance of their Catholic faith for their lives.

“Throughout my priestly ministry, I have witnessed time and time again the lengths many people will go for their parish, their faith family. … I believe they know of their deep need for God, their need for the sacraments to continue to encounter the living Christ, and their need to be nourished by God’s word on a weekly basis.”

Whether the needs are financial, physical or spiritual, “This is our time to shine,” says Moore. “Those with resources, no matter how small you feel they may be, can share these gifts to help others receive in their time of need.”
 

(To continue donating, go to your parish’s website for how to donate online, or go to www.archindy.org and click on the “Parish Giving” button, then click on your parish’s name to be directed to their online giving page. If you wish to give online but your parish is not listed, or if you do not have access to online giving through your parish’s website, e-mail the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development at osd@archindy.org with your name, parish name and city, e-mail address and telephone number. We will be in touch within 24-48 hours to assist you with an online giving solution. Those who prefer to mail their donations regularly to their parish may do so, understanding that checks might not be processed immediately as parish offices remain closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.)

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