Friday, June 5, 2009

Abp. Nienstedt: 23% of parishes delinquent in assessment payments to the archdiocese

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Archbishop John Nienstedt: Here, you will find the archdiocesan financial statements for the 2007-2008 fiscal year. I am pleased to share this information with you as part of my responsibility to be a good steward of the gifts that have been entrusted to this local church.

In reviewing these figures, what will be immediately apparent to you is the decrease in the value of our net assets. Parishes pay “assessments” to the archdiocese to help support the many services overseen by the archdiocese for the benefit of all parishes and all people in the archdiocese. A decrease in the payment of these assessments is the reason for the decrease in net assets.

Many reasons for decrease

The current economic downturn, individual parish financial troubles, prioritization of parish needs and other reasons have resulted in several parishes making the conscious choice not to pay their parish assessment. [I have heard that some parishes just didn't want to pay.]

Some of these choices have been very hard for the parishes and are a reflection of the strain on their communities. There are approximately 50 of our 218 parishes that are delinquent in the payment of their assessments. Most of these delinquencies have accumulated over many years.

I shared this problem with the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council (a representative council of archdiocesan priests) shortly after I became archbishop last May and asked for their assistance. The council formed a small committee to work with our Archdiocesan Finance Council to offer assistance to those parishes that are having difficulties.

I am pleased to inform you that, as a result of these efforts, improvement has been realized in about 15 par­ishes, but 35 continue to have significant problems.

The parish assessment is referred to as a “tax” on the parish income (see Code of Canon Law, #1263), but I suggest that it is better considered a contribution toward the overall benefit of the archdiocese as a whole.

As such, it is really a participation by the lay faithful in the widespread ministry of the archbishop, as exercised both personally and through his staff. The annual assessment supports the day-to-day operations of the Chancery, the maintenance of archdiocesan properties, and provides support for many central services such as communications, the Tribunal and ministries to persons with disabilities, to name just a few.

In addition, the assessment subsidizes many archdiocesan affiliates and programs of outreach. All of these programs and initiatives go beyond what any one parish could cover on its own, so all our parishes share in the responsibility of sponsoring these good works.

There is one formula that is applied to all parishes. This assessment is smaller than it might otherwise be, thanks to the annual Catholic Services Appeal, whose main focus is to support several ministries of outreach and service, such as Catholic Charities, ministry to diverse ethnic and cultural groups, Catholic schools and our two seminaries.

At present, the 35 parishes mentioned above have cumulative overdue assessments of $7 million. I am confident that with proper assistance many of these situations can improve.

In addition, there are obligations to the archdiocese from other parishes and schools, which because of extreme financial distress are unlikely to be repaid in full (an aggregate of $4 million). Hence, in consultation with the Finance Council, I have decided to allocate an additional $3.9 million to our debt reserve for receiv-
ables from these parishes and schools.

I also recognize that many parishes could benefit from additional assistance with financial management, budgeting and stewardship. The Presbyteral Council has proposed the formation of teams of parish business administrators who can be of service to any parish having financial difficulties.

Everyone must contribute

Belonging to the “Catholic” Church obviously implies obligations beyond one’s home parish. As the “One Body of Christ,” each part of the body must contribute in proportion to its ability. We sink or swim together.

I ask that each parish financial committee and pastoral council work with its pastor to review where its faith community stands in regard to all their archdiocesan payments.

I am encouraged to know that so many of our parishes have responded responsibly to the extraordinarily difficult economy with which we have been faced. This shows great leadership to committed stewardship.

Our Catholic people have always been generous with their financial giving, and they expect such responsible accounting from parish and archdiocesan administrators. I promise to do my best to provide this great archdiocesan church with such responsible leadership.

God bless you! The Catholic Spirit
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