Parish Support Program – homily

The modern world has no mercy on those who are weak, lonely or helpless. Businesses and companies fight among themselves for a single client in a market where they could make a profit. The weak do not survive and close up operations. Their struggles teach us some important lessons. In order to profit, everyone in such a firm must cooperate, work hard and fruitfully. Businesses that lack people interested in success, businesses with lot of talk but no action, will perish sooner or later.

In our conversations people often complain about the lack of family unity, lack of understanding, lack of interest in improving family life. Some families do not pray together, eat meals together or even communicate, and these families are finding themselves in increasingly more trouble every day.

We, the St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, are like a corporation and a family. It should be our desire to live and act as a good family interested in building a better place for us all. As a family of God’s children, who should put our time, talent and love into the successful future of our parish. If we are not interested in our future, then why pretend that we are a community, a parish family? Let us close the church doors today and forever. But then, would we be able to live in harmony and peace with our conscience after we had closed the church doors forever? I doubt it…

Like a coach motivates the members of his team to play a better game, so does the Bishop of the Diocese. He motivates us and invites all of us to make our parishes successful places for all. In his recent letter to pastors, our Bishop reminded us that the Diocese is entering the second phase of the reconfiguration process. Some parishes will be closed or merged in order to ensure that the Diocese will be able to serve Catholics to the best of its ability.

Should we be scared by his announcement? If we are able to express our love for our parish, we shouldn’t be scared. If we are able to work as a team to run our parish together toward a successful future, we shouldn’t be scared.

Today our parish begins a six-week long Diocesan program called the PARISH SUPPORT PROGRAM – “One Spirit, One Soul, One Parish Community”. This program is set up to help us rekindle our enthusiasm and love for the parish, and to do more for our faith community. The majority of the parishes in the diocese had done it last year. We decided to wait. But what has to be done – has to be done – sooner or later.

In May of this year, as requested by the Diocese, we had to publish the parish financial report in our bulletin. That report clearly showed that our parish has a well-prepared budget. It showed that we spend our money accordingly, that there is no money spent foolishly, unnecessarily, excessively. Yet, as a parish, we fail to have what a successful parish should have – enough people taking loving care of the parish and enough money in the Sunday collections to cover all the bills.

What can be done about it? Let me share with you some ideas.

Visiting Poland during the summer time, I heard the following announcement after Sunday Mass. I quote: “Parishioners living on State Street are responsible for the cleaning of the church this week … altar flowers are in the care of parishioners who live on Main Street… Food for the poor will be brought by parishioners from Capitol Street…” Every week people get organized and come with mops and buckets and wash their church floors; others bring flowers, others feed the poor…

In my home parish in Bydgoszcz parishioners are responsible for the weekly parish bulletin. They write articles, put stuff together on computers and take care of the printing. The Parish Web page is run by the parish’s computer wiz, lay people answer phones in the office, contractors are making constant improvements to the parish buildings, ladies cook and serve dinners for over 150 poor people daily at the local soup kitchen, volunteers visit sick and lonely and those in hospitals. Everything is done free of charge to the parish.

In another parish retired people serve at daily Masses, a group of people serve and sing at all the funerals. There are parishes with hundreds of volunteers making phone calls to invite and encourage people to attend parish services and events. In one parish in Kansas, the parochial school is run free for all children – all expenses are paid from donations of its parishioners who are truly proud of their parochial school. In another city, parishioners donate money for scholarships for 50 students.

My friends, as a priest – I try to work hard – there are times when I have to work 15 hours a day, day after day. I do not do it for money – my priestly wage goes to my religious community. I try to do my best because I feel that this parish is my parish. This parish owns my heart. I would love to see it flourish, grow, become beautiful – full of life and happy people. I tell you this not to boast about myself. I just want you to fall in love with your parish.

Do you remember how much you were able to sacrifice when you were in love for the first time? You were willing to spend your last penny on her or him. Fall in love with your parish and it will flourish…

There is an article in the Ministry and Liturgy monthly magazine. The author of that article writes that the majority of parishes in the United States complain about lack of involvement of their parishioners. The author says that only 20 percent of parishioners work for the success of their parish! 80 percent do not! My friends, I am telling you honestly – if that were true in our parish I would be a very happy man!!! We all would be a lot happier if only 10 percent of our parishioners had been actively involved and interested…

Of course, there are people who occasionally fix this or that in the parish buildings for free, people who donate materials, who offer their time, or their skills…. I am very grateful for them, and I pray for them – May God reward them with many blessings for their generosity toward our parish!!! We all should pray for them! I wish that there were more people like those. I wish that there were more people who would feel that this parish owns their hearts.

However – needs are great, workers are few and the money well is drying up – to paraphrase the gospel saying about the harvest.

I wish there were no people who give nothing back to God, to the parish, to our community. Unfortunately, such people are among us. They never have time to help, they put just one dollar bill on the collection plate, or even worse – never see the collection basket passing them. There are people who never lit a votive candle or made a personal donation to the parish. But, they have so much to say, to complain, to demand.

My wish list is long. I would love, for instance, to have a group of professionals who would check the physical stability of the buildings and to make proper recommendations if needed. I wish we had a group of contractors, who could offer their skills for reduced prices. I wish we had a powerful choir which would fill this church with angelic voices; plenty of ushers and greeters; and faithful altar servers at all services. I wish we had a Liturgical Committee to set up celebrations for children, for young adults, and for all of us; a Social Committee to run fundraisers, and an Evangelization Group. I wish we had energetic people to start and run a youth club, a Marian Youth movement, and a powerful help group for the poor. I wish we had a good PR person, a Web page specialist, and group of volunteers who just want to serve .

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” I want to turn what Jesus said around and say: Where your heart is, there your treasure may also be. That is to say: what you love doing may be the very thing that is your treasure. This treasure you can give to God, by doing it well, and by doing it for others.

The final point – money. We must realize that our treasure comes from God, and in sharing it, you are merely returning what you have received. Aren’t we ashamed of ourselves sometimes? – God has given us so much, and we return so little.

Scholars and authors James and Evelyn Whitehead once wrote: “This is the only radical thing we have to say: When asked for time, talent, and treasure, try to determine what your real treasure is, and go from there. For those of you whose treasure is the time and talent to make a lot of money – the word is this: you will be happier if you give more of it away. The rest of us, who don’t have a lot of money, or even don’t have enough money, should look at giving money to the Church as a discipline, or a prayer, like fasting. You don’t have to like it, but you have to do it. You are not giving away your treasure but an offering, an oblation, that is to say, a sacrifice. And like all disciplines, it should be done regularly, and you should feel it a little. Regard giving money to the Church as a prayer—do it regularly and attentively”.

Next week a guest, a lay person, will try to encourage us to accept greater responsibility for our parish. In two weeks we will celebrate a Commitment Weekend when you will be asked to make a commitment for the future by increasing your weekly giving as your means will allow. Upon leaving the church today you will receive a special brochure and envelope. Take them with you. Study them. Pray over them. Then bring your commitment envelope on Sunday, September 26th, with your new commitment. And pray for the success of the program in our parish. Those parishes that finished the program got a 25% increase in the collection and involvement. Are we going to beat them? I hope so. For this we pray today.