Budget Cuts for 2020

July 5, 2019

In previous years I have addressed you numerous times on the financial challenges facing our parish.  When I came to the Shrine the parish had just lost a Bunting bequest which gave the parish $100,000 a year for ten years. None of this was invested in endowment and for the first budget I created I began what would be an ongoing process of reducing full time staff and cutting operational costs.  For a number of years we have not been able to both pay our Cathedraticum (the Archdiocesan tax) and meet our operational budget.  This was discussed with Bishop Madden’s office and accepted that we would not pay the Cathedraticum as a temporary measure.  Last year we had a visitation and review with representatives from Bishop Madden’s office to evaluate our situation.  At this time it was recognized that we were responsibly administrating our finances and striving to cut costs.  It was also acknowledged that it was not reasonable to expect that we would pay back Cathedraticum, but that we needed to make an effort to start paying as much as possible.  At that time we started to pay monthly for a total of $13,000 a year toward Cathedraticum.  I also told Bishop Madden’s representatives that I was in the process of working with the Staff and Finance Committee to produce a budget for FY20 that would include very significant reductions in operating costs and attempt to increase the Cathedraticum as much as possible.  Recently, Archbishop Lori announced that in October the Archdiocese will begin an “Extraordinary Administration” review of parishes that have not paid Cathedraticum or other Archdiocesan bills and or have been running deficit budgets. All such parishes would be required to create a plan for financial solvency or face the possibility of merger or closure.  Since we have already been in the process of developing a plan for the Shrine, I will be submitting our plan to the Archbishop prior to the commencement of this review process.

In the case of the Shrine, the chief financial issue with the Archdiocese has been the payment of Cathedraticum.  We have always paid all other bills to the Archdiocese, such as all insurance and employee benefits bills.  Also, any budget deficits in the time I have been pastor here have been accounting deficits due to using funds we already had in savings or endowment to pay for significant repairs and maintenance costs for our buildings.  We have never spent money we did not have or incurred any debt.

In regard to Cathedraticum, we would be expected to pay approximately $75,000 to $80,000 to the Archdiocese in FY20.  This would be in addition to the $52,000 the Archdiocese takes from the school lease, and which it does not credit to our Archdiocesan support in Cathedraticum. The Archdiocese also taxes our share of the school lease of $121,000.  Thus, we would be expected to pay $127,000 to $132,000 in total taxes and assessments.  This is approximately 20% of the parish income.  It is not possible for us to pay this and still provide the level of ministry and services to maintain our parish mission.

I have worked with our Parish Corporators and Finance Committee to develop a response asking the Archdiocese for a more realistic assessment of the total amount of funds demanded by the Archdiocese and its impact on the financial stability of the parish. We will be seeking a reassessment of the way the Archdiocese taxes and assesses the parish that is more fair and does not make the Archdiocese the reason for the parish’s financial instability.

In addition, we will be making significant operational cuts to our FY20 budget of approximately $100,000.  This will involve significant reduction in staff hours.  Bernetta Palasik will move to part time but will still coordinate the youth religious education and sacramental preparation program with her group of volunteers.  Steve Cox will also be significantly reducing his hours but will coordinate the RCIA and Adult Education programs on weekends and evenings. 

We have also reduced many operational costs to the minimum level possible without undermining the ability to provide the level of ministry, and quality of liturgy and the services necessary to provide for the needs of our parish community. Among the cuts being made is the cost of paying for the priests who help provide daily weekday masses.  This means that we will no longer be able to guarantee daily mass.  I will continue to celebrate the noon mass on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Wednesdays and Fridays we will have communion services.  Also, for those days when I am not able to provide for the noon weekday mass due to other pastoral obligations or being on vacation or sick, there will also have to be a communion service.  We are currently working on creating a team of parishioners who will be willing to lead these services.

The parish staff, Finance Committee, and Parish Council have worked with me to produce a balanced budget which demonstrates our willingness to make significant cuts, but which also calls upon the Archdiocese to recognize the actual amount of money it takes from the parish and be fair in crediting it to our Archdiocesan support.  The Archdiocesan proposed “Extraordinary Administration” review of parishes also states that it will take into account “demonstrated evangelization accomplishments in unique circumstances” when evaluating a parish’s ability to pay Cathedraticum.  In my proposal to the Archdiocese I have also argued the fact that the Shrine does provide a unique and important ministry to the Filipino immigrant community, not only to our parishioners who are over 60% Filipino, but to the wider Archdiocesan Filipino community as well.  Together with the diversity of our non-Filipino members, the Shrine is a model for an active culturally and racially diverse parish community.

I do not yet know if the Archdiocese will accept our proposed financial plan for our parish. We are ready to meet with Archdiocesan representatives to discuss it and address any questions they have.  With this letter, I simply wish to inform you of these developments and I will keep you informed of the ongoing resolution of this matter.  I also want to thank all of you for your generosity in your support of our parish both financially and for the many who also volunteer their time in ministries and service to the parish.  I also ask for your prayers to support us as we work to serve the mission of our parish and to ensure that the Shrine will continue to be a place of spiritual nourishment and support for those whom the Lord sends here, and that we may be recognized as an important part of the ministry of the Church of Baltimore.

                 Sincerely, 
                    Fr. Au