Fr. Eric Bergman, pastor of St. Thomas More in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is now able to report that a new wave of generosity has restored the necessary financial equilibrium to the parish:
Dear Members & Friends,
The response to the parish meeting that was held in April, and to the newsletter we mailed in May, has been a great comfort to me and a wonderful witness to our neighbors. One couple made quite a large donation to cover all of our operating expenses for the end of the fiscal year (June 30th), several others immediately increased the amount they pledge monthly to the parish, and another family gave the entire amount needed to complete the necessary pointing on our masonry work, lest our buildings (literally) crumble. Thank you. We are grateful, also, for the helpful proposals and recommendations that so many have given with an eye towards helping us meet our monthly operating deficit.
Though we have never begun a fiscal year with the income and pledges necessary to meet the expenses for the coming twelve months, experience has demonstrated that we must begin closer to the goal than we have the last couple years. We must land on the side of trust in the Lord’s providence and avoid the sin of presuming His graces as we maintain faith that all our needs will be met.
One very helpful suggestion that several of our parishioners and friends brought forward is that we fill up the convent in which only three men now reside and receive rentals for all nine of the bedrooms. Much of the legwork to do this has already been accomplished.
For one, we have the permission of the Ordinariate, and the Chancery has approved a license agreement that was completed last summer, when the dorm fathers from Gregory the Great Academy stayed there.
Second, we went before the zoning board of the City of Scranton, where by unanimous consent they agreed that, though dormitories have been zoned out of Providence since 1993, our convent is grandfathered, having been a dormitory continually since 1915.
Third, in another development that came out of our parish meeting, a parishioner, Gene DeLucy, has volunteered to manage the building, offering his skills as a contractor for all maintenance work, so that job won’t fall to me.
Fourth, the masonry work on the convent foundation and chimney is being undertaken even as I write. Now, in addition to the pointing, some updating work will have to be done to make the place suitable for nine adults. We are confident, however, that with these improvements these rentals will provide a consistent source of reliable income.
We must also reduce costs where possible. The most obvious expense for consideration is the largest, the compensation packages for Mr. Campbell and me, our only two employees. The health insurance bill is ridiculously high, 150 percent more than when we began our work a decsde ago. We are researching how to make cuts here without cooperating with the current administration’s mandates that we purchase products for ourselves and others that contradict Catholic moral teaching. While we can’t reduce the salaries we each receive – dependent as our large families are upon our income – our parish financial crisis has become the occasion for a discussion about vocations.
Mr. Campbell, some of you will remember, was hired eight years ago in the hope and expectation that over time his music responsibilities would grow even as his administrative obligations shrank. The acquisition of the St. Joseph Church campus meant that the opposite has occurred, a development that has limited the full use of his manifold talents. We have resolved to redouble our efforts to see this trend reversed.
The upshot of all this is that St. Thomas More Parish is going to see a shake-up. We are going to spend the summer planning the changes we believe necessary for growth, pruning what must be dispensed with and planting seeds we hope will blossom for better evangelization. You will read elsewhere about Maria Kaupas Academy, our commitment to Catholic education being undeterred by our recent setback. The homeschool enrichment program will issue in a new Mass on Friday afternoon as soon as the school year begins, but this may not be the only change. Over the summer we will also look at how to reform our Sunday schedule in order that we can include the ministries that members from so many disparate locales desire to take advantage of.
Grateful for your incredible generosity, and solicitous of your prayers for Bishop Lopes as we approach his August 18th visit to our parish, I am
Your Servant in Christ
The Rev. Eric L. Bergman
(to read the newsletter, click here)