GROWING IN FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE:
A REPORT TO THE COMMUNITY OF ST. PATRICK-ST. ANTHONY
“In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” This quote by Saint John Henry Newman certainly has the ring of truth in it, but too much change all at once can be somewhat detrimental to a person’s well-being. Such may be the case for many of us over the past few years. The onset of the COVID pandemic left many of us at wit’s end, with our world turned practically upside down. All our usual routines – all our certainties – were suddenly torn away from us.
Here at St. Patrick-St. Anthony change was especially traumatic. We were reduced to just one public Mass each weekend. Those who attended in person had to make a reservation, have their temperature taken, wear a face mask, and sit two rows apart. Then came the change of friar personnel: three friars were reassigned and three new ones arrived, all in the space of a few weeks. My appointment as pastor was just as unexpected. I had to try to get to know the parish and you had to try to get to know me. I think I can truthfully say it was a difficult task for all of us.
That being said, I was keenly aware of the strength and faith of this parish community, and those two qualities were essential in our ability to weather the many changes and challenges that we faced together. We learned to adapt and continue to remain united, even if it meant resorting to live-stream liturgies and endless Zoom sessions!
Now, here we are more than two years later, and most of our usual routines have returned and we are growing together as the community we are called to be. We still have to face some challenges, but we can do so in a renewed spirit of hope that is always a part of our Christian faith journey.
In this report I would like to bring you up to date on our financial situation as well as to answer some of the questions I have been asked about some of the changes that have taken place during my first two years as pastor. I ask that you read this report carefully, as well as the financial figures at its conclusion.
First, I wish to express my deep thanks to the wonderful staff of friars and lay personnel who serve all of us. They have been a rich source of guidance to me and I have learned to listen carefully to their advice and suggestions. We meet weekly and our conversations have always been aimed toward what might be best for the entire parish. As you know, we have had several unexpected changes in the lay staff over the past year and a half. We were sorry to lose Pam Johnson, Trudi Campbell and Frances Martin. However, I am delighted that we have been able to hire qualified and dedicated people like Kristina DiDominzio (Business Manager), Allison Holst-Grubbe (Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator), and Michael Boone (Receptionist and Office Assistant) to pick up their respective reins and carry on those important roles. Additionally, Sarah Christopher joined our staff as Parish Communications Director. Sarah designed our new website and coordinates our weekly email announcements.
I am also very grateful for the dedication of our Finance Council which has met via Zoom on several occasions. They include veterans Marianne Midura, John Lemega, Andy Pace, Barbara Theurkauf and Carl Zyskowski. Recently we added Rod Pelletier and Bernie Forand, in addition to Cody Guarnieri who serves as one of our parish trustees. Together, they offer sage advice regarding the financial health of our parish, and I have come to rely heavily on their wisdom and experience.
Looking over the financial reports for the past ten years, I have noticed that the yearly offerings have remained steady, even during the pandemic. Online giving has proven to be a successful endeavor and has shown to be a reliable source of income for the parish. Annual gifts and donations are also a vital source of funding. However, I must point out one important fact to keep in mind: the Parish of St. Patrick-St. Anthony and the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry are completely separate entities, legally and financially. The Franciscan Center is a 501(c)(3) organization that operates independently of the Parish, although many parish activities are intermingled with those of the Center. When I became pastor, I appointed Fr. Michael Johnson as director of the Franciscan Center, and he has been very diligent in strengthening its financial health, as well as forming a board of director to oversee the use of its funds to respond to the needs of those who seek financial assistance, and coordinate outreach initiatives and partnerships.
I understand that some parishioners prefer to make their offerings to the Franciscan Center rather than the parish; however, this deprives the parish of needed operating funds. I encourage you to continue to support the Franciscan Center, but not necessarily to the exclusion of the parish. There are specific areas of ministry within the parish that can be earmarked for your donations, such as the music ministry or religious education program. I mention this because our wonderful music ministry at St. Patrick-St. Anthony is something for which we are well known and respected in the Hartford area. However, it does require a good deal of money each year to make it happen. In 2021 the total cost for the music ministry was $217,387.64. Thus, I invite you to consider making the music ministry a priority in your giving practices. I should also mention that many of our ministries are strengthened by the dedicated work of volunteers who give much of their time and energy to our mission as a faith community. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude for all that they do!
I am also aware that some parishioners have had questions about the acquisition of the Schantz Chancel Organ. Shortly before I arrived here I saw that a fine pipe organ had become available for whoever wanted it. The organ was located in a former Episcopalian church in Avon that had closed several years ago. The church had been purchased by a Muslim community who didn’t need the organ, and it had to be removed by a certain date. I asked our music director if the organ might be worth obtaining. Gabriel Löfvall was excited that such an instrument might be placed in the empty chancel space behind the wood reredos (the wall behind the tabernacle). The organ would provide greater flexibility in the choral program here, and as it turned out, has become the instrument of choice by our organists to accompany the choir and lead the congregational singing. Through the generosity of several donors, we were able to acquire the organ and have it reassembled in our chancel. So, no funds from the church’s operating budget were used for the organ.
Additionally, several new vestments and sanctuary appointments such as the processional cross, baptismal pedestal, Paschal Candle stand and cabinet for the Holy Oils were funded through the generosity of individual donors as memorials to loved ones. I am deeply grateful to these parishioners, most of whom have asked to remain anonymous, who have provided such beautiful gifts to our community.
Other projects we have tackled over the past few years have included the installation of a new air-cooling unit for the church, the live-stream audio and video system, replacement of an outdated electrical fuse box in the basement of the church, and a new (although recycled) color copier machine.
I’d like to speak a little bit about the Saints Parking Lot which has, in the past, provided the Parish with a much-needed source of income. As you can probably imagine, the past few years have been especially difficult for the parking lot to provide
such funds. During the pandemic when the parking lot sat virtually empty for months on end, we still had to pay property taxes on it. In 2021 that amount was $134,267.14. Fortunately, as life in downtown Hartford has come back, income from the parking lot has become more reliable. However, I doubt we will ever regain what has been lost since the start of the pandemic as more people continue to work from home.
The fact remains that each year we run a deficit in our annual budget. For the past 12 years the average operating loss has been $101,474.86. These deficits have been covered by taking a certain percentage each year from our investment account. So, even before the pandemic, we had to deal with a yearly deficit. With the recent volatility in the stock market, it will be more difficult to rely on investment gains to cover our annual operating deficit.
In conclusion, I regret to say that the finances of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish need some urgent attention. You will find the current figures on the last page of this report; and in an effort to be more transparent, you can go to spsact.org to see our quarterly numbers. Under “Our Parish” on the home page, scroll down to “Financial Accountability.”
As I look around this active parish and as I get to know you more parishioners, I detect a sense of profound gratitude for what we do here. There is a palpable feeling of being part of a true community of faith, hope and love. You are very generous in your commitment and dedication to the parish, even as you juggle your own household finances. All I can ask is that you continue to do your part, as best as you can, to faithful members of the community. By offering your time, talent and treasure you bring God’s kingdom alive here on Church Street!
May God bless you abundantly!
Fr. Timothy Shreenan, O.F.M.