Every year about this time, I receive questions from some of our parishioners looking for information about one of the more un-talked-about realities of Church life. Most of us are used to making contributions either by a direct deposit from our bank accounts, or using envelopes, or dropping cash in the basket, or (increasingly) using Faith Direct for eGiving. At different times during the year I acknowledge with gratitude the generosity of our parishioners. But the questions at this time of the year are often asked when people are trying to discern how they would like their gift to be used in the parish. Just like the crowds in today’s gospel asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” I also get this question about how people might choose to give, or to what particular purpose they might wish to give?
As a pastor working with our parish business manager and finance council, we look at the contributions that are made with one initial division. General contributions are those given without any stipulated purpose on the part of the giver. This covers the vast majority of our contributions used for the general operations of the parish. From these contributions we pay for staff, ministries, programs, maintenance, utilities, etc. Any costs incurred by the parish are payable from these funds. We sometimes call these general contributions our “ordinary income.”
We also receive particular contributions from parishioners who give for a particular purpose such as our “Building Fund” or our “Maintenance Fund” or our “Education Fund,” etc. These funds usually have separate (and different colored) envelopes in our mailed packets, and they are listed on our Faith Direct pages. Another way in which people designate their gift for a particular fund is by simply writing in the memo line of their check something like “Technology,” “Education,” “AC,” “Lights,” etc. Fully 100% of what we receive as a designated gift goes directly for that particular purpose and to nothing else. This income is called “designated income.”
Our general contributions, or ordinary income, is assessed 10% by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Some people see this as a tax or a levy on the parish. However, I see it as a relatively inexpensive cost for some aspects of parish life. For example, the 10% assessment goes to help pay for the parish’s legal council, an entire HR staff, specialized access to consultants for matters relating to annulments, catechetical ministry, school services, construction and contracts, technology consultants, real estate, clergy personnel matters, insurance, financial services, and a whole array of ministry resources that we could never engage in alone as an individual parish, such as vocations outreach and detention ministry. In the usual course of events throughout the year, either I as pastor, or different members of our parish staff, draw on these resources regularly, and it is with the help and ongoing support of the dedicated men and women who work in the Archdiocesan offices that we are able to accomplish so much of what we do, here in the parish. So 90% of our ordinary income is available to the parish for direct parish use, with 10% going to help cover the costs of staffing the services provided by the Archdiocesan offices.
Our ordinary income is also used to determine our goal for the special program of support that we know as Together in Mission. The goal for every parish in the Archdiocese is set at 10% of their general, or ordinary income. This allows for a very even and balanced approach to the annual appeal, Together in Mission. Uniquely, in the United States, 100% of what is raised in this appeal goes directly to assist the parishes and schools who can not make it financially on their own. In most other diocese across the United States, the appeal is divided among different needs. Here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 100% of our Together in Mission gift goes to serve the poorest and least fortunate parishes and schools, and so directly assists our brothers and sisters in faith who most need our help.
I hope this information is helpful, and clarifies how our contributions work once we make our offering. If anyone ever has any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly, and I will endeavor to address them as best I can.
God bless you all in your goodness.