STEWARDSHIP SUNDAY – Oct. 21-22
In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees and Herodians ask Jesus, "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" And the response of Jesus is, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."
So what is it that belongs to Caesar? We know that as citizens of the United States, we have an obligation to be good citizens by obeying legitimate laws, by paying taxes and by being informed voters. These are just a few of the things that we are on for as good citizens.
What is it that belongs to God? St. Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians, "What do you possess that you have not received?" In other words, all we have is a gift to us from God. What this means is that as baptized citizens of the Catholic Church, what we owe God out of gratitude rather than out of a sense of duty or obligation is our time, our talent, and our treasure. We give this to God by our prayer and worship, by our service to others and by our financial support of charitable organizations and of our parish.
Given that, I want to give you an update on our parish finances. I have good news to report. Our three year To Teach Who Christ Is Capital Campaign ended this past June. With most pledges paid in full, thus far we have received a rebate of $223,260. From the Annual Catholic Appeal which began last February, we have received thus far a rebate of $19,676. Last year we received bequests and extraordinary gifts of $156,700. And just recently we received a bequest of $31,159 and another of $10,505. We have savings in our Memorial Fund account at the Credit Union and at the Bank of the Archdiocese of Chicago. That’s the good news.
But there is also some challenging news. In terms of our Sunday collections, we missed budget by about $8,000 last year. Fortunately, we were able to make up the difference with fund raising. Thus far this year we are again missing budget. Last year and thus far this year, we have had to deal with several substantial capital repairs – a new A/C unit for the Church, new windows on the front of the Gym building, new boilers in grammar and high school buildings, roof repairs on the Church and on the ceilings leading up to the Chapel of Consolation and the Children’s Liturgy of the Word Chapel, several steam line repairs in the gym, steam trap replacements in the school, the Church and the gym, courtyard repaving and restriping, and an upgrade to our pipe organ here in Church. Two weeks ago we had to make repairs to our Church boilers at a cost of $16,320. The grand total of major capital repairs last year and thus far this year has been over $330,000. In addition, there have been several less costly repairs. These are the things that keep me awake at night wondering where we will get the money to continue to care for our aging buildings. If you are a homeowner, you know very well what I am talking about.
Let me summarize. As you will see from our financial report for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, we are financially stable. We have savings in the Memorial Fund and at the Bank of the Archdiocese of Chicago. But we are a major capital repair or two away from having our savings depleted. Also, 45% of our income comes from the lease of our grammar and high school buildings to the Passages Charter School. If we were to lose them as a lessee, we will be in serious trouble financially. Related to that, the Passages Charter School over the next few years is on to make the entire school ADA compliant. The cost of that will be more 1 million dollars. And we will be on for part of the cost.
Given that, I have three suggestions for ways that you might support St. Gregory the Great Church financially.
First, can you give prayerful consideration to increasing the amount you contribute to our Sunday collection and to our Christmas and Easter collection. As I mentioned earlier, this past June we completed the three year To Teach Who Christ Is capital campaign. Since we are no longer on for that campaign, can you consider increasing your Sunday offering by a certain percentage based on what you had pledged to that campaign. If you have been contributing the same amount every Sunday and at Christmas and Easter for the past several years, can you consider increasing it.
Second, can you consider signing up for GiveCentral, our program of electronic giving. We currently have 106 parishioners enrolled in GiveCentral. We would like to increase that number by at least 10 in the coming year. Donors to GiveCentral have given us greater financial stability since we receive your Sunday offering every weekend whether you are present here in Church or not. There is an insert in this week’s bulletin giving information about how to enroll in GiveCentral. If you are not computer savvy, we would be happy to enroll you or to walk you through the process.
Third, can you consider writing St. Gregory the Great into your estate plans. Last year and thus far this year we received three bequests in the amount of $132,226. These gifts have given us greater financial stability in the face of the numerous facilities issues we have had to deal with. On the back of the GiveCentral insert in the bulletin this week, there is information about how to include St. Gregory the Great in your will or living trust.
Today, then, I ask you to please read through the financial report in today’s bulletin that you might have a clearer grasp of our current financial situation. If you believe in and are excited about our parish, then I ask you to prayerfully consider maintaining or increasing what you contribute in the coming year. Keep in mind that as the Renew My Church initiative of Cardinal Cupich moves forward and as the Archdiocese of Chicago looks at the need to close or merge parishes, in addition to the October count, two of the things they will be looking at are whether a parish is financially stable and whether their buildings and facilities are in good repair. I understand that if you are on a fixed income or are facing significant financial issues, you may not be able to increase what you are currently donating. I am grateful for whatever you are able to contribute to support our parish.
Let me conclude by thanking you for your generous stewardship towards our wonderful parish in the past. Keep up the good work, and may God bless and keep you. – Fr. Paul
TWENTY EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Several years ago when I went to the house of some friends of mine for dinner, they invited me to try something new that they had cooked. They would not tell me what it was. I must admit that I have always been reluctant to try something new when it comes to food, unless of course it is chocolate, when I do not know what it is that I am about to eat. But at the urging of my friends, I tried it and actually liked it. It turned out to be calamari. If they had told me what it was beforehand, I probably would not have tried it. But as it turned out, I liked it. Now I actually order it every now and then as an appetizer when I go to a restaurant. My initial resistance to eating calamari had to do with the fact that I never had the opportunity to develop a taste for it. If I had not been persuaded by my friends to try it, I would have missed out on what is now one of the dining pleasures of my life.
Now in sharing this with you, I am not trying to promote calamari. Tastes differ, and many different factors go into what people enjoy eating. If you find no joy in calamari, you probably have some other food which you equate with perfect culinary and gastronomic happiness.
There is, however, one taste which all of us must acquire. To speak frankly, it is the only taste which ultimately matters. I am talking about the taste for God and the ways of God.
Today’s readings make reference to the banquet of heaven. Isaiah in our first reading describes a banquet of “juicy, rich food and pure choice wine” which God will provide “for all people.” In the Gospel, Jesus tells of a king who prepares a wedding banquet for his son, a banquet symbolic of the banquet of heaven.
In the midst of this banquet imagery, Jesus introduces a somber note. The people who are invited to the wedding feast of the king’s son refuse to attend. The parable does not tell us why they made that choice. We are left to wonder. Do they harbor some resentment against the king? Do they feel they have better, more important things to do? Is it the food itself which does not appeal to them? We do not know. The terrible thing is that they have built up a series of tastes which cannot be satisfied at that wedding feast. This parable is addressed to the chief priests and elders of Israel. What Jesus make clear to them is the fact that they have failed to develop the one taste which really matters – the taste for God and the ways of God that Jesus gave witness to in his preaching, teaching and living.
Today’s parable, then, invites us to reflect on the tastes we have developed. In life, it matters little whether we have developed a taste for calamari or any other food or drink. But it will make a huge difference if we have developed a taste for things which are contrary to the values of the Gospel, contrary to the mind and the heart of Jesus, things like pride, jealousy, greed, resentment, judgmentalism, lustfulness, materialism or anything else which gets in the way of our ability to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Behind all our important choices in life there is something we can never escape. At every moment and in every significant choice that we make, we are either drawing closer to God, or we are pulling away from God. Today we are invited to ask ourselves this question: Are we acquiring a taste for God and the ways of God? Contrary to what our culture would have us believe, it is only a taste for God and the ways of God that can satisfy all our deepest hungers. And it is a taste that we need to work at acquiring every day of our lives.
Today we are blessed to share in the banquet that Christ has prepared for us. Thank you for responding to Christ’s invitation to be here today at our altar table. As we come forward to receive communion, we are invited in the words of a popular Church hymn to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” – Fr. Paul