September 30, 2011 – What Were We Thinking?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  No, it’s not Christmas time just yet (although you would think so if you went back to the garden area at Wal-Mart).  Besides being my favorite season of the year, with just a bit of chill in the air and the leaves turning, for sports fans such as myself these are the high holy days – baseball is now entering the post-season, football is in full swing, and hockey is just around the corner.  And of course this year is particularly special because the Cardinals made an unexpected push to get into the playoffs.  Life is good indeed!   I give credit to Channel 2 News who showed a story of a priest in South St. Louis who is a huge Cardinal fan and has been praying diligently for them all season.  They also pointed out that the Pink Sisters, whose mission of prayer you may remember was credited with the beautiful January weather when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis in 1999, are now praying for the success of the Cardinals.  And of course you know our resident pastor is sending prayers of his own, so I think we are a shoe-in for the World Series (lol).  Anyway, enjoy the upcoming games.

As you see the title of this blog is “What Were We Thinking?”  When you hear a statement such as this we usually associate it with something negative.  You may hear something to the effect of “Oh, we were supposed to operate on the other side of the brain – what were we thinking?!”, or “We are actually Cubs fans – what were we thinking?!”.   However, this past Wednesday night we held another meeting concerning the Parish Renewal and Restructuring process, this time with a larger group of parishioners.  Besides going through the process of evaluating different areas of parish life, it was an opportunity to hear what some people were thinking about how things are going in our parish and if there are areas that could be improved.

To go through each and every comment or concern would take up my entire hard drive, but I think there were a couple of general themes that came out of the session.  First of all, it is very clear that our school remains a point of pride for our parish, and is an important part of parish life.  Many people have worked and continue to work very hard to keep our school vital and functional.  After a period of rapidly shrinking enrollment several years ago, we have moved back up to an acceptable level.  The concern is the amount of resources that a school in this day and time must have to function.  We no longer have the advantage of having nuns who would work for paltry salaries.  Not that our teachers are getting rich, and I’m sure they could go into the public system and be compensated more greatly, but nonetheless salaries are a relatively large expense in terms of the total budget.  And to stay reasonably current with advances in technology takes a great investment as well.  This of course is not to mention the funds it takes to maintain the buildings. 

Our parents and parishioners have done a heroic job in holding numerous fundraisers in order to supplement the school’s income.  Because of this, the parish currently subsidizes the school with about half of the income it takes in, which is a lower percentage than it has been in the past.  The diocese, however, recommends that this figure not be higher than 40%.  The reason for this is that if the percentage is higher, there would not be sufficient funds left over to maintain the other areas of the parish – building maintenance, ministries, adult education, etc.  So despite these efforts, the diocese has placed our school in a category of “questionable” viability.  Does this mean that the diocese plans to close the school?  NO.  What it does mean is that we have to continue to find ways to aid the stewardship of the school and the parish, and also continue to encourage families to send their kids to our school – Catholic and non-Catholic.  But with the desire that people have shown, I am confident that our school will remain here for a long time.

There were also a few other concerns that were raised.  One was whether our shut-ins were being ministered to sufficiently.  This is an area which I think there is more going on than many of us realize.  Besides the organized efforts of the parish, I know that other folks are taking it upon themselves to visit those who are shut-in or are in need of extra attention.  Again, can this be improved in some way?  Sure.  And this is part of what this process is about – to evaluate ourselves and to welcome suggestions from anyone who wishes to offer them.

Overall, though, the general tone of the meeting was very positive, and I think the process was certainly worthwhile, not just to meet the requirements of the diocese, but also to do our own self-evaluation and to get people’s input on what we are doing well and what could be improved.  In my personal opinion, I think we are doing very well in most areas of the parish, particularly given the limited resources that we have.  Again this is in most part to so many gracious people who give of their time, talent and treasure.  If you have not attended one of these meetings yet, there is one more opportunity on Tuesday, October 18 at 7:00PM at the KC Hall.  All parishioners are welcome to attend this session.  Please come and offer us your input and suggestions.  And we also don’t mind hearing what we are doing well also.

 Well the weather for the next week looks glorious.  This will offer our farmers the much needed opportunity to do their fall harvest work.  Pray for their safety and for a fair price for their crops.  Enjoy the baseball and football this coming week.  I leave you with a link to one of my favorite comedy routines by the legendary George Carlin comparing football and baseball.

 http://youtu.be/qmXacL0Uny0 

Have a great week.  Peace.

 

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