The Offertory at Mass is important as a symbol of our giving of ourselves to God. The money we give in the collection along with other sources of income enables the parish to pay its way. As well as the offerings received through the regular collections in cash and Planned Giving envelopes, there is income from standing orders or other donations, the Christmas and Easter Offerings, stipends for masses, baptisms, marriages and funerals, payments from the sale of votive candles, newspapers, repository items etc. Additionally, there is money raised through specific fund-raising activities and the tax rebate we receive from the government for offerings that parishioners Gift Aid to the parish.
How much should I give?
In the early Church as described in the Acts of the Apostles, “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, as everything they owned was held in common”. That is not what the Church asks of people today. Cardinal Hume once suggested that wage earners might consider one hour’s pay as the basis for deciding the amount of their giving. In deciding what to give, perhaps compare the amount we give each week with the cost of common items we might spend the money on and compare that with how we much value the Parish – a bottle of wine, a take-away meal, cigarettes, a cinema ticket.
Obviously, individuals must look at their own circumstances in deciding how much to give each week and no-one is asked to give what they cannot afford.
Parishioners do question the number of retiring collections that are taken. The majority are set by the diocese and comparatively few are for the parish. In this parish, we sometimes ask people to contribute to a particular appeal through the wall safes at the back of church instead of taking a collection.
How the money is spent
Our income goes three ways. Firstly, there are the day-to-day running costs – salaries, heating, lighting, telephone, postage, housekeeping, printing, insurance, car expenses etc. Secondly, there is the amount which the diocese assesses as being our contribution to the costs of running and maintaining the diocese and providing central services: currently diocesan parishes pay 29% of their assessable income to the diocese. Finally, there is a need to build up a reserve fund to meet the costs of regular maintenance as well as providing for the cost of dealing with unexpected emergencies.
The priest’s living expenses – housekeeping, mileage allowance etc. are met from parish income; however the priest’s salary is paid for from the money received in stipends for celebrating masses, baptisms, weddings and funerals plus the annual Christmas and Easter offerings. It is widely believed that the Christmas and Easter offerings are a Christmas and Easter present to the clergy. This is not the case; they actually go towards paying their regular salary. However, the diocese sets a minimum salary, updated each year, which all priests are paid if stipends etc. are not sufficient.
The diocese also sets salaries for parish employees – secretaries, housekeepers, etc. based on the demands of the job and the hours worked. As with priests’ salaries, these are up-rated annually.
At the time of writing, June 2015, our major interest is in the replacement of the church porch, the provision of additional meeting space to accommodate, in particular, the parish’s catechetical work and the re-ordering of the Sanctuary by moving the stone baptismal font to the front of the church and replacing the existing ambo (lectern).