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Test phase of new financial relationship with parishes to begin

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BRAINTREE -- A sufficient number of volunteer parishes have stepped forward to begin the test phase of a new model of the financial relationship between parishes and the archdiocese.

In late 2009, Cardinal Seán O’Malley called for 30 volunteer parishes to be part of the first phase of the new financial model’s rollout. This week, the Archdiocese of Boston announced it has 34 parishes who have volunteered to implement the plan during the next fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.

“Some change has to take place,” said Father George Szal, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Revere, one of the volunteer parishes for Phase I. “I don’t mind being in the forefront. We’ll hammer this thing out for the archdiocese.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us not only to cooperate with the archdiocese in this new endeavor, but it offers interesting assistance to our parish,” added Father Kevin Sepe, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Braintree, another of the Phase I parishes.

Denise McKinnon-Biernat, Director of Parish Financial Services and member of the Improved Financial Relationship Committee (IFRC), which developed the new model, said that this represents the first rollout of the program.

“We’re doing it on a limited basis to work through the transition with these parishes in order to make the larger implementation much easier,” she said. “It will be good to get the parishes’ perspectives on a smaller scale.”

McKinnon-Biernat said that the participating parishes represent a cross-section of the archdiocese. The parishes are evenly spread out among all six regions of the archdiocese and roughly half of them have a school.

Participating parishes also represent a cross-section in terms of financial health, added Tricia Fraser, a parish services consultant for the archdiocese and member of the IFRC implementation team.

“If we were to handpick the Phase I parishes to be as representative as possible of the archdiocese, I don’t think we could have done a better job of the 34 that applied,” said Secretary for Institutional Advancement Scot Landry.

During the upcoming phase, the IFRC will share results with the Presbyteral Council, which in turn could give permission for a full rollout among all the parishes in the second phase, which would begin in FY 2012.

“Where we see value of having volunteer parishes on board is not so much to change the model as it stands,” said Fraser. “We’ll do our best to keep the integrity of the model, but they will be assisting us with any transition issue that the archdiocese or the parish will be having.”

“We hope each of these parishes bring unique issues to the table,” she added.

Under the new system, parishes will be expected to contribute 18 percent of their total offertory, grand annual, and rental income to support archdiocesan central ministries. Ten percent of that amount would come in the form of a parish tithe and 8 percent would come through a Catholic Appeal assessment. At the same time, most of the current fees, taxes and charges levied against parishes would be eliminated.

Parishes with schools would not have to pay the portion of the tithe that supports Catholic schools.

The new model raises the percentage of funds that get returned to parishes that exceed their Catholic Appeal goals. Under the new system, such parishes will see 50-percent of the excess returned to them.

The new model also stipulates that the archdiocese will offer fundraising assistance to parishes to increase their collections.

“A letter-writing campaign is a lot of work,” Father Szal said. “I’d like some help with that.”

The current model, by comparison, includes numerous voluntary fees throughout the year and returns only 25 percent of the excess to the respective parish.

“It’s going to streamline the billing for the archdiocese to the parishes and it’s going to help all parishes pay their fair share of their support for the central services of the Archdiocese of Boston,” Father Sepe said.

Officials from the IFRC told The Pilot in December 2009 that there has been a disparity in the levels of support parishes have offered the archdiocese under the current model, with some parishes contributing as little as 2 percent of their offertory and others contributing as much as one-third.

Father Rodney Copp, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Waltham and another volunteer parish, said that the new model will result in improved financial health for both the archdiocese and the parishes.

McKinnon-Biernat and Fraser praised the commitment of these parishes.

“They came forward to help the cardinal in this endeavor,” McKinnon-Biernat said. “It says a lot to their leadership and their vision for the future.”

“They wanted to define the change,” Fraser added. “Many came on board for that reason. They wanted to take a leadership role even though this would be a challenge for them financially.”

Father Szal welcomes the opportunity to help the archdiocese in this regard.

“We want to support the archdiocese in this endeavor to create a spirit of stewardship,” said Father Szal. “The cardinal wants this. They say the leaders in front are only as good as the leaders who are following. I believe we’re in a positive direction to regroup and step forward with catechesis and renewal of the Church.”

The 34 parishes participating in the pilot phase of the program are:

-- Holy Name, West Roxbury

-- Our Lady of Lourdes, Jamaica Plain

-- Our Lady of Perpetual Help, West Roxbury

-- Sacred Heart, Roslindale

-- St. Augustine, Andover

-- St. Robert Bellarmine, Andover

-- St. Francis of Assisi, Braintree

-- St. John the Evangelist, Chelmsford

-- Most Precious Blood, Dover

-- Holy Family, Duxbury

-- St. John the Baptist, Essex

-- St. Bridget, Framingham

-- St. Mary of the Sacred Heart, Hanover

-- St. James, Haverhill

-- St. Michael, Hudson

-- St. Margaret, Lowell

-- St. Mary, Lynn

-- Our Lady of the Assumption, Lynnfield

-- Sacred Heart, Manchester-by-the-Sea

-- St. Joseph, Medford

-- St. Mary of the Hills, Milton

-- Sacred Heart, Quincy

-- St. Bernadette, Randolph

-- Immaculate Conception, Revere

-- St. Mary of the Assumption, Revere

-- St. Ann, Somerville

-- St. James, Stoughton

-- St. John, Townsend

-- St. Charles Borromeo, Waltham

-- St. Paul, Wellesley

-- St. Francis Xavier, South Weymouth

-- Corpus Christi-St. Bernard, Auburndale

-- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Dorchester

-- Christ the King, Brockton

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