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Every Sunday when the collection basket is passed, you can be sure that the monies collected are going to your local parish or towards the announced special collection; however, the Christmas and Easter collections are different. Since 1972, the Christmas collection has gone to benefit the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston. The monies are used for the retirement, medical, and/or other financial needs of the priests and are critically important to the financial future of what is known as the “Clergy Funds.”
The four trust funds benefiting priests that the archbishop is responsible for are the “Clergy Retirement/Disability Trust,” the “Clergy Benefit Trust,” the “Clergy Medical/Hospitalization Trust,” and the “Benefit Trust for Non-incardinated Clergy.” Your financial contribution to your parish at Christmas goes directly into the Clergy Benefit Trust, with the exception of 10 percent of the Christmas collection, which may be used for Christmas gratuities to the parish staff and volunteers.
For parishes operated by religious orders, permission has been granted so that the Christmas collection, along with the Easter Collection, goes to the religious order. The reason for this is to assist the respective religious orders in fulfilling their responsibility to provide for the health and retirement needs of their priests.
Like many pension plans in recent years, the priests’ pension funds have suffered dramatically. This is due to a number of factors. First, while a seven percent return on investments was projected, only two percent was realized. Second, health care costs for retired priests and active priests have increased significantly, especially the cost of prescription drugs. Third, as a result of the troubles here in the archdiocese, many people have chosen to decrease their financial support to the Church or to cease giving altogether. To add to this year’s challenges, this year Christmas falls on a Sunday, and it is difficult for parishes to lose a Sunday collection. Fortunately, knowing this, pastors could plan and budget responsibly.
The members of the Clergy Fund Advisory Committee have asked priests, especially pastors, to try to achieve a 40 percent increase over last year’s collection, for an increase of one million dollars. This would not solve our problems but would be of significant help. Ultimately, it is our hope that our problems will be resolved by the revision of the Senior Priest Policy and by our search for additional sources of funding. We can only pray that these efforts will be successful.
So, when you go to Christmas Mass, there will be only one collection. Second collections are not permitted, and everything placed in the basket will be used as described in this letter. Even if you use a parish envelope, the money will go to the Clergy Fund. Please be generous, as all of the priests need your help. We appreciate all of the sacrifices you make on our behalf and together we thank you.
Bishop Lennon is the Vicar General/Moderator of the Curia and by office is the Secretary of the Clergy Fund Advisory Committee.