Parishes Feeling the Financial Impact of the Pandemic

With public Masses suspended for several weeks in the United States, parishes have gotten creative in reaching out to the faithful and allowing them to participate in parish life from their homes. Between live streaming Masses, virtual Bible studies, and online adoration, parishioners can often still pray as a community even though they cannot be physically together.

A pastor in Irvine, CA got creative and had his parishioners send him photos of their faces, posting them on the pews so that he could feel united to his parish family while celebrating Mass. Here’s a photo of that church sent to us by a listener:

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But though many parishes are still able to reach their parishioners online, many are feeling the financial impact of not having a weekly collection at each Mass. How is this affecting different parishes? And what can parishes do to weather the storm? Fr. Edward Looney, a priest in the Diocese of Green Bay, stopped by Morning Air® recently to discuss the financial impact of the pandemic on parishes.

Fr. Looney told Morning Air host John Harper, “I’m the pastor of a few small rural parishes. But for us, even that first weekend where people were starting to step back, we noticed our collection was way down. Like maybe 75% down, and we saw with attendance that maybe we had a 30% reduction. And so last week there was no Mass, no public celebration of the Mass, so nobody to put their cash in the basket or their envelopes in the basket.”

Without the weekly collection basket, many pastors are encouraging their flock to sign up for online giving to the parish, so that they can maintain parish operations during the pandemic. Fr. Looney offered his insight as a pastor, who must balance the need to minister to those who are affected by the current crisis, while also needing to maintain his parishes in the long term.

“Maybe people would be able to give, but I think as a pastor I have to recognize the fact that there are people who are out of work right now and they might not be in a place to financially support the parish,” he acknowledged. “So obviously, I don’t want those people to put themselves out to support us when they can barely get by themselves. But if a person has means, and are able to help the parish at this time, the electricity bill still comes in. We have to pay our salaried employees. All of these different things are still expenditures that are coming in every day.”

So what can you do to help your priests and maintain the financial health of your parish community? Here are some ideas:

  1. Sign up for online giving at your parish. Whatever you usually put in the collection basket can be given online, and online giving options can typically be found on your parish web site.
  2. Give sacrificially. If your income has not been affected by the current crisis, recognize that there are many in your parish community who are likely affected. If you are able, give a little bit more than your typical contribution to make up for those who are not able to give right now.
  3. Send a note of encouragement to your priests. Many priests are living on their own, and even those who are live streaming their Masses may not know who is out there participating. Let your priests know that you are praying for them and appreciate them offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, even though you cannot be with them during this time.

Here at Relevant Radio® we have had listeners tell us that we have become a sort of virtual parish, perhaps because their own parish isn’t able to do live streaming of the daily Mass, Rosary, and weekly Stations of the Cross, or because they have always tuned in to these devotions and it helps them keep up with their normal routine. We have had listeners ask us what they should do with their tithe during this time when they can’t attend their parish for Mass and are relying on Relevant Radio to participate in the Mass, Stations of the Cross, and other devotions. Should they give to their parish or to Relevant Radio? Our answer is: why not both? If Relevant Radio has blessed your life during this time of quarantine then give some to your parish and some to Relevant Radio.

Another way to think of it is that if your income has not been impacted by the current crisis and you have been participating in our streaming Masses, Rosaries, Stations of the Cross, or the Prayer vs. Pandemic movement – consider ways in which your expenses may have decreased due to the pandemic restrictions. Are you paying less in gas and tolls because you are no longer commuting to work? Are you eating out less because you are spending more time at home? Are your childcare, clothing, or entertainment expenses going to decrease in the coming weeks and months? Consider taking that money you would normally spend and splitting it between your local parish and your virtual parish.

This pandemic offers us some great spiritual opportunities. Let’s make sure we can maintain our spiritual health long after the threats to our physical health have subsided.

Listen to the full conversation with Fr. Edward Looney below:

Morning Air can be heard weekdays from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Eastern/3:00 – 6:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio and the Relevant Radio App.