Dear St. Mary Parishioners,
Winston Churchill once said, “We Make A Living By What We Get; We Make A Life by What We Give”.
It’s that time of the year again when we are called to reflect on the many blessings God has provided for us and to faithfully make our Stewardship pledge for 2022. This year, we would like to take a different approach to the Stewardship Appeal by providing a ‘St. Mary State of the Parish’ update. While we should learn to give with our hearts (sometimes blindly), the adage of ‘trust but verify’ helps us. We often ask the question to ourselves, ‘Is the institution we’re giving to both a well-run business and does it support a worthwhile cause.’ In the years past, we admittedly have not been able to check both those boxes. In the past 18 months, that has changed…
State of the Parish
The following is a State of St. Mary Parish to include our most recent successes and the reasons why the sharing of your time, talent, and treasure is vital.
In June of 2020, amidst a global pandemic, our Pastor, Father Stephen Vrazel, started his
St. Mary assignment. We had many challenges to overcome as a parish at that time. Since his start, the main goal has been to unify our parish, to grow and foster the faith community, and to run both St. Mary Catholic Church and St. Mary Catholic School as responsible businesses.
At St. Mary, our vision of ‘Responsible Business’ is to:
- Employ and retain good employees
- Have unified parish financial goals (church/school)
- Balanced and routinely monitored budgets
- Save money for emergency and unforeseen issues
- Have transparent financials
- Implement a Facility Maintenance Program
- Continuously better our Parish Product (church/School)
- Plan for the future
As of today, we are very excited and proud to provide Progress towards this vision.
- School employees have received raises and will continue to do so regularly.
- Church employees, who haven’t received a raise in over 10 years, will receive a significant one this upcoming year and will continue to receive regular raises moving forward.
- For the first time ever, we have a combined Church and School Parish Finance council which meets monthly to work towards common goals and assure that our Parish has unified finances.
- The Finance council is made up of Father Vrazel, our St. Mary School Principal, Debbie Ollis, and six lay people of varying professional backgrounds to include: Carson Strickland (chair), Tommy Ankerson, Matt Binion, Matt Boos, Brian Lang, and A.J. LeGrone.
- Both the church and school budgets are currently balanced and projected to be in the black this year. Please click here for a Year To Date Financial Report.
- Both the church and school operating budgets have been revised to only consider fixed revenue streams for our unified Parish.
- Church – tithe
- School – tuition and fees
- Fundraisers will no longer be budgeted for operating expenses; Fundraising will
- be used for capital improvements or new projects.
- Our Parish (Both the church and school) now have cash reserves to help with unforeseen issues and emergency repairs which has not been the case in the past ten years.
- The Parish has significantly increased the school subsidy and will continue to do so as the church finances improve.
- Regarding maintenance, a director of maintenance, Michael Provost, was recently hired to oversee maintenance of our beautiful facilities. He will work with the Parish (church and school) to help tackle deferred, routine, and planned maintenance. This will be a unified program supported by St. Mary.
This year, we completed several deferred maintenance projects using cash at hand:
- Replacement of the rectory roof
- Soft wash of the church, rectory, and Seton Center
- New rectory gutters
- Downspout and gutter repairs to the church
- The Knights of Columbus (KOC) funded the renovation of Father Vrazel’s rectory suite, and he is now a full time Old Shell resident.
- Next year, we will start to replace roofs on other Parish (church/school)buildings.
Every good business should be continuously improving their product, and at St. Mary Parish both the church and school are doing just that.
- The school took control of Mother’s Day Out and rebranded to an Early Child Development Center (Early C) which is now more closely tied to our elementary school.
- New programs such as robotics, STEM, Spanish and resource have recently been added.
- Earlier this year, a new Director of Youth Ministry was hired, Ms. Abigail Standish. She is already making an impact with our youth.
- This fall, a new school tuition assistance program will be established – The Lauten Family Foundation. More details to come early next year.
- A new endowment fund has been established for a nest egg for St. Mary Church with the first $14,000 toward this fund made possible by St. Mary's inaugural Trivia Night held October 28. The endowment fund will grow through this annual event, special fundraising projects, and through our planned giving program.
- More new programs and Mass changes are planned for 2022 to help better unify St. Mary Parish to include our church and school. We aim to be the place in Midtown where families want to attend Mass.
- In the past at St. Mary, we have been people rich and facilities poor. We are working tirelessly to change that. In June of 2020, the Parish Council adopted a master plan which incorporates property currently owned by the Parish. The first phase of our master plan is an outdoor multiuse Pavilion on Thompson field.
- On October 5th, Archbishop Rodi gave final approval to St. Mary to start our first new building project since 1949 (that’s 73years) which was for present School and gymnasium built in 1949 for $250,000.
- This new building project, the St. Mary Pavilion and Courts, project has begun. We signed the contract last month and this week we paid the deposit for the steel structure with funds coming from private donations and ongoing fundraisers. Be on the lookout for a groundbreaking ceremony in the next month.
As Catholics and Christians, we are called to be good stewards of the blessings God has provided us and to be thankful for all our many gifts. The best way to demonstrate our thanks is to reciprocate, and to share our blessings through Stewardship- Time, Talent and Treasure.
Hitting all three components of stewardship, may come as a great sacrifice, and giving is not always easy. But it is rewarding, both here on earth and in heaven.
Sharing of Time and Talent:
The sharing of the gifts of talent is a demonstration of our love of God and thankfulness for all of our blessings, by sacrificing our most precious earthly resource…Time.
- Set an example for your children, family, friends and parish community by taking the uncomfortable step to share your time with others. Children are watching and will learn by example.
- Find a place to volunteer. There are numerous opportunities in our parish and school communities. A brochure with all volunteer opportunities was recently mailed to all parishioners.
- You can also click here to sign up on our parish website which will have a list of all opportunities.
- If you’re not able to donate financially, donate your time and talent.
- If you’re unsure of where to start, ask Father Vrazel, email the parish offices in the church or school. They will put you in touch with folks to get you started.
- Most of our volunteer opportunities end up being really fun!
Sharing of Treasure:
Recommendations for Stewardship Tithing:
1st - Start with a firm goal-> 5%
- That’s 5% of your gross income.
- Add up your income, multiply it by .05, that will give you your annual goal. Divide that number by 12 and that’s your monthly goal.
- If you’re at or already giving 5% that great! Try to keep growing or at the very least maintaining your tithe percentage as your income increases.
- If you’re not there yet, start now. Not next week, not next, month, not next year. Take the time today to start with 1% regular contribution and make a goal to grow that amount.
- Please talk with your family, spouse, or yourself, and please make an honest assessment of how you stand up to the 5% goal.
2nd - Prioritize Tithing
- When considering how much to tithe how does that compare with your other monthly spending?
- How we spend our money says a lot for who we are and what we value.
- Do you value the numerous monthly subscriptions (Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Spotify, Apple) more than your faith and salvation?
- Can you sacrifice one splurge a month and increase your tithe?
3rd - Set up a weekly or monthly contribution
Regular giving is the only way we can sustain a healthy parish.
Your pledge is the only way to accurately budget or meet our goals.
4th - Grow Your Tithe as You Grow
- Don’t make this a one-time event. Make this an annual review.
- As your income grows, please do not forget to increase your tithe.
- When you receive an increase in salary, or a bonus, inheritance, or unplanned income, make a pact to allocate 10% to the Church.
- Say for example you receive a $200 per month increase in salary this year. Take the first $20 and add that to your tithe. Simple as that.
- It sounds small but it will add up quickly and we as a Parish will meet and exceed our goals.
- To Recap
- Start with 5%
- Prioritize in your budget
- Set up a regular contribution
- Grow your tithe
- …And remember to volunteer your Time and Talent
The ball is currently bouncing St. Mary’s way. Help us continue that momentum. Take heed to the Churchill challenge and let’s define our lives by giving. Let’s continue to build a stronger Parish Community and as we say around here lets #makemaryproud.
Thank you and May God bless you for your support of St. Mary Parish,
The St. Mary Finance Council,
Father Stephen Vrazel, Pastor
Debbie Ollis, Principal
Carson Strickland, Chair