BY BARB SZYSZKIEWICZ
What’s the financial impact when parishioners cannot attend Mass?
If you live in an area where winter weather can be harsh, you’ve probably seen appeals in your parish bulletin to make up for lost collection-basket revenue in case Mass is canceled due to snow. In the summer, you might see a reminder to continue to donate to your parish even though you’re on vacation and worshiping in a church far from home.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, parishes face weeks or months of cancellations. Your pastor, most likely, has not mentioned the financial stress that will result from these cancellations. Discussing money is difficult enough as it is. But the donations that go into the collection basket each week do more than keep the lights and heat on and pay the salaries of the parish secretary and maintenance crew.
In some parishes, the St. Vincent de Paul Society receives a percentage of the weekly offering. That money goes directly to help neighbors in need with material aid such as grocery-store gift cards, utility payments, and help with rent. In short, that money enables the Corporal Works of Mercy.
Some of us are able to work from home and keep our jobs. Our neighbors who work in restaurants, some retail stores, movie theaters, hair salons, and other industries that have been shut down by local, state, and CDC recommendations are unable to work from home. With no work, no paycheck, and in some cases no benefits, these neighbors will need more help than ever from organizations such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Charitable organizations have also lost opportunities this spring to hold fundraisers, such as Lenten fish fries, dinner dances, and even the baby bottle fund drive for the local home for women in crisis pregnancies and their children.
What can our families do to help our neighbors in need and local churches in this situation?
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SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PARISH CHURCH.
Beyond that: Prayerfully consider donating the money you might be saving at this time to the following, if your means allow:
DONATE YOUR COMMUTING COSTS: If you’re telecommuting now because of the coronavirus crisis, calculate how much money you normally spend each week on:
~ gas and tolls for your daily commute
~ your daily train, subway, or bus fare;
~ breakfast and coffee;
~ lunch at the office cafeteria or a restaurant; and
~ dry cleaning.
Donate the money you’ve saved on those commuting costs either to your parish to be used as needed, or to charitable organizations such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Charities, or local crisis pregnancy centers.
DONATE YOUR “CANCELLED ACTIVITIES” COSTS:
Families can also consider donating the cost of a trip to the movies (also closed during the pandemic), a family dinner at a restaurant, or other outing.
Engage your children in adding up these costs and explain how the funds will be used instead.
Just as we are encouraged during Lent to save the money we’d have spent on a typical meal, choosing to eat simply on Lenten Fridays and donating the extra to those in need, so we can do the same now that our daily activities have been curtailed as a precaution against the spread of COVID19.
We may not be able to engage in certain works of mercy that involve leaving our homes — but we can still do this. We can still help our neighbors.
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