The financial repositioning of our Parishes during and after Covid.
Everyone is talking about the Federal budget and its impact on the Australian community and the economy. We decided to ask the leaders of our various Finance Committees to reflect on the parish budgets at this stage of the Covid pandemic. Anton McKernan, is member of the Parish Council at Deepdene and Balwyn and chairs the Finance and Investment Committee, Michael McCloskey is Finance Chair at Our Lady of Victories and Peter Collery is Finance Chair at Surrey Hills Wattle Park as well as Chair of the Parish Interim Leadership Team. Here is what they had to say:
The parishes of Balwyn and Deepdene, Camberwell and Surrey Hills Wattle Park have undergone quite a transformation over the past 6 months with them seeking to come together via a new affiliated Parish model. The pastoral, spiritual, educational, administrative and financial activities of the parishes have seen significant changes in response both to the Covid pandemic and to the collaboration opportunity offered and strongly supported by the Archdiocese.
The financial position of the 3 parishes was of concern at the outset of the Covid pandemic, with the ability of our parish communities to generate the usual level of thanksgiving funds in some doubt, primarily due to those using envelopes not being able to attend Mass. At the same time, our parishes were loath to significantly reduce the pastoral activities we offered at arguably the exact moment of their greatest need.
In the interests of prudent financial governance, it was decided to postpone some of the larger, less ’pastoral’ activities that had been planned for 2020, such as internal work on Our Lady of Victories Basilica and significant maintenance required on one of the Surrey Hills Wattle Park owned rental properties.
Fast forward 6 months and the efforts of our very capable administration staff and priests to shore up our financial position, whilst maintaining and changing the way our parishes function, have meant we have got through, to this point, in a solid position.
Donations and other revenue raising activities were down considerably, as expected, but Thanksgiving receipts have generally held up in Parishes where automated direct payments represent a substantial percentage of Thanksgiving receipts. Contributions from envelopes have been significantly reduced. State and Federal Government assistance have cushioned the impact of these reduced sources of income.
Camberwell parish has a smaller percentage of direct payment donors and as a result has been more severely impacted. It would benefit from more of its parishioners changing to this method of financial support in the future, if they were in a position to do so. The uncertainty of the next 12 months is now occupying our minds and strategies are being developed to ensure our 3 parishes come through this period having maintained the services we want to provide and in solid financial shape. Making sure our schools move into the new world of governance as seamlessly as possible after the disruptive 2020 year is very important, as is making sure our parishes are given the best chance to support our parishioners in need of pastoral care. We are also very mindful of grasping the new opportunities that the close collaboration requested by the Archdiocese offers our respective parish communities. Our respective Councils are working with their parishes to develop a range of alternative operating models for our Parishes covering pastoral, social justice and administrative functions. We are working towards being able to present these to the broader parish communities for consideration, input and refinement in the near term with a view to having a blueprint to implement once we return to some level of Covid normal.
What have the last 6 to 8 months and the Federal Budget just brought down told us?
- Government assistance that has been available until now, will not be ongoing and we will need to plan for reduced stimulus support.
- Many of our retired parishioners have seen their retirement incomes take a significant hit and the near term at least is unlikely to see these incomes increase significantly. We have been very fortunate to have our Parishioners support their parishes financially over the years but reality says we must prepare for the possibility they may not be able to continue to do so at previous levels.
- The investment of parish liquid funds is likely to also earn less return in the near term given investment returns presently on offer.
- Many of our parish parents may be experiencing some level of financial stress so we need to be aware that we may see calls on the parishes for varying levels of support for families.
Our parishes have a strong level of liquid funds and assets built up over many years thanks to the generosity of parishioners and these will enable us to support our parishes. Nonetheless, the next 12 months may present a rocky road financially for all of us as the impacts of Covid reveal themselves. In that regard we continue to be thankful for our parishioners’ ongoing financial support as we strive to secure the future position of our parishes through good governance.
Anton McKernan, Michael McCloskey and Peter Collery