STATE OF THE PARISH ADDRESS
DELIVERED AT ALL MASSES ON THE WEEKEND OF
NOVEMBER 24TH AND 25TH, 2012
FATHER CHRISTOPHER MONTURO
PASTOR OF SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA CHURCH
It is hard to believe that next weekend I will begin my 6th year as pastor of Saint Anthony of Padua. In that time, I have come before you once a year to discuss the “state of the parish.” I do that this weekend as we publish our annual parish financial report and as we bring to a close this liturgical year.
During the last five years I have worked very closely with the members of the parish council and finance committee as well as with the wider parish membership. Always our goal has been continuous improvement on every level. I believe, and I am sure you agree, that we have a wonderful, vibrant and active parish. This is certainly due to the devotion of an extraordinarily capable staff. I am proud to serve alongside Father Peter and to collaborate with all of our pastoral team, as well as so many of you, hardworking and dedicated parishioners who work tirelessly ensuring that we have beautiful liturgies, inspiring music, an outstanding religious education program, community outreach and successful fundraisers just to name a few items. I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the extraordinary generosity of a small number of our parishioners who help insure the financial health and stability of our parish. These parishioners always seem to come through every year and they really make the difference!
Last year I mentioned two Archdiocesan initiatives. You should become very familiar with them as they will soon change the way we think about the structure of the church in the Archdiocese of New York. The first initiative is called “Pathways to Excellence”. This initiative is changing the way Catholic schools are being administered and funded. Regionalization of schools here in the archdiocese is underway and should be complete within the next two years. The second initiative is called “Making all Things New”. The Archdiocese is in the process of evaluating all of its parishes. With more than 400 parishes this is a big undertaking and it will take some time. However, the result will certainly be that some parishes will be consolidated and some will even have to close. One thing is for sure, this new initiative will change the way all parishes operate. The two watchwords that are important here are: “flexibility” and “cooperation.” No one likes change but we must be open to whatever changes lie ahead in the Archdiocese and be ready to cooperate.
Here at Saint Anthony’s we hope to be affected minimally by these changes because we have been working very hard over the last year and more to implement a five year strategic plan with the goal of taking our already vibrant and active parish and improving and securing its viability well into the future.
One of our first priorities was to improve the Religious Education Program we offer to our young parishioners. As you know, this year it has a new name – it is now called the S.T.A.R.S Program. This catchy acronym stands for Saint Anthony’s Religious Studies Program. Under the direction of our Religious Education Coordinator, Jean Jacksen, I believe we have taken giant steps forward in bringing a more contemporary, hands-on program to the youth and families of our parish. This is visible at our Sunday Family Masses, in the new curriculum, books, initiatives and, most importantly, the enthusiasm of our students and families. Our youth program is beginning now and is integrated into the S.T.A.R.S Religious Education Program so that hopefully, as students grow older and reach Confirmation age, they remain connected and do not “drift away” as so often happens with high school aged students.
Technology is extremely important in the efficient operation of any parish today. I am pleased to report to you that in the last year we have made some significant improvements to our technology here at Saint Anthony’s. As you know, we have an extraordinary website which is one of the finest in the Archdiocese of New York and one of the finest of any parish I have seen anywhere. If you are not familiar with our parish website, please get familiar with it because this is how information is being transmitted these days. You may or may not know that within the last few months we have totally updated our parish phone system. Gone are the old 1982 answering machine and the 1985 Merlin phone system. We now have a new, modern, state of the art phone system which we have found has been much easier and more efficient for staff and parishioners alike. We have also introduced new software which has streamlined our office operations. This is making it easier for us to keep track of our parish census and other important data. As a direct result we will be conducting a parish census in the New Year to assure that all of our records are up to date. As we progress into the future, we continue to work on finalizing a short and long-term maintenance program for our buildings and taking other steps to improve the efficiencies of our parish operations in general.
Let’s talk about finances for a moment. We are fortunate to have a beautiful church building and a beautiful parish campus but the reality is that these require material support, yes money and a lot of it, to maintain. We continue to work on financial stability with the objective that the church on a stand-alone basis will be able to meet all of its operating expenses and maintain its buildings and grounds. We have been successful in reducing our yearly deficit by $80,000 over the past three years but as you will see in the Annual Parish Financial Report which is published in this weekend’s bulletin, this year’s deficit is approximately $12,000. While our weekly collections have increased over the last three years and we continue to very carefully monitor expenses, the reality is we still have a $5,000 weekly shortfall. This means that we remain totally dependent on our Christmas and Easter collections, our Annual Festa and other fundraising events we hold throughout the year. This also means we have to come up with creative and fun ways to raise money to keep our parish financially alive and solvent. You have heard in our Sunday announcements that we will, once again, this February be holding our Second Parish Gala Dinner on February 8th at the Fountainhead in New Rochelle. I ask you to please carefully consider coming and supporting that important event. While I realize we are all in challenging economic times, each of us always seems to find money when we want something. And I hope you will want to support our parish through that event because the truth is we need it to be both a social and a financial success for the good of our parish.
Let me end these remarks with the most important part of what we do here – the spiritual. After all, we are a church, we are THE church. We are a family of faith bound together by the Love and Spirit of Jesus Christ. This makes Saint Anthony’s a special and unique place made up of special and unique people. As you know, we are now in the “Year of Faith.” During this special year we have a number of parish initiatives. One will be happening this Monday evening at 7:00PM. It will be the first installment of a ten part series on the Catholic Faith entitled – “Catholicism –Journey of a Lifetime.” I encourage all of you to come Monday night and to each episode. It will change your spiritual life. We also must ask if there are vocations to the priesthood here at Saint Anthony’s. And, if there are we must be willing to support and answer that call. After all, without priests there is no Eucharist and without the Eucharist there is no church. We will need priests in the future and I encourage men in our parish to pray about and consider the possibility of the priesthood for your own life if God is calling you to it. In this year one important thing we must all do is work to bring back to church those who have drifted away for whatever reason. Please share with your family members and friends the good things that are happening here at Saint Anthony’s and don’t force but invite them to join you. Please let them know that whatever has happened in the past, they are welcomed here! Improving Mass attendance is not just any parish initiative. It is not something we can plan, execute and quantify. If Mass attendance is going to improve it is going to happen by the movement of the Spirit in the lives of the people of this community. That Spirit is alive and active here at Saint Anthony’s which is an indispensable part of what makes this parish such an attractive place to be. But Father Peter and I can’t do that alone. It will take the prayerful, joyful, faithful cooperation of all parishioners. So, let’s join together in that most important initiative during this Year of Faith. Let’s try our best to get our people back to Mass and back to living their faith!
So, I am proud to report to you today that the Parish of Saint Anthony of Padua is strong. Over these past few years, as you can see, we have not just been marking time, we have been working hard to see to it that our parish will grow stronger and continue as a vibrant and life-giving force in our community for present and future generations. Certainly this report is not exhaustive, but I have tried to highlight a few of the important things happening here at Saint Anthony’s. Every parish has its challenges, we do too. But, thank goodness ours seem small compared to many other churches. We are going “in the right direction” by all accounts and we can thank God for that and for so much more. And, as your pastor, I thank all of you for what you do each and every day to make our parish great. Thanks for your friendship, your confidence and, most importantly, your faithfulness. God bless each of you and God continue to bless our parish we all love so much.