The economic downturn of the past seven years or so has been difficult for many individuals, but perhaps none are more adversely affected than organizations that depend upon the generosity of others for their survival.
St. Michael the Archangel Church on Siesta Key, is a Catholic parish in the middle of perhaps one of the wealthiest areas of the Venice Diocese, but that location has not made them immune to financial difficulties. In November, the Pastor of the church, Msgr. Joe Stearns, sent out a letter to parishioners, advising them of some news he had received from the church’s Financial Committee.
The letter explained that for the past two years, St. Michael had been seeing a negative financial trend, and was currently facing a deficit. Fr. Leo Smith, Associate Pastor, said that many of the parishioners were shocked at the report.
“We genuinely believe that the parishioners didn’t know there was a problem, and because it’s Siesta Key, people just think everything is ok,” he said. “The parish has shrunk over time, from 1200 families to about 850, and also over time, the collections have gotten smaller.”
Plus, since the church is in a tourist area, many of those who attend services there are snowbirds who are only in town for half the year.
Diane Marcus, Administrative Assistant with St. Michael, said that because the buildings on the parish property are from the 1950s and have many elements in need of repair, the lack of funds being placed in the collection plate affects our ability to maintain our facilities.
“We had a leak in the air conditioning unit, which was a huge undertaking,” she said. “The other buildings also need maintenance and air conditioning repairs.”
It’s important to note that St. Michael the Archangel Church is not in debt, it is showing a financial deficit, which is why the parish’s Financial Committee believes that with an increased offertory and cutting overall expenses, the deficit can be erased.
Dr. Benedict Nguyen, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Venice, said that when parishes are in financial crisis, that is usually the first step.
“It is not unusual for pastors or administrators to appeal to the parish community in matters of financial stewardship,” he said. “In fact, the Diocese encourages this type of communication to keep parishioners informed of the financial well-being and needs of the parish on a regular, ongoing basis. Generous sharing of time, talent, and treasure by the parishioners is always encouraged, and through good stewardship, the financial challenges of each parish can and are met. “
Typically, those parishes most in need are in the eastern areas of the Diocese, where there are more economically stressed situations. But the position St. Michael currently finds itself in is not at all unusual. Nguyen said that when needed, the Diocese is happy to offer assistance and advice to any of its 60 parishes.
“The Diocese has been ready to help in various ways, such as advice regarding specific needs, arranging for financial reviews every three years, and promotion of fundraising initiatives,” he said. “In addition, the Diocese has a savings and loan program to render assistance to parishes who may be in need.”
In the meantime, St. Michael plans to not only decrease expenses and increase the offertory, but also increase the church’s registration numbers, which will help to formalize families’ relationship with the parish.
“We’d like to have even more people from our community be parishioners here,” Marcus said.”We invite all people to come join us, and we welcome anybody.”
St Michael the Archangel Church is at 5394 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key. For more information, call the parish office at 941-349-4174.