One of the things I enjoy most about being here at St. Peter’s is the wonderful variety of people I meet on a day-to-day basis. Often someone will come up to me in the lobby and call me by name, yet I cannot remember ever having met the person. After a short conversation I find out that the individual has been coming to Mass occasionally at St. Peter’s and he feels he somewhat knows me from my presiding and preaching. Or a woman whom I do not recognize will thank me for being available as a confessor (obviously I do not see her in the confessional because of the screen). I get to know some people because of our weekday midday renewal programs or at the monthly hospitality events we sponsor. Where I come to meet most of our visitors is by greeting them before and after our weekend Masses: individuals and families from all over the United States and around the world. It doesn’t take too long to realize that loads of people from Chicago proper, from the suburbs, from the downtown hotels, from those attending the many conventions in our city, from those attending one of the games of our sports teams: all come to St. Peter’s either just to pay a visit or to partake of the many services we offer.
As I said above, I really enjoy meeting and conversing with so many people. What I don’t like as much is the administrative part of being the pastor, of ultimately being responsible for all aspects of the church, including the financial side. Thankfully I have a wonderful group of Franciscan friars with whom to live and work and a great lay staff who assist in countless ways to make our operation go smoothly. Were it not for the friars and staff, we would not be here. But the friars and the staff need to be paid, and where does that money come from? From the contributions of those who come through our doors. We have to pay our bills for electricity, heating, air conditioning, repairs (and there are many to a building that is now just over 60 years old), etc. Where does that money come from? From the contributions of those who come through our doors. We have to pay the Archdiocese for our monthly tax assessment (the cathedraticum), plus the health insurance and retirement benefits for the lay staff. Where does that come from? From the contributions of those who come through our doors.
Unlike most traditional parishes both in the Chicago Archdiocese and elsewhere, we are open and operating on weekdays from 5:30 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. We are open on Saturdays from 11:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. and on Sundays from 8:30 A.M. until just after 7:00 P.M. There is not a single day of the year that we are completely closed; even on major holidays we are open for two hours to provide one Mass for those who are downtown. Our lights, our heat, our air conditioning, and our personnel must be on throughout all of those hours. All of this adds up quickly. And despite our cost-cutting decisions where possible, the expenses increase year by year.
We estimate that it costs $3500.00 a day to operate St. Peter’s. We arrive at that figure by taking the expenses for our past fiscal year and dividing by 365 days. At this rate, it costs $17,500 each week (Monday-Friday). In actuality, our Monday-Friday collections have been averaging $4431.00, which means we have been short $13,069.00 each week. On weekends it costs $7000.00 each week (Saturday and Sunday). We actually have been averaging $4955.00 in contributions each weekend, which means we have been short $2045.00 each weekend. Or to put it another way, each full week we are spending $15,114.00 more than we are taking in through contributions.
So how have we tried to make up this deficit? In four ways: 1) by writing a special letter at Christmas and Easter to our donors on our data base; 2) by unsolicited donations that come to the church primarily through the mail or through the front office; 3) by donations through the Friars’ Legion and money deposited at the shrines and 4) through occasional receipts from wills and bequests. While thankfully these sources have kept us afloat in the past, it is difficult to see how they alone with no other changes will suffice for now and in the future, given the increases in ordinary expenses we are experiencing and also with these specific needs at this time.
1) Overage on Gas Bill from last Year--$24,473
2) Water and Sewer for City Water--$67,081
3) Electricity Up 20%--$16,000
4) Releathering Half of the Organ--$22,000
5) Improvements for the Freight Elevator--$10,000
6) City Mandated Life Safety Upgrade--$75,000
Total for all the above: $214,554.
These facts all taken together prove to be daunting, but I think we can address them if everyone will commit to doing his/her part. I plan to speak at all the weekday Masses on Tuesday, September 16, and at all the weekend Masses on October 4-5 to help everyone better understand why these weeks ahead are so important to the ministry of St. Peter’s. I hope you will listen carefully and respond to the best of your ability.
THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS
Sunday, September 14, 2014
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross has its origins in the fourth century, when St. Helena, mother of Constantine, discovered what she believed to be the Cross of Christ. Constantine memorialized this discovery by having the churches of Calvary and the Holy Sepulcher constructed in Jerusalem. After the dedication of the churches, the feast was celebrated annually to commemorate the cross’ discovery. We honor the cross because it is a sign of both the death of Jesus and his victory over death.
The episode in the book of Numbers anticipates Jesus’ crucifixion. The bronze seraph serpent that Moses makes is a sign of the death brought by the serpents, but it is also the sign that brings recovery from the snakebites. Moses mounts the bronze serpent on a pole and lifts it up in the sight of the people so that when “any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.”
Paul speaks of how Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.” In response to Jesus’ self-abasement, “God greatly exalted him.” For Paul, this example of humility is one we ought to follow as disciples of Christ. Unlike Adam and Eve, who sought to exalt themselves by eating the forbidden fruit, Christ shows us an example of true humility in embracing humanity and accepting death, “even death on a cross.”
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of himself as “the one who has come down from heaven.” As God’s Son, he came into the world so “that the world might be saved through him.” His being “lifted up” refers to the crucifixion; for John, this represents not defeat but triumph, the hour of Jesus’ glory.
For Reflection: Do I think of the cross as a sign of defeat or of victory? Is the cross or crucifix displayed in a prominent place in my home?
A LETTER FROM CARDINAL GEORGE
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Next weekend we celebrate Seminary Sunday in the parishes of Chicago. On this occasion, we honor the ministry of the many priests who serve you faithfully each day as well as those who are preparing to serve you with that same charity in the future.
In the Archdiocese of Chicago, our seminaries are places where vocations to the diocesan priesthood are discerned and strengthened. Each year, as I ordain the graduates of Mundelein Seminary to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, I do so with the confidence that they have been formed for fidelity and service and are well educated in the Catholic faith. The best example of the work of the seminaries is reflected in the quiet and compassionate ministry of your pastors and parish priests as they live out their ordination commitment each day to bring Christ to you as they preach, teach and administer the Sacraments. I thank them for their good example, and I thank you for your prayers and financial contributions, which provide our future priests with the education and environment they need to prepare well to serve God’s faithful.
Please pray for those whom God is now calling to the ordained priesthood from among our families and friends. Talk to young men you know whom you think might be good priests and encourage them to explore the possibility of priesthood. God calls men at different times in life, and there are programs in the Archdiocese to help men of all ages discern their vocation. To learn more about these programs and St. Joseph College Seminary and Mundelein Seminary, please visit the Vocation Office website at www.chicagopriest.com.
I ask you to especially remember your bishops, your parish priests and our seminarians each day in prayer. You and your intentions are in my own prayers. May God bless you and those you love.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago
A second collection for the Archdiocesan Seminaries will be taken up next weekend. This Seminary Sunday is also a time to remember that men and women may be called to religious life and priesthood as well as to diocesan life. I hope some who come to St. Peter’s may be considering a vocation to the Franciscan life. If so, please talk to one of the friars for more information or go to the Franciscan website at [email protected] For other religious Orders of men and women consult www.vocationscava.org.
HOSPITALITY THIS WEEKEND
Those who have been coming to St. Peter’s for some time for worship on weekends will remember that we have one Sunday a month for hospitality after the 9:00 and 11:00 Masses. Usually these occur on the third Sunday of the month, but we are beginning our series today instead of next week. We invite all our participants after Mass to come down to the St. Clare auditorium for some refreshments (coffee, juice, and cake) and for conversation with your fellow worshippers and with the friars. We would like to see both people who regularly come to St. Peter’s on weekends as well as those who are visiting with us from elsewhere. It is a chance for all of us to get to know each other a bit better. What this does is to extend the fellowship we experience upstairs in church into a social setting before going back out into the city. Don’t forget: Sunday after the 9:00 and 11:00 Masses.
THE GIFT SHOP NOW OPEN ON SUNDAY
Br. Clarence and the staff of the Gift Shop have decided to open their store on Sundays from now until Christmas after the three Sunday morning Masses: 9:00, 11:00 and 12:30. Often people coming to St. Peter’s for Sunday Mass will ask whether the gift shop is open, and previously we always had to reply that it is only open Monday through Friday. This is an experiment, and we will evaluate its usefulness toward the end of the year. The gift shop has so much to offer: books and tapes of all kinds, Bibles, Missals, medals, holy cards, rosaries, all kinds of gifts suitable for birthdays, First Communion, Baptism, Conformation and Marriage, religious cards for all occasions, etc. If you have never had a chance to see what is available downstairs, now is the time to stop in and survey the contents. Now you can stop down for hospitality and visit the Gift Shop all at one time!
HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?
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Contact Catholic Volunteer Network to receive your free copy of RESPONSE 2015. Call toll-free at 1-800-543-5046 or email [email protected]. You can also reach RESPONSE 2015 online at www.catholicvolunteernetwork.org.
YEAR OF THE SACRAMENTS
One Word at a Time
The Eucharist we celebrate is the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord. We remember. We do not just recall his death and resurrection. We remember it in such a way—by the power of the Holy Spirit—that his death and resurrection are really and truly present to us.
This great act of memory heals us and gives us life. We carry within ourselves so many memories, and not all of them are good. We know well enough the memories of past sins, of hurts, of deferred dreams, and of damaged relationships. These “broken memories” threaten to subvert our lives and, sometimes, even to enslave us.
When we remember in our celebration of the Eucharist the saving death and resurrection of the Lord, we meet the pure and transforming mercy of God. Our memories are healed. Our hearts find rest in the One who is our hope.
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
A fire started in the grasslands close to a farm. The county fire department rushed to the scene, but the fire was more than they could handle. Someone suggested calling the volunteer fire department. Despite some doubt that they would be of any assistance, they were called.
The volunteers arrived in a dilapidated old fire truck. They rumbled straight toward the fire, drove right into the middle of the flames and stopped! The firefighters jumped from the truck and frantically started spraying water in all directions. Soon they had snuffed out the center of the fire, leaving only two small sections which were easily put out.
As the farmer watched all this, he was impressed and grateful that his house and farm had been spared. He quickly got his checkbook and donated $1000 to the volunteer fire department. A local news reporter asked the volunteer fire captain how they planned to use the funds. The captain replied, “The first thing we’re gonna do is get the brakes on our fire truck fixed!”