SAFE ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM

Archdiocese of St. Louis Safe Environment Program

The purpose of the Safe Environment Program is to create a safe environment for our children.  All volunteers are required to comply with the Procedures developed to implement the policy.

September 4, 2019

 

Dear Parishioners,

I have some important information to share with you, as well as a vital request.  Please read this letter in its entirety and prayerfully consider what is being asked of you.

During the month of August, the Archdiocese conducted a financial audit of Immaculate Conception Parish and Holy Child School (which is the standard practice when a new pastor is installed).  The audit includes an examination of both our finance practices (how money is collected, recorded, disbursed, etc.) as well as the financial state of the parish and school.  The auditors found that we have done a good job of coming into compliance with Archdiocesan policies with the handling of money.  These policies are designed to protect a parish and school from fraud, theft, or misappropriation of funds.  They are fundamentally a protection of our assets.

But the auditors also conducted a thorough review of the financial state of our parish and school.  Our parish has been running on a balanced budget, although somewhat frugally (breaking even, but barely).   That is the good news.  Regarding Holy Child School, the auditors identified a serious problem, and it involves our parish subsidy to Holy Child School. (The parish subsidy to the school is the amount Immaculate Conception gives to Holy Child School each year to help the school meet its operating expenses.)  The auditors tell us that Immaculate Conception parish must immediately increase its annual subsidy to Holy Child School by 101,000 dollars or the school will be operating at a severe deficit for its current fiscal year.  This will affect rather seriously our ability to meet our expenses. That is the purpose of this letter to you.

Before I explain how we can meet this need, I will first explain how we got there.  As it turns out, for the past fifteen years, the parish subsidy to the school has been too low.  It should have been increased incrementally each year at a higher rate than it was.  Both the subsidy and the tuition were able to remain relatively low each year because every time the school faced a deficit, it would suspend the school assessment payments to the Archdiocese.  (Both parishes and schools are assessed or “taxed” by the Archdiocese in order to pay for Archdiocesan services to both institutions.)  For fifteen years, this was a cycle:  the school would be in the black and pay the assessments, which would then drive the school into the red.  The school would then suspend payments, sometimes for long periods, in order to be in the black.  As a result, we currently are in arears with the Archdiocese by 53,000 dollars (which accrued over many years).  Had the parish subsidy been properly adjusted each year, the assessments would have been paid and the school would have had enough money to meet its operating expenses.  But that was not the case.  We must now adjust the annual subsidy each year to reflect the actual cost of having a parish school.

I would first like you to know that for some time now the parish has resumed our assessment payments to the Archdiocese because it is the right thing to do.  Thanks to Elaine Phillips, our parish bookkeeper, we recently received an Archdiocesan matching grant for payments on past defaults.  It is a small consolation that there are other schools and parishes in much worse shape, with unpaid assessments of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Adding to our current need to increase our annual parish subsidy to the school is the fact that education costs have gone up.  We have an excellent school faculty, good programming, and a decent building, but our subsidy is not enough to adequately cover the costs.  While we can look at how to reduce costs, there isn’t much to reduce during our current fiscal year.  We have one class for each grade level on the school side, and, with the departure of Claudia Anderson, we are down to a secretary and a bookkeeper on the parish side.  We share a maintenance man and a religious education coordinator.  So the lion’s share for now will have to come from an increased subsidy.

I know this is a lot to ask, but my request is this:  whatever you are currently giving to Immaculate Conception Parish, please increase your giving so that we can increase our subsidy to the school.  As I said before, on the parish side, we are breaking even, but barely (and that includes our current subsidy to the school).  We can only increase our subsidy to the school by an increase in your already-generous giving.  While a 101,000 dollar increase sounds like an incredible amount, we will be able to do it if people are willing to help.  If 200 parishioners increase their giving by ten dollars a week, we will have met our goal to subsidize the school.  If 100 families increase their giving by twenty dollars a week, we will have met our goal.  I’m sure there are also some very generous people who will give far more than that, and both I and the people served by Holy Child School will be grateful.  And even if you are not directly connected to Holy Child School, your gift will benefit the parish which subsidizes the school, since it is our responsibility to meet that need.

On our parish website there is now a link where you can make a one-time donation to the parish subsidy to the school (it is a restricted account and the money cannot be used for other purposes).  We will also be doing the financial portion of our stewardship appeal this coming weekend (September 7-8) and you will have the opportunity to pledge how much you will be increasing your financial giving to the parish.  If you wish to pledge your entire increase in giving to the parish subsidy to the school, then please specify it on your pledge card and then in your check memo, designate which amount is unrestricted (used for parish operating expenses or some other purpose) and which is intended for the subsidy to the school.  (If you do online giving, you can set up recurring payments for the subsidy in addition to your regular giving).   Finally, beginning in October, there will be a specific envelope in your envelope labelled “Parish Subsidy to Holy Child School.”  My hope is by November 1, we will have received enough pledges and immediate donations to cover the cost of our additional subsidy to the school.

There is on important aspect in my request to you:  whatever your current parish giving, the additional pledge for the parish subsidy must truly be additional.  If you simply transfer your current giving amount to the subsidy for the school, then we will be robbing Peter to pay Paul and the parish (and eventually the school) will be thrown into a deficit.  The well-being of both Immaculate Conception Parish and Holy Child School are intertwined.  If one is in crisis, then both are.  Anyone who supports the parish but not the school, or the school but not the parish, does not understand the reality of the situation.  We have to be strong together in order to support one another. 

I believe that certain measures need to be taken in order to avoid such problems in the future.  As pastor, here is what I am proposing:

  1. 1)     We create a Holy Child Finance Council that will work in tandem with the Immaculate Conception Finance Council.  Our school board is currently in the process of exploring this possibility.
  1. 2)      We will add two new members to the Immaculate Conception Finance Council to increase representation.  These new members will have a background in accounting and finance.
  1. 3)      We will invite representatives from the Archdiocesan finance office to come out and work with both finance councils on how to spot potential problems before they occur.  Parishes are facing bigger financial challenges and we need the input of the Archdiocese on how to address them.
  1. 4)      Both Holy Child School and our PSR program will work on increasing family Mass attendance.  It is important that our young people understand the importance of attending Sunday liturgy AND the importance of tithing to support the parish that serves them.
  1. 5)      We will pursue more grants.  I am in the process of applying for an Archdiocesan Parish Viability Grant that will help to finance improvements to our access road off of Michigan Avenue.  The school has received grants in the past to help subsidize improvements as well.  We will continue pursuing this form of funding.
  1. 6)      We will invite Dave Baranowski from the Archdiocesan Stewardship Office to begin working with the parish on increasing stewardship and evangelization.

I know this is a long letter, and it is not the happiest of news.  I’ve only been pastor here for a year and while I love it, this is the part that is hardest for me.  It is very difficult to make this sort of request.  But it is also inspiring for me, because I know how many of you will respond beautifully and generously.  Please know that you are in my prayers, and even on days like this, I am so grateful to be part of your lives.

 

God bless,

Fr. Scott

Dear Parishioners,

Our twice-yearly church inspection was completed by Rich Kwiatkowski of SSC Engineering.  He reported no change in the condition of the church from the November 2018 inspection.  (In fact, for the past few inspections, there has been no discernable change.)  While this doesn't mean that we don't still have the same issues we had before, it does mean that we are currently in a "static" period where there is not rapid deterioration.  Barring the level of high winds or seismic event that would damage most 19th century structures, we still have some breathing room while we, along with the Archdiocese, engage in regional pastoral planning.  

  Immaculate Conception Spring 2019 Church Assessment.pdf

Please click on the link below for the Daily Mass Readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080318.cfm

 

 
 

July 13, 2018
 
Dear Parishioners,

            I am writing to give you an update regarding the current status of our plans to run a capital campaign and build a new church for Immaculate Conception parish.  I would like to start by thanking all of you for making me feel so welcome here.  I am impressed by your kindness and the many ways you have reached out to me as the “new priest.”  I’m also impressed by the love you have for Immaculate Conception parish, which was obvious to me from the day I arrived.

            But I would also like to share with you some concerns I have as a brand new pastor, not simply new to the parish, but new to the role.  After conferring with various representatives of the Archdiocese, including Archbishop Carlson and Bishop Rivituso, and after meeting with members of our parish council, finance council, and our new church committees, I have a request I would like to make.  That request is for time.  It normally takes at least a year for a pastor to get to know a parish, and for the people to get to know him.  Added to that is my own need to learn the basics of being a pastor.  To attempt to run a capital campaign and to move forward with building a new church this next year would prevent me from truly getting to know you, for those two projects would be all-consuming.  Many other things I need to learn would most likely fall through the cracks, and no amount of committee work could make up for that.

            A question then arises…if we put our plans on hold, for how long would that be?  The proposal I made when I met with our parish leadership was to wait until the appointment of a new Archbishop.  Archbishop Carlson will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 in June of 2019, which is less than a year away.  The normal process that follows is that an archdiocesan administrator would be appointed to run the Archdiocese until a new Archbishop is selected.  (That usually takes several more months.)  So the timeline we are looking at would be roughly a year and a half, although it is impossible to know with certainty, since the Vatican moves at its own pace. 

            Aside from my own need for time to get to know the parish, the reason why I am asking to wait until we have a new Archbishop is because until that happens, we have no way of knowing what the pastoral plan for this region will be regarding parishes and the appointment of priests to serve them.  To give you an idea of why this is so important, I would like to share with you two examples.

            This year, the Diocese of Pittsburgh announced that it is going from 188 parishes to 57 parishes (a reduction of two-thirds).  Last year, the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut announced it was going from 212 to 127 parishes (a reduction of forty percent).  That is not to suggest that anything so dramatic will happen here in Saint Louis, and I want to be quick to point out that there are no current plans to merge Immaculate Conception with any other parish in this region.  What is clear is that there is a need for pastoral planning and that throughout the Archdiocese, there will be restructuring.  It will certainly affect this region, but until we have a new Archbishop, there is no way to know what that will look like.

            A second concern that must be considered is the number of available priests for ministry in this region.  Upcoming years will see a significant number of priest retirements, and while we are blessed with ordinations, they will not make up for the retirements.  (This year we ordained two new priests.)  The day is coming when we will be fortunate if there is one full-time priest for the city of Arnold.  An even more possible scenario would be one priest ministering in a multi-parish situation, which would mean a reduction of Sunday Masses at the Immaculate Conception site.  Should we build a new church, that possibility would have to be considered, since the size of the new church would be affected if there were only one or two Masses offered here on a weekend.

            None of this is meant to scare you.  It is simply to make the case for the importance of waiting for a new Archbishop to be appointed and to allow for pastoral planning to occur before we move forward.  We need to know if our current parishioners will be building a new church, or whether it will be a larger group. (Should it be a larger group, they would need to be part of the planning process.)  We also need to know what kind of church we are building, and how large it should be.  Finally, we need to know whether or not we should even move forward with building a new church, or whether other options should be considered.  We will not have the answers to those questions until we have a new Archbishop, and to move forward at this point could lead to us tapping out our parishioners financially only to discover that what we are building is too small, or not part of the larger pastoral plan for the region.  And we have to accept that in the end, we are not the ones who make the final decision.

Understandably, if we put our plans on hold, certain questions arise:

  • Is the current church safe for use, and what happens when it is no longer safe?

Our church is inspected on a regular basis, and currently, it is safe for use.  For the safety and reassurance of our parishioners, we can increase the number of inspections or expand the number of consultants.  But for now, the church is safe, and at whatever point it is no longer safe, we will no longer use it.  We have a contingency plan in place, which is to hold liturgies in the parish center.  While that is not a desirable scenario, many other parishes have successfully celebrated beautiful liturgies in alternate spaces, sometimes for years, when their church was damaged or destroyed.  The strength of a parish community is shown by how well it weathers such situations.
  • What about the work already completed in the planning process?

Nothing has been lost.  The parish contracted with Dan Reynolds of Holmes, Radford and Avalon to be our consultant on the capital campaign.  Dan has assured us that he will honor our contract and investment for however long we are delayed.  The work that has generously been done by our various new church committees is also not lost, although at whatever point we move forward, some of it might have to be adjusted based on Archdiocesan regional pastoral planning.
  • What do we do in the meantime?

We simply focus on building up our own parish, continuing to form relationships with neighboring parishes, and strengthening our relationship with Christ and one another.  For the present time, the committees connected to building a new church will go into hibernation, although we can convene them whenever a situation arises that demands it.

            I know that this is a major shift in plans, and I am aware that this is not the first time it has happened.  But I believe that what I have presented to you is the best way to move forward at this time.  Nothing is lost by waiting, but a lot could be compromised if we move forward without all of the pieces in place.  It is never comfortable to be in a situation where there are a number of unknowns, and that is our current situation.  Fortunately, it won’t last forever.  And in the meantime, we don’t stand still.  We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the ability to build up the Body of Christ, which is our main concern as a parish.  Please know that you are in my prayers, and I look forward to continuing to get to know you as your pastor.
 
God bless,
 
 
Father Scott

 
 

The Most Blessed Sacrament is not a relic or a memory,

it is Jesus Himself.  He is all-powerful, all-loving, all-perfect

and anxiously waiting for us to visit.

 

All the treasures and wonders of this world are nothing

compared to Who we find in Adoration.  Will you reserve an hour

on the first Friday every month  to be with Jesus between 8:30 am and 6 pm?

Contact Regina at 314-608-3347 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule

26 WAYS TO SPEND AN HOUR WITH JESUS

1. Slowly read Sacred Scripture until something hits you. Then LISTEN. (Lectio Divina)

2. Pray the Holy Rosary.

3. Let God look at you and love you—unconditionally.

4. Tell Him something that made you happy. Then LISTEN.

5. Tell Him what you are afraid of. Then LISTEN.

6. Tell Him what angers you. Then LISTEN.

7. Speak about your loved ones.

8. Pray for an enemy.

9. Talk with Him about work.

10. Sing a song for Him in your heart.

11. Promise to trust Him.

12. Imagine Our Blessed Mother or one of the saints sitting next to you and praying with you.

13. Renew your loyalty to His Church.

14. Lean on Him. Tell Him you love Him.

15. Thank Him for the Sacraments.

\16. Tell Him your failures. Ask for help. Then LISTEN.

17. Slowly recite the Beatitudes.

18. Pray one Our Father slowly.

19. Pray one Hail Mary slowly.

20. Pray the Creed slowly.

21. Pray for the Sanctification of Priests and Holy Vocations.

22. Ask Him to show you the next step.

23. Look at yourself. Count your gifts. Then thank Him.

24. Ask Him to show you if you have hidden any talents, and to help you use them in a way that pleases Him.

25. Pray for the world.

26. Enjoy just being in His presence and in His peace

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The following is our recently completed Feasibility Study.  This report demonstrates that our parishioners are very excited and supportive about the New Church.  The big obstacle will be paying for it.  

With the help from the Holy Spirit and through the guidance of our building committee we will get the job done.  

God Bless you. 

      -Fr. Larry Huber

document Completed Feasibility Study (645 KB)