Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The Diocesan Finance Council, like your parish finance council, is an invaluable help to me in assuring that the Diocese uses her financial and material resources wisely, efficiently and effectively. Last year after a protracted discussion and consultation with them and other experts, I decided we needed a new position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) to address our present and future planning for the best use of the resources that are ours, thanks to your generosity. With thirty five years experience in ‘for profit’ and ‘not for profit’ leadership in this area, Mr. Charles Trunz joined us last June and has begun the process of re-organizing and making more efficient the material resources we need for our pastoral life which is always the measure of what we do.
At the beginning of this New Year, I want to share with you what we have learned these past few months. I want you to know how we are preparing to confront and address the financial challenges we face today and for the next five years. In this way, before I leave office as your bishop, we all can be guaranteed that the diocese, all our parishes and the many other pastoral projects of our beloved Church on Long Island will be in a healthy and sound financial and material condition. This will allow us to go forward with confidence and enthusiasm for the next generations of Catholics on Long Island.
In challenging economic times, we are witnessing increasing demands for the ministries our Church provides. Your financial stewardship through contributions to the Mass offertory and the annual Catholic Ministries Appeal are the two principal sources we have to provide most of the funds to support the Church’s five key ministries: our parishes, pastoral outreach, education, Catholic Charities and formation. Generous as you have been and continue to be, today the expenses associated with the ministries and services we provide our parishioners and the greater Long Island community exceed the donations you, as good stewards, make to parish, diocese and the other charitable and educational commitments that are ours.
Our two primary income sources - Mass offertory and the Catholic Ministries Appeal - have remained steady over the past several years. However, our stewardship of the Church today has to face two significant trends: (1) a steady increase in demand for many of the Church’s services, such as Catholic Charities and Education, and (2) rising operating expenses in the areas of healthcare, personnel, and building maintenance.
In 2009, we implemented a Church-wide salary freeze to help maintain expenses to mitigate a portion of these challenging trends. However, that is a one time stop gap. As we review the demand for our ministries and the accelerating expense trends over the next five years, we need to restructure our organization, make it more efficient and effective and create the operating surpluses necessary to invest in our ministries. These steps are necessary for us to provide for the pastoral life of our Church. That is our primary task now and in the future.
The key to this is that we together see ourselves as one Church across Long Island with over 200 parishes, schools, and other operating entities that have a tremendous impact for the good of Long Island and beyond. We all share in and are committed to our whole mission: to provide spiritual, pastoral, educational, and charitable services to hundreds of thousands of Catholics annually. Just stop and think what life on Long Island would be without our parishes, our schools, our religious education, our care for the poor and vulnerable and our commitment to healing the sick, all in the context of proclaiming Jesus Christ who is the only answer to the yearnings of every human heart.
Long Island is different today than it was fifty years ago. The societal and demographic realities have an effect on the lives of us all as it does on us as the one Church of Jesus Christ on Long Island. As your bishop I have to see to it that we as a Church face up to these pastorally and spiritually. I also have a responsibility to see to it that we meet the financial and material challenges so that we can continue to have the means to live our life as the Body of Christ and offer our work and witness for the good of all here on Long Island. This is our mission given to us by the Lord Himself.
Our Chief Operating Officer, Charles Trunz, is leading our team as we review the demand for our services, the financial resources to provide for these services, the demographics of the communities we serve, and the organization and operating model supporting our parishes and schools. These are not ends in themselves. They are the means for us to live as Church. We do this so that we can succeed to pass on our faith and have a strong, vibrant Church.
Over the next few months we will restructure our internal organization to protect the financial viability of our Church for 2010 and beyond. Through this new model we are committed to ensuring that every parishioner’s donation is maximized for the pastoral priorities of our Church and for the good of our communities in the most operationally efficient manner possible.
As Monsignor Robert Brennan, our Vicar General, Charles Trunz and I with the whole team of our colleagues at the Diocesan Pastoral Center work to make the Catholic Church of Long Island financially vibrant for today, the year 2015 and beyond, we ask for your continual spiritual and financial support. We can do it. We must do it. We will do it.
As we meet these challenges with confidence, hope and trust, we must never forget that it is the Lord who is head of the Catholic Church at Rockville Centre, the Church of Long Island. We, however, cannot refuse to meet our responsibilities for the Church of today and tomorrow. Over the next few months, you will be hearing more on our new operating model and restructuring which will ensure our Church sustains the necessary financial resources to meet our pastoral needs.
The Lord has promised us that He is with us until the end of time. He is the one who tells us, “Be not afraid”. He is the one who will inspire and sustain us so that the Church on Long Island may always be a beacon of hope and a place of faith and love for us, our children and grandchildren and all who seek the Lord who is “the way, the truth and the life”. We today always put our trust in Him whose Spirit now and always guides His Church to the fullness He has promised and He has guaranteed.
With my promise to serve you with all my heart and all my being, and assuring you of my prayers for you and all you hold dear, I am
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Bishop of Rockville Centre