With public Masses in the Diocese of Rochester suspended indefinitely by the coronavirus pandemic, weekly offertory collections also are on hold.
Yet Colleen Brade pointed out that parishes continue to confront regular billing cycles for such expenses as utilities and employee pay and benefits, as well as costs for building upkeep and repairs. In order for parishes to maintain cash flows sufficient to meet their obligations, it’s crucial for parishioners to continue providing financial support as much as they are able during this crisis.
“We just really want to encourage that stewardship,” said Brade, who serves as diocesan associate director of stewardship and communications. “The parish still has expenses to meet — lights to keep on, salaries to pay, insurance.”
Although no one passes a collection basket during livestreamed or televised Masses, Brade said the faithful have a variety of alternative ways to give — particularly in the form of giving via computer, tablet or phone. She noted that any form of electronic giving can be set up as either a one-time or recurring gift, and suggested that parishioners check their parish websites or bulletins to see what options are available.
She added that many parishes offer an online portal or app, through which contributions can be automatically transferred into a parish bank account from one’s checking, savings or credit-card account. If a parish does not currently offer online giving, Brade noted that parishioners can still donate via online banking account and should contact their banks to make arrangements.
Brade said several pastors have asked her for details on setting up a text-to-give option, through which a donor can make a credit- or debit-card contribution via mobile phone. Brade, who also coordinates the Catholic Ministries Appeal, said text-to-give has been implemented successfully as part of the 2019-20 CMA, and that she strongly encourages diocesan parishes to establish and publicize their own text-to-give systems.
To make a CMA donation via text-to-give, for example, one need only text “CMA” to 585-257-2929 and then follow prompts to enter a donation amount and to register his or her credit or debit card. Brade said CMA donations also are accepted online at www.dor.org/cma.
Despite the range of electronic giving options available, Brade acknowledged that many diocesan Catholics are only accustomed to dropping a check or cash into their parishes’ collection baskets.
“This (adjustment) is a big hurdle for parishes to overcome,” she said.
However, Brade emphasized that online giving is safe, secure and easy to use. In fact, she noted that such giving is preferred because it can be processed more efficiently than mailed contributions, although parishes will continue to welcome donations in both forms. Those who opt to mail checks to their parishes should include their envelope numbers and avoid sending cash, she said.
Keeping up their parish donations might not even occur to some members of the faithful because they are not currently attending church, she said, suggesting that parishes circulate reminders through social media — such as a parish Facebook page — as well as email and phone.
“If you’re staying in touch with fellow parishioners, it’s important to share ways you can support your parish during this time,” she said. “Some people may not realize that your parish still needs your donation, and that there are ways you can do it other than the Sunday collection.”
Yet Brade also acknowledged that many Catholics are or will be facing substantial losses of income during the coronavirus crisis, and might not be in the financial position to give as generously as they’d like.
“We encourage people to continue their offertory gifts to the degree they can. Take care of your family first and foremost and, if you are able to maintain support of your parish, it will help your faith community to weather these uncertain and unprecedented times,” she said.