Faithful adopt new tools to support parishes during pandemic
Thanks to expanded giving options and ongoing commitments from many of the faithful, parishes in the Diocese of Rochester are continuing to receive critical financial support during the coronavirus pandemic.
Colleen Brade, diocesan associate director of stewardship and communications, noted that several parishes are meeting or exceeding their budgeted collection totals despite the lack of offertory collections as part of public Sunday Masses. A large number of parishes have reported strong Easter Sunday collections, she added.
“It is remarkable and humbling to see how people are continuing to give,” Brade said. “It’s a real testament to people’s faith and how important it is for them to give back.”
Yet she noted that it remains vital for donors to maintain or increase their support to whatever degree possible.
Based on feedback from parish leaders and finance directors, Brade estimated that overall weekly collections since mid-March — when Bishop Salvatore R. Matano announced the suspension of public Masses throughout the diocese’s 12 counties — have dropped compared to the same period in 2019. She urged donors to not lose sight of parishes’ ongoing financial needs now that Easter Sunday has passed, noting that consistent — as well as special-occasion — donations are needed for such expenses as utilities, insurance, employee pay and benefits, and building upkeep and repair.
Brade also suggested that parishes balance pleas for contributions against awareness that many members of their congregations have suffered losses of income due to the pandemic.
“You have to think about people’s family and personal situations first,” Brade said.
For those who are able to donate, Brade said that options have expanded for contributing via computer, tablet or cell phone as alternatives to mailing or dropping off donations at parishes.
“Most (diocesan) parishes have implemented some type of online giving if they did not have something in place already,” Brade said, adding that parishioners should check their parish bulletins or websites for details. Over the past several weeks, she noted, electronic giving has increased substantially across the diocese “as people get used to it and get comfortable with it.”
Brade noted, for example, that Father Michael Costik, pastor of St. Benedict Parish in Ontario County, reported that his parish is currently seeing better results from online giving than it did from in-pew offertory collections prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, Father William Coffas, pastor of Greece’s Our Mother of Sorrows Parish, said his parish exceeded its budgeted collection for Easter weekend and that more people are signing up for online contributions while also making use of a new mail slot in the main door of the parish office.
“We did high tech and low tech, if you will,” Father Coffas quipped.
Brade suggested that parishes continue to use social media, email and phone calls — along with prominent notices on parish websites and electronic versions of bulletins — to raise awareness of the need for donations. She cited as examples a large display of the words “Online Giving” on the home page of St. Benedict Parish, and onscreen donation prompts at offertory time during the 9 a.m. Sunday Masses being livestreamed each week by St. Joseph Parish in Penfield.
Meanwhile, Father Coffas observed that donations at Our Mother of Sorrows have emerged not only from direct requests, but also as the result of promoting such ongoing parish ministries as its food cupboard and a recently launched telephone tree (see related story on page 5).
“People want to support the parish when they realize it continues to proclaim the Gospel in this difficult time,” Father Coffas noted.