DIOCESAN POLICIES ALREADY PUT IN PLACE
1. Towards parishes that are financially self-sustaining
Our diocese is presently going through an unavoidable transition from a missionary diocese, largely dependent on external financial assistance, to an autonomous local Church that must be self-supportive and self-sustaining financially. Practically, this means that every parish or pastoral district in the diocese must move towards becoming financially self-sustaining. Now that the source for external funding has dried up, the diocese is not able anymore to subsidise parishes as was the practice previously.
In the light of this reality, as from January 2012 the diocese will not give out subsidies to parishes. Parishes and pastoral districts are asked to support themselves in all their needs. The needs in question include support for the priest in all his needs, maintaining the parish plant and catering for the daily running of the parish. Henceforward, subsidies will be given only to those parishes or pastoral districts where there is a proven genuine need for external help. This will be on the basis of clear monthly financial statements submitted.
2. Financial support of parish priests
In order to make sure that the legitimate needs of the priests are adequately met and that there are no unfair discrepancies in the financial support given to individual priests, a common system of allowances has been established. All parishes and pastoral districts are to adhere to this system. Only in consultation with the Bishop and after his explicit approval can the figures laid down be altered.
The monthly figures for the different allowances are as follows:
a) Household expenses: R1, 500.00
b) Pocket money: R1, 000.00
c) Petrol allowance: R1, 500.00 (basic)
- Holiday allowance
This will be in the form of a thirteenth (13th) cheque of R4, 000.00 given to the priest in the month when he takes his annual leave after having given timely notice to the parish pastoral council and to the finance committee.
- Medical scheme
As from the 1st of March all our priests will be on a medical aid scheme. This is to make sure that the medical needs of our priests are adequately taken care of. At the moment the average monthly premium we are required to pay is R1, 730.00. This is to be included in the financial support given by parishes to parish priests. This amount is to be included in the parish budget and to be paid out monthly to the Diocesan Chancery.
3. The ordinary sources of parish income
It is the duty of every individual Catholic to take personal responsibility for providing for the needs of the Church. In this regard, the law of the Church states (Canon no. 222.1):
The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity, and for the decent support of ministers.
To this end, in addition to contributing regularly to the Sunday collection, every adult parishioner with an income is expected to make a voluntary pledge according to his or her financial situation. The following guidelines are meant to assist the faithful in carrying out this important responsibility.
- Plate collections
As part of the offertory in every Sunday Eucharist or on other days of obligation a collection is taken. This offering is first and foremost a sign of offering ourselves to God together with the gifts of bread and wine. Secondarily, this constitutes a source of regular income for the parish. While no amount can be stipulated for this kind of offering, the faithful are encouraged to give a significant donation and to do so generously. This requires that there be conscious thinking about how much will be given before a person attends Sunday Mass. The acquired habit of giving the small change that is of no use to the family is not at all helpful in this regard.
- Planned giving or pledge (tickets)
As mentioned above, the practice in the Catholic Church is that every adult parishioner with an income is expected to make a voluntary pledge according to his or her financial situation. Ideally, this is to be done monthly in order to ensure smooth cashflow in the budget of the parish. The faithful are asked to budget for this and to contribute voluntarily and generously as a sign of stewardship, i.e., expressing our gratitude to God by using the gifts God has given us to assist the work of God carried out through the Church.
The following figures are given only as guidelines, to establish the minimum expected.
a) Those on social grants: a minimum of 1% of monthly income
b) Those employed or self-employed: a minimum of 5% of monthly income
- Donations and Fundraising
Those among the faithful who are able to give special donations to the Church are encouraged to do so. The faithful are also highly encouraged to consider including the parish or the Diocese in their last wills. Parish fundraising projects are also another helpful source of income for the parish. Let us look for creative ways of doing this.
- Stole fees or offerings for the reception of Sacraments
It is an ancient tradition of the Catholic Church and a provision of Canon Law (Can. 848) that the faithful should give an offering for the administration of the Sacraments as determined by the competent authority. These offerings are commonly referred to as stole fees. The stole fee should be a meaningful and significant donation given according to the means of each parishioner and the nature of the particular celebration conducted. For example, an offering for the celebration of a marriage is expected to be more than an offering for the baptism of an infant, etc.
Again, the following figures are given only as guidelines, to establish the minimum recommended in offering stole fees.
a) Stipend for a mass intention: R50
b) Stole fee for Baptism: R50
c) Stole fee for First Holy Communion: R50
d) Stole fee for Confirmation: R100
e) Stipend for a supplying priest: R100 + Petrol
f) Stole fee for a Funeral: R150
g) Stole fee for Marriage solemnisation: R300
All stole fees with the exception of stipends for a mass intention are to be paid to the parish as part of the ordinary income of the parish. Stipends for mass intentions are to be given to the priest who celebrates the mass as a form of additional financial help. It is to be kept in mind always that poor parishioners who genuinely cannot afford to give the stipulated amounts should be helped without insisting on the payment of stole fees.
4. The importance of transparent bookkeeping
The culture of self-support requires that we adopt the kind of practices that are conducive to and facilitate this kind of culture. Paramount among these is the handling of parish finances in a responsible, accountable and transparent manner. For this reason, the keeping of clear and up-to-date financial records as well as regular reporting to the parishioners regarding parish finances must become a common practice in all the parishes in our Diocese. In addition to reporting regularly to the parishioners, each parish is required to give quarterly returns to the Diocesan Chancery for the attention of the Bishop and the Diocesan Finance Committee beginning from the end of March 2012.
Of importance also is the drawing up of an annual budget which will act as the overall guide in the administration of parish funds. Again, as from January 2012 all parishes and pastoral districts in the Diocese are required to have a budget which must be submitted to the Bishop for final approval.
Templates for both budgets and general parish financial record-keeping have been produced in order to assist parishes in this important task and are available for collection at the Diocesan Chancery.
5. Guidelines for the Conducting of Funerals
A matter which has been found to necessitate urgent attention concerns the conducting of funerals in our parishes and pastoral districts. In this regard, after having given due consideration to this matter in consultation with parish priests, I would like to present the following as the diocesan policy to be followed henceforward:
- Ordinarily funerals are not to be conducted on a Sunday as this is the day for all Catholics to attend the Sunday Eucharist which is the central form of worship for us. Catholic families must therefore take all possible steps to make sure that their funerals do not take place on a Sunday.
- While all those who ask for assitance from the Church with a funeral will and must be assisted, however, as a matter of justice and fairness to the parish community, the manner in which the funeral service is to be conducted must be according to the status of the deacesed regarding the practice of the Catholic faith. It is important to clarify that this has nothing to do with judging the spiritual status of the deceased before God. Only God can make that judgement! As I have said, this is solely in the interest of justice and fairness as far as life in the parish community is concerned.
- Those who were full and active Catholics at the time of their death are to be given a full funeral service conducted by a priest which includes the celebration of Holy Mass in Church.
- Lapsed Catholics who had ceased to be active members of the parish community as well as non-Catholic relatives of practising Catholics who ask for assistance with a funeral will be given a funeral service without the celebration of Holy Mass in a church. In these and other similar situations the service will ordinarily be conducted by a Lay Minister.
- While adhering faithfully to the above guidelines, parish priests have the power and the responsibility to determine the exact procedure to be followed in those peculiar cases which do not fall neatly under the abovementioned categories.
6. Communion under both kinds
In some of our parishes communion under both kinds has become a common practice. However, it has come to my awareness that this is not always done with the necessary dignity and respect that should always be accorded to the Blessed Eucharist. For this reason, I would like to bring the following to your attention:
- Our faith is that Christ is fully present in both species of the Sacrament. Thus when we receive the body of Christ, as is usually the practice in many Catholic churches, we receive the fullness of the sacramental presence of Christ. However, “so that the fullness of the sign may be made more clearly evident in the course of the Eucharistic banquet,” the Church allows the practice of communion under both kinds when circumstances, as judged by the diocesan Bishop, permit this to be done with respect and dignity.
- I hereby decree that when this is done the following must be observed:
- only those confirmed or have reached their sixteenth (16) year of age are to be ordinarily admitted to receive the precious blood of Christ;
- the set-up of the church building must be such that it allows for communion under both kinds to be carried out without difficulty;
- there must be enough commissioned ministers of Holy Communion to assist in the distribution;
- the stipulated liturgical vessels needed for the distribution of the precious blood must be available;
- Ideally, for every one ciborium there should be two chalices.
- All in all, parish priests must ensure that communion under both kinds is always carried out with dignity and respect.
7. A New Vision for Catechesis
Following the approach adopted by the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) in their Statement on Catechesis, we are in the process of working out a new program of catechesis in the Diocese. In essence, we are moving away from a sacramentally based catechesis which focuses on preparing people for the reception of sacraments. We are working out a program of catechesis that will be an on-going journey of the deepening of faith, making the faith of people living, conscious and active.
As far as children are concerned, this process will extend from Grade R all through the different stages until they are confirmed at the age of 16 or so. We need volunteers to help us carry out the implementation of this program of catechesis. Members of the Diocesan Catechesis Commission will soon be visiting the different parishes to explain this new approach and to ask for people to offer themselves to be catechists.
Issued on 1 March 2013
+Dabula A. Mpako
Bishop of Queenstown