Archbishop Leonard P. Blair
Now that we’ve begun a new year, I wish you a happy and healthy 2018. This month I want to say something about an important aspect of archdiocesan life, namely, our stewardship of financial resources.
In the Bible, and the New Testament in particular, there are many references to money — the collection and use of it, the grave dangers and the opportunities for good that it presents. Whether it was Jesus himself and the Twelve Apostles, or the earliest Christians, provisions were made for the collection and use of money for communal upkeep and for helping the needy.
The economic life of the world today is much more complex than then, but the basics remain the same. The Church is blessed with many generous donors who sustain not only their local parish communities but a host of ministerial and charitable activities that serve not only the internal life of the Church but the wider community as well.
To be proactive and to plan wisely for the future, new things are afoot for the archdiocese, and I would like to provide some background information.
There are many services that parishes receive from the archdiocese. For example, all parish legal expenses and matters having to do with human resources are covered by the archdiocese.
For the operations of the archdiocese, there is an annual assessment called the cathedraticum, which is calculated on certain line items of a parish’s annual income. Surprisingly, the actual dollar amount of the cathedraticum received from the parishes by the archdiocese has not changed in more than 40 years, and a long overdue adjustment will occur in 2018. To be more equitable, the new formula is a graduated one, so some parishes will see a decline in their assessment, but those with higher incomes will see an increase.
I also want to assure you that reductions in spending have been made, and are being made, to the archdiocesan annual budget in consultation with the Archdiocesan Finance Council, and an annual published reporting of that budget is in preparation for 2018. The Archdiocese of Hartford remains committed to the highest standards of fiscal integrity, transparency and accountability as we meet today’s many challenges.
The other source of archdiocesan income is what I would describe as the “bread and butter” fundraiser of archdiocesan life — the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal (AAA). I say “bread and butter” because whatever is collected for the AAA in a given year is spent in that year for basic activities, including charity, and an accounting is given annually for all the various components that are part and parcel of the AAA — everything from our seminarians’ education to the approximately 250 local charities throughout the archdiocese that receive financial support in the name of the Catholic people.
We need to be alert to the changes that are taking place in donations. The AAA has grown in recent years thanks to the increased generosity of those who contribute. However, there also has been a decline in the number of donors.
This is happening in many places because of demographics and a diminishing number of older Catholics who are not being replaced by a younger generation as open to participating in the life of the Church and making a contribution.
That is part of the reason that we need to consider new approaches for the future.
The recently established Hartford Bishops’ Foundation (HBF) serves a different but complementary purpose to the AAA. HBF creates a way for donors, major donors in particular, to make significant gifts or memorial gifts to be invested and managed for special needs such as the repair of the cathedral or the long-term religious and charitable activities of both archdiocesan entities and parishes. It serves the Church in the archdiocese, but it has its own lay board and leadership, and its own articles of incorporation. I am deeply grateful to the many outstanding lay leaders who have accepted my invitation to serve on the HBF.
Unlike the AAA, the funds collected by the HBF are not spent for current operations or immediate needs, but are set aside precisely to create a long-term fund from which HBF grants can be made over time for projects, entities and services that are part of Church life, such as education and charity, and that help to create more vibrant parishes. The proceeds of the very successful 2017 HBF Gala are earmarked for Catholic education in all its forms, including catechesis and evangelization. The funds raised are not for immediate spending, but for grants to benefit archdiocesan and parish activities in these areas. There are also plans for an archdiocesan capital campaign through the HBF that will benefit parishes as well as archdiocesan services and outreach.
The three financial “pillars” that I have described are meant to ensure a sustainable future for our mission at every level — archdiocesan and parochial, short-term and long-term, spiritual and material, inwardly in Church life and outwardly in charity and social engagement for the good of all. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity.