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Focus: A Cheerful Giver

Matthew Harrison

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I was once at a dinner party and a couple of people were discussing a recent trip to Rome. This caused one guest to start on a tirade about the Catholic Church and the wealth that it has amassed through Church property. "Sell it, and give it to the poor!" was his suggestion and he was "disgusted" by the Church for doing anything less.
I was left speechless by his vicious attack. I knew that the the reality was that the Church was not a wealthy institution, that a lot of parishes just barely get by. But there seems to be this idea that the Church is, well, rolling in cash! I thought it was time take a bit of a look at financial Church matters, and so was born my latest episode of Catholic Focus: A Cheerful Giver.
I began by interviewing Fr. Michael Busch, the rector of St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto. If anyone knows about Church expenses it was Fr. Busch, as he watches over a 160 year old building that is in need of repair. The Cathedral may not be your typical parish, but it does provide a glimpse at the kind expenses your average parish may have: there is constant maintenance, lighting, heating, staff to be paid, and so on. Father Busch said something that became a recurring theme in this episode:
... in a normal everyday parish life it’s the parishioners who pay for everything that a parish does, the staff, the heating, the electricity everything, and they do live or die by that collection plate.
"Live or die by the collection plate"? A scary thought! St. Michael's is blessed with additional benefactors, but what about your average parish? It may not be so lucky! From there, I met with William Dunlop, the comptroller of the Archdiocese of Toronto. He spoke about the financial link between the Archdiocese and the parish, and confirmed the importance of the Sunday collection. Having learned about the importance of financially supporting a parish, I decided to explore how people can get involved in that financial support. Finance Council veteran Earl Bardswich of Mississauga, Ontario's Merciful Redeemer Parish offered insight into his work assisting the pastor. The Pingol family, Vinzon and Candice and their three children (with a fourth on the way!), also discussed why they feel it is important to tithe. Vinzon told me:
There wasn’t one kind of time where we said “We’re just gonna tithe.” ... we just found that it was really important to us to give, and give so that it stretched us a bit so that it really became like a sacrifice and in that it really proved to trust more in God’s plan for us from a financial standpoint.
The Pingols trust in God is inspiring and humbling at the same time. These four segments aim to illustrate the importance of financially supporting your Parish. Finally, we wrap the show considering why it may not be a wise idea to sell our Churches, and sell our religious masterpieces, and give it to the poor. As Father Busch reminds us:
A Church has to inspire others. If what you see, and what feel, and what you hear there is not inspiring you to act in some kind of social way then the Church isn’t doing its job. Now if you just had a square building with a shelf and an altar -- what’s inspiring about that?
Catholic Focus: A Cheerful Giver airs Wednesday, September 26th at 7pm and 11pm ET,with an encore presentation Saturday, September 29th at 7pm and 11pm ET.

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