By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor
The Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) held its fall meeting at Bishop Grimes Prep in East Syracuse Sept. 22. The DPC is composed of pastoral council representatives from across the diocese.
In response to inquiries from the council, diocesan Chief Operating Officer John Barsanti spoke about diocesan assessments. Assessments are amounts charged via the diocese to parishes for various services, which are then collected and redistributed. Barsanti discussed the schools, clerical and administrative assessments.
In the diocese, the schools assessment is based on a parish’s schedule A income, Barsanti explained. Schedule A income is the annual total of regular Sunday collections. Parishes with a school are assessed at 4.6 percent. A progressive assessment is applied to other parishes; for example, in one region, parishes with a schedule A income of $60,000 to $90,000 are assessed at 5 percent while parishes with incomes greater than $600,000 are assessed at 14.6 percent.
Overall, the schools assessment has declined 15 percent over the past three years, from $6.6 million to $5.6 million, Barsanti said. The decline is due to cost saving and productivity improvement measures instituted by the Catholic Schools Office, as well as reduced budget needs following school closings, he said.
“The goal is to reinvest in the school system by shifting revenue from parish assessments to [revenue driven from] development and fundraising,” Barsanti said. Overall goals for the schools are to increase enrollment, increase the amount of financial aid and scholarships available, make Catholic schools more affordable and reinvest in the schools through facility and building upgrades, he continued.
The clerical assessment, which all dioceses have, helps to meet the health, welfare, education and care needs of priests. As of July 2012, the clerical assessment was reduced from 4 percent to 2 percent of total parish income, Barsanti said. The reduction was made possible through the McDevitt estate, which gave the diocese a bequest in excess of $30 million in 2008. About 60 percent of the income generated annually from that gift is allocated for priest education and welfare, Barsanti explained.
Funding needed for priest salaries and pensions, retirement and healthcare currently stands at $3.5 million, according to Barsanti. The clerical assessment, income from the McDevitt bequest and priests’ IRA contributions generate the income needed.
A new administrative fee of one percent of total parish income was added to help pay for diocesan expenses, which currently total about $4.3 million, Barsanti said. These expenses include the maintenance of buildings and grounds as well as the operation of diocesan offices, such as finance, development and human resources.
“From my perspective, that’s a very reasonable number,” Barsanti said, adding that “it does need to come down, and it’s an area we’ll continue to look at during the annual budget process.”
The one percent fee is combined with diocesan revenues generated through insurance premiums, services provided, foundation and fund income and investments. Most dioceses have an administrative fee to help pay for diocesan expenses, Barsanti added.
Barsanti also explained how HOPE Appeal goals are determined for each parish: The three-year average of each parish’s schedule A income is multiplied by .0979 — a figure Barsanti said has been used since long before he was employed by the diocese. Fifty percent of the donations greater than the assessment stay with the parish.
“HOPE Appeal has a significant benefit to the diocese as well as to the parish,” Barsanti said. Donations support many important ministries, including faith formation, Family Life, hospital chaplains and The Catholic Sun.
In closing, Barsanti touched briefly on a number of additional topics of interest to the council, including residences for retired priests, strategies to improve parish administration and the diocesan fraud policy.
Bishop Robert Cunningham then spoke to the council about the purpose and goals of the Year of Faith, set to begin on Oct. 11.
“It’s meant as a catechetical moment, a moment of huge celebration. It’s calling all of us back to an understanding, a deepening of our faith and our relationship with the Lord,” he said.
Bishop Cunningham turned the meeting over to Diocesan Director of Communications and Assistant Chancellor Danielle Cummings, who moderated a panel discussion on the Year of Faith. Panelists included Father Mark Kaminski, director of Christ the King Retreat House; Cheryl Canfield, Assistant Superintendent of Catholic Schools; Bob Walters, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry; and Cathy Cornue, director of the Office of Faith Formation.
Each of the panelists outlined plans or offered suggestions for celebrating the Year of Faith on personal and parish levels. Father Kaminski highlighted afternoons of reflection for priests and deacons that will be held at the retreat house throughout the year, as well as opportunities for laypeople to visit the retreat house. Walters discussed YOUCAT, a new, accessible catechism written expressly for young people; Walters said his office will be training youth ministers to use YOUCAT in their parishes. Cornue provided an overview of resources available to parishes as they work to evangelize young people, adults and families, including websites, scripture study programs and videos. In addition to asking each school to construct its own Year of Faith prayer, Canfield reported that this year the schools will put special emphasis on Bl. Marianne Cope and her upcoming canonization in Rome.
“[Diocesan superintendent] Chris Mominey is traveling to Italy and will be live-broadcasting back to each of our schools and answering their questions,” she said. Mominey will also record educational videos for the students while in Rome.
Cummings encouraged parishes to share best practices and plans. “The more we share, the better we’ll be able to deepen our faith, reenergize our people, and invite people to walk through the door that the Year of Faith is inviting us to walk through,” she said.
Bishop Cunningham will celebrate a Mass to mark the beginning of the Year of Faith on Oct. 11 at 12:10 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. Year of Faith resources are also available on the diocesan website, www.syrdio.org, and will be updated throughout the year.
Finally, Kathy Kreinheder, a member of the DPC’s Executive Committee, discussed the “Evangelization Toolbox of Ideas.” The document, a collection of evangelization techniques and programs in place in parishes around the diocese, was produced by the DPC in May 2011. The DPC is surveying members to determine if the document has been useful, if any parishes used a suggestion from the document and if the document needs to be changed or updated. The toolbox will be discussed in upcoming DPC plenary sessions, Kreinheder added.
The meeting closed with a question-and-answer session with Bishop Cunningham, who addressed questions about Catholic matters both national and local, including many on his new appointment as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Rochester.
The final DPC meeting of 2012 will take place on Nov. 3.