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Pastoral Council meeting shows good financial reality

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By Steve Trosley
The Catholic Telegraph 

Financial topics dominated the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council meeting March 1 as members learned that the financial picture of the archdiocese continues to improve.

While the priest retirement fund is underfunded, the operating fund of the archdiocese is “in very good shape,” according to Deacon Jeff Merrell, who heads up the Pastoral Council Financial Committee. He cited an increase in revenue of 5.8 percent and a decrease in health care claims as significant.

The CMA drive for 2013-14 was also up 21 percent over previous year.

Archdiocesan Finance Director Richard Kelly said the balance sheet looks better because they have been moving parish debt off the books. Kelly explained that the parishes are not “owned” by the archdiocese, so that their assets and the assets of the archdiocese are not encumbered by the other.

Calling the priests’ pension fund “extremely complicated,” Kelly explained that there was a committee working on reform and that there would be a need for parishes to help with the burden.

Council member Father William R. Stockelman asked, “What do the priests really need?” He said he felt the pensions were too generous.

Kelly explained that pensions were not adjusted by personal wealth or the living circumstances of a retired priest. He also said some priests return their checks to the archdiocese and that many used the money to support charitable causes. He added nothing mitigated the obligation to support the priests in their retirement.

“When you were ordained, you promised obedience to the archbishop and in return the archbishop promised to take care of you until death,” Kelly said. “The archbishop never loses that responsibility.”

The archdiocese has about $40 million set aside for pensions but has a liability of roughly $80 million.

Kelly also said the archdiocese Central Office was doing a good job with the operational budget. “We used to run a $2 million deficit each year. Now we’re in balance.”

The meeting opened with a presentation on the operations and activities at St. Joseph Orphanage by new Director Eric Cummins and Susan Berger, development director.

They discussed how the orphanage has transcended the traditional role — it has not been a true orphanage since 1989 — and now provides treatment and service to 800 children a day in the region. Referrals come from county social services, schools, clinical therapists and even parents.

Cummins said if they could expand the number of classrooms they now use, they would immediately serve another 120 children.

In other discussion at the quarterly meeting, the council:

— Heard from Auxiliary Bishop R. Joseph Binzer that the Vibrant Parish Project continues with he and Father Len Wenke continuing to meet with various parishes on regional planning. Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr added that the process had been very difficult for some priests.

— Learned that the collection for the Religious Retirement Fund in December collected more than $650,000 in the Archdiocese;

— Heard Father Stockelman’s concerns about the conduct clause of the teachers’ contract;

— Archbishop Schnurr said a new religious community, the Children of Mary, which originated in the Columbus Diocese, had established a community and novitiate in the Holy Spirit Center, Norwood;

— Archbishop Schnurr also commented on the LeBlond Lecture at the Athenaeum, during Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., discussed the Catholic Church teachings on marriage and same-sex relationships. “It was a difficult message to present and some were not happy,” the archbishop said. But he called the presentation faithful to church teaching and “done with love.”

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