Like most of Kansas City, I woke up happy. Beyond the Chiefs hosting the AFC championship game for the first time since ever, Saint Charles Borromeo Parish is also having a good season.
Last month, I informed you that we would conduct a #GivingDecember campaign in an attempt to close out the year with a financial surge. We targeted two areas: 1) paying for recent building on our parish site, and 2) sponsoring students whose families cannot contribute much, if any, financial assistance to help with their education. I am happy to report success on both fronts.
The construction of a parish office to replace our old convent that is falling in, combined with the addition of a gathering space to our church, came with a bill of about $2 million. Because of years, decades, and in a few cases generations, of deferred maintenance of our buildings and the need to make necessary upgrades to keep them functional, we also had to raise approximately $1 million more for repairs. This was an enormous task for a parish that suffered losses in its census over the past quarter century due to demographic shifts and operated in the red for many consecutive years with six-figure annual deficits. On top of all that, our school had experienced a 75% drop in enrollment over the past decade and was destined to close. But the soul of die-hard parishioners and numerous friends from around the greater Kansas City area wasn’t going to let that happen.
Through the magic touch of our school principal and a fabulous supporting cast of dedicated and hard-working staff and volunteers, we are turning the school around. No longer a neighborhood parish school but a regional Catholic classical-model academy, enrollment has increased by 40% over the past two years; though not yet self-sustaining, we are inching in that direction. With a per pupil cost of $6,3000 and seventeen students who come from fiscally poor families that provide little monetary assistance, we set a goal to raise over $100,000 to close that gap. Through our December Prayer Breakfast and scholar-sponsorship challenge we raised just short of the goal but gained sponsorship for thirteen of the seventeen kids. Hallelujah!
Similarly, with approximately $3 million worth of renovations, and new construction in the past two years, we started December just $350,000 short of paying our bills in full without needing to take a loan. Through the #GivingDecember effort, we are down to $49,300 in arrears; outstanding pledges among parishioners should cover the deficit. I am grateful to share this accomplishment with you. Though we have many projects on the horizon, great challenges in the year ahead, a strong commitment to educate in the Catholic tradition regardless of financial status, and miles to go before we sleep, we, like the Chiefs, have reached a marvelous milestone. Thank you for the gifts you give and for cheering us on.
I know that, here in 2019, the church as an institution with its grave management flaws presents a tremendous obstacle and horrible embarrassment for many of us. Yet the church is still, at its core, a manifestation of Christ’s message and mission to bring glad tidings to the poor and create a better world for all. At Masses each January we repeat the proclamation of Jesus who announced a year of favor from the Lord.
The playoff curse over Arrowhead has been lifted—perhaps the curse will depart from our church too—and we can rejoice in a year of favor ahead.