ASK FATHER: Irritating fundraisers during Mass

From a reader…


I was and still am a strong supporter of the EF, but after years of building and developing both personal and professional relationships, I fell away from my faith.

I have recently begun attending Sunday Mass after I finish work (7pm).

This means attending the parish closest to my work, as I go there right after my shift.

During the Holy Sacrifice this week the presiding priest read the Gospel, gave his homily (5-10 min), and then proceeded to give almost 25 minutes to a layperson (a chair of a fundraising committee), to:

1. Give information regarding the fundraising plan

2. Inform the congregation what the money was being used for (cosmetic reasons such as a new parking lot were mentioned before evangelization and building the faith)

3. Inform us all that we have pledge forms and pens at the end of every pew, and that everyone in attendance NEEDS to fill it out, regardless if we are pledging funds or not.

4. Proceeded to inform us that annual donations over 3 years were being taken, and that if we wanted to donate $9000 over 3 years, that would be great!

A reminder this was DURING Holy Mass. This occurred before Communion and after the Liturgy of the Word.

This is only the second time I attended this parish, but it worries me to return even though it is the only place I can participate in the Holy Sacrifice.

I felt this was extremely disrespectful to the True Presence of Jesus, and took away from what I came back to the church for.

This seems to be a Diocesan effort, not just parish based, as several parishes in the diocese were mentioned. What are my next steps?

Priests don’t like to have to bring money up from the pulpit.  But it is necessary.  That’s the moment when they reach the majority of people engaged in the life of the parish.

What’s the alternative?  Wait until after Mass… when everyone is gone?   Slate a meeting on a weekday… when nobody will come?  We should explore methods of electronic giving, btw.

The alternative is to shut of the lights, lock the doors of the church, and slate it for closure.

Bills have to be paid.

Blame Even and Adam.

Also, pastors really don’t have a choice when it comes to diocesan programs.

If we want churches, we have to pay for them.

If you think that a new parking lot is “cosmetic” you perhaps haven’t heard the complaints, considered issues of snow removal on uneven surfaces, or considered what it would cost to let it get worse.

One way to avoid this would be to find out ahead of time from the priest how much money is needed and then write him a check for the full amount so that he doesn’t have to make the irritating announcements.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Kevin says:

    If every adult gave up a $1 cup of coffee a week, multiply that by the number of families in your parish, put that $1 into the collection, times 52 weeks….that money would go a long way. We Catholics are cheap….

  2. “If we want churches, we have to pay for them.” Well, said. Thank you, Fr. Z. And Merrie Christmas very soon!

  3. HvonBlumenthal says:

    It seems to me that we are all under an obligation to be ruthless in putting nothing into any envelope or collection plate which could swell the coffers of any diocese, fund or cause in any way connected with bad management, bad morals or bad theology as propagated by substandard ecclesiastical authorities BUT correspondingly generous with our wallets and our tolerance when it comes to a good priest asking for money in a good, discrete cause.

  4. scoot says:

    My Parish uses Faith Direct, an online giving service. It lets me choose which programs I give to (Poor box? Parish school? Renovations? General contribution?) and how frequently (weekly? monthly? quarterly?) Regardless of my selection it still pulls it out once a month, but it’s very easy to use.

    The Bishops Lenten Appeal annoys me in the same way as the reader. But at the same time, that’s some people’s only time giving in the year. I am an accountant by trade and used to do tax returns, and the Bishops Lenten Appeal figured prominently among documentation of charitable giving. It annoys me, sure, but it also is effective fundraising. Sitting through the BLA is a small price to pay for actually having a place to worship!

  5. Leonius says:

    This should be done before Mass starts.

    This way you still get the message to the most people and avoid disrupting the flow of the mass by putting a “commercial interuprion” right in the middle of it.

  6. APX says:

    This should be done before Mass starts.This way you still get the message to the most people

    Not at our Latin Mass the church is practically empty at the Asperges and full by the time it’s time for the Gospel. These things happen after Mass, much to my annoyance (no organ postlude then).

  7. Charles E Flynn says:

    The Diocese of Providence made a roughly 10 minute video explaining why it needed $50 million, and it is working.

    Before the video was played at mass, we were told that the diocese contacted the Episcopalians and asked (paraphrase), “How can you have properly maintained buildings, paid clergy, paid secretaries, and in some cases, paid additional staff, when you have so few people in the pews?” To sum up the answer, “An endowment”.

    If the Catholic Church is going to keep its infrastructure intact while people flee the pews because of the abuse scandal, it is up to those of us who chose not to throw the baby out with the bathwater to make this fundamental change in the way the diocese manages money, by making an historic sacrifice.

    Grateful for God’s Providence Capital Campaign

  8. rdowhower says:

    Umm, I have been to my local FSSP parish three times and there has never been a collection during Mass or any mention of giving. I am unable to attend EF Masses regularly so am curious how the collection is typically handled. I support the FSSP monthly via electronic donations and they do a lot of online fundraising, but I’m sure their local parishes must rely on congregational giving as well.

  9. APX says:

    I am unable to attend EF Masses regularly so am curious how the collection is typically handled.
    It depends on Diocesan policy. The FSSP don’t have their own parish in our diocese and were informed they weren’t allowed to collect donations on church property. Prior, people just used their church envelopes and marked them “FSSP”. Then they started walking outside to the sidewalk and made the swap there until a solution was came up with-making donations at the FSSP house a block away during a secured mailbox.

  10. APX says:

    Maybe it’s time to bring back traditional church fundraisers? Pew Auctions anyone? K of C bingo?

    The Church’s one foundation is B-I-N-G-O.
    It is the one salvation from all the debt we owe.
    And when foreclosure threatens we’ll play it every night,
    for bingo pays the mortgage, but also heat and light.

  11. teachermom24 says:

    When we first came to our present parish nearly 12 years ago, the pastor never talked about money at Mass, or any other time I can recall. He was a good and holy priest who left after three years to another parish where he now offers the EF Mass. He believed that if the parish was run right and Mass was offered as it should be, the money would follow. It always did. During his time at this parish, there was always a surplus of money.

    Every pastor following him has talked about money and on several occasions we have had lay persons asking for (really, demanding) money from the pulpit during the time for the homily. Our parish has run a serious deficit every year they started asking for money during Mass.

    I’ve also been uneasy with electronic giving to the parish (for other causes it may make sense) when our offerings are to be brought to the Lord. The physical act of giving to the Church is important. The best collection I ever witnessed was when I was in Nigeria (a Lutheran church) where the people brought their offerings up to the altar singing and dancing. It was beautiful and joyous. Electronic giving is yet another anti-human example of how technology separates us from our human actions.

  12. Mojoron says:

    Many parishioners give little to these projects either from the Diocese or to the parish fundraisers. It is the ten percent who do most of the hauling with major businesses helping as well. Our Diocese decided to go into a three year capital campaign of $60 million IN ADDITION to the annual Call To Share which is considerably less. The problem is that our parish has already spent—using our own money—$120,000 to do deferred maintenance and we’re still not done, we have another $140-170,000 to finish the interior of the church which needs to be done because of falling plaster. Buying new vestments? Not a chance. The pew Catholic is hammered everyday for some financial need, either missions, helping other parishes, local food banks, keeping the Priest happy, etc. There is a limit that constant fundraising may have diminishing returns, and we’re almost at that point. With the constant pressure to “make the church beautiful,” and to provide a place of worship for our children and grandchildren, and to protect our church from being closed because of neglect, we have four major events put on by our parish groups. That may be the only reason that keeps our church viable. If a parish stops having fundraisers, they will be dead in just a few years.

  13. L. says:

    Our diocese doesn’t need any money from contributions since it receives millions every year from oil well revenues and other sources. Nevertheless, they run an annual appeal, that seems never to end, called “The Catholic Sharing Appeal,” which I call “Shearing A People.” Insiders know that it was set up by the diocese not to raise money as much as to promote “togetherness” or common purpose or something. Part of the money raised in the Appeal is returned to the parish, but since it is not well-spent there I ignore the whole thing. And, on balance, it’s better to hear someone speaking from the Ambo about something he knows about– money– than about something he doesn’t, such as religion.

  14. The best way to reduce the need for in-Mass fundraising is “bring a friend.” As the number of people in the pews decreases and the expenses remain more or less constant or actually increase, the total cost has to be spread among fewer and fewer people. In other words, if x is the total cost and y is the number of contributors, x/y=z, the individual contribution, so if y goes down, z goes up. Besides, “Who’d you bring with you?” might be the very first question St. Peter asks of us when we get to his desk. “You knew we were having a joyful feast here and you didn’t invite anyone?”

  15. JustaSinner says:

    My parish accepts gold coins. But Bitcoin? Not so much.

  16. cwood says:

    A reminder to the reader that Holy Church has Six Precepts that we must observe:

    1. Keep Holy Sunday
    2. Keep Holy Days of Obligation
    3. Keep Fast and Abstinence Days
    4. Receive the Eucharist at least once/yr
    5. Receive the Sacrament of Confession at least once/yr

    I don’t see a big issue doing it during mass, though it SHOULD be the priest doing it, not a layperson in my opinion. But simply asking for money during mass isn’t a problem. I get the concern, but I don’t think Jesus is offended by a pastor asking for the support of Christ’s home by those who partake in the Sacraments and Holy Sacrifice of the Mass there.

  17. bartlep says:

    My parish has online giving. My pastor never talks about money. I earmark my giving to the “mortgage fund” so none of it goes to the diocese. I know several people who earmark their giving for various sites for the same reason. I don’t give to the Bishops Annual Appeal, CCHD,Catholic Charities, Peter’s Pence, Religious Retirement ,etc. I give to religious orders and organizations that use their money espousing Catholic teaching.

  18. pascal788 says:

    I deliberately don’t give to my NO parish. I give to missionary societies and traditional orders. Until the priest starts to act and preach like a Catholic Priest he won’t get a penny from me. I will not support the protestantisation of my Church.

  19. crownvic says:

    I would like to respond to a few comments above who have been negative regarding the online giving programs for a church. As a former business manager for three Catholic parishes I argue that all giving should be done “online” for the following reasons:

    1. Counting the collection is a chore. First, you have to find at least 3 people every week to do it. This can be a hassle because a good counting team will need 10-12 people in total who cycle through at different times. Why so many people? The team has to changed so that “skimming” doesn’t happen. Finding that many people who can effectively work together can be difficult.

    2. There are fees for online giving platforms. There are also fees for depositing cash and checks. Neither is free. When implementing an online giving platform the first objection was that it “cost money” to use. Yes, it does. So does depositing cash. So does depositing checks.

    Online giving is a much easier process for the business manager / accountant than a physical collection process. I’m not saying don’t give in person, but it is not the evil that many make it out to be.

    Another side rant.. Please donate to your parishes. I was one of two business managers under 50 in the Archdiocese that I worked. There is a serious shortage of qualified and talented lay employees in the Church. Why? The pay sucks. The hours are long. There is constant criticism. There are many reasons why young, qualified people look elsewhere for employment.
    Just my .02

  20. Imrahil says:

    Dear cwood,

    actually, the fifth precept of the Church (in your enumeration, the sixth – what you call the 1st and 2nd now is put together) goes like this: “You shall provide for the needs of the Church according to your ability.”

    It may be good style or generally the right thing to do a substantial part of that by providing for the parish one attends, but it is not strictly speaking the thing commanded as a Church precept. So, special circumstances set aside, one would (say) not incur a sin if one followed a “attend local NO, support FSSP” model.

  21. albinus1 says:

    Dear pascal788,

    Does your pastor know that you feel the way you do? The thing about deliberately withholding money as a protest is that you need to make sure your target *knows* that you are withholding money, and why. Otherwise your pastor may have no idea that you aren’t contributing. Or maybe he knows and just thinks you’re cheap. If you let him know why you’re withholding donations to the parish, and where you’re directing your donations instead, he may dismiss you as a crank, but at least he’ll know.

  22. Diana says:

    It’s very interesting reading these comments. I have been attending a Latin Rite parish for the past year. I also have been a counter for a while. We don’t have the post Mass money “pitches” that many NO parishes have, and we don’t have them during Mass. Our parish, newly formed, does need a lot of money to fix things, and Father mentions them briefly during his pre-homily announcements–which is something I love about the FSSP way of doing things. We have a regular building collection, which is needed, we have extra collections for flowers and other things that come along with the liturgical cycle. Father doesn’t have to beg us for money. At least, that’s how it seems to me. His perspective may be different. But he doesn’t have to beg us because we love our parish and we love him and we want the parish to succeed. We are GRATEFUL for our parish, and because of that, people support it gladly. Maybe that’s what’s missing from so many parishes where pastors have to beg and make presentations. I remember feeling like I didn’t want to give my money to something so lame or the weekly random person asking for money at the end of Mass. Now, I have to keep myself from giving more than I can afford, I am so overjoyed with the parish and want so badly to support it.

  23. Ages says:

    Saint Paul had to make tents to support himself because the Church wasn’t giving him enough to live on.

    If we want to enjoy things such as full-time priests and mid-week Masses, we had better be prepared to pay for them.

    If Father is forced to keep a secular job to pay his bills, the church won’t be open as often for evangelism or building the faith.

  24. Josephus Corvus says:

    For those who think they are accomplishing something by designating that donation goes to a specific use, rather than to support something they don’t care for: Don’t be so sure that you are successful, unless a vast majority of the people are also doing that.

    As an example, suppose a parish takes in $100,000 and nobody designates. The parish decides that they would like $10,000 to go to the sanctuary wreck-o-vation, and $90,000 to keep the lights on. Therefore, 10% of everybody’s contribution goes to the wreck-o-vation. Now, let’s say they let you designate. You say you want 100% of your donation to keep the lights on. Fine, but the guy in the pew next to you checked the “greatest need” box, so 100% of his went to the wreck-o-vation. At the end of the day, both scenarios got the same exact same amounts distributed.

    On a side note, the archdiocesan portion is often not so much of a contribution as it is a type tax. The parish will be paying it regardless of whether the pastor would want to or not. (That’s not unique to the Catholic Church either.)

  25. I am, perhaps, rare in being a priest who has little discomfort talking about money, and asking for it directly. It helps that I worked in fundraising before I entered the seminary. There’s nothing wrong with talking about money or asking for it, when the cause is worthy. Further, I think it’s important that the faithful be well informed about what their parish or diocese needs, and how their money is being managed. And, I think it’s important that people know the priest is knowledgeable and attentive to such matters. People work hard for their money — the parish priest should send the message that he understands that, and is diligent in how he uses their money.

    So I would have no problem presenting a homily about any money matter, including a parish project such as described above.

    That said — it is also true that it helps immensely when parishioners see that lay parishioners with personal credibility are also on board and involved. So there is something to be said for the priest, in some fashion, pointing to Mrs. Brown or Mr. Green to explain more. I would very much avoid doing so in connection to the homily; I would try to have the lay witness right before Mass begins (i.e., Mass actually begins 5 minutes late), or immediately after.

  26. Sandy says:

    Perhaps one point the reader was making, that has not been addressed, is the length of time for the lay person. 25 minutes is excessive, and I have never heard a “pitch” go on this long. These announcements are usually made at the end of Mass and I’ve heard priests ask us to be seated before the final blessing, when some bulletin points/announcements are often made. The length of time, as well as the placement during Mass, is what seems out of order.

  27. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    Re: “Cosmetic repairs” to parking lot. Did you know that once asphalt or concrete begin to crack, water gets into the foundation (yes, parking lots and roads have foundations), and begins to slowly mix with and wash away everything under there. If yours is an area with freezing temps in the winter, then the water that gets into the cracks and mixes with the foundation also freezes, and expands, causing portions of the cracked surface above to crack further, and then to “heave” or to break away from position and reposition themselves upwards, as if there had been a small earthquake.

    Pretty soon, parishioners are forced to traverse a parking lot full of pot holes and speed bumps that were never designed to be there. As the situation gets worse, and cars begin to bottom out, or have their tires smack into a sharp edge of heaved surface, some cars will experience damage to their oil pans, their shocks, their tires. Then the cars’ owners will complain bitterly to the pastor. And understandably so.

    Guess how much it costs, once these problems have reached the point I’ve described, to bring in the equipment, manpower, and supplies to correct all these problems, and make the lot smooth and level again?

    Answer: The cost would be about thirty times the sum of what it would have cost to get out in front of these small “cosmetic” repairs by having small cracks and holes dealt with properly a few times a year, as soon as they crop up. And that by a good, reliable contractor who knows what s/he’s doing. And, yes, that does get expensive . . . but, again, not as expensive as letting the parking lot go.

    Structures like this are like lawns, teeth, family kitchens, savings and investments . . . you’ve got to keep them properly maintained and looked after – even though some might consider this work “cosmetic,” or else, before you know it, you won’t have a lawn anymore, but a jungle. You won’t have a mouthful of healthy teeth anymore, and you won’t be able to chew. You won’t have a few cooking utensils and a dirty dish or two in the sink, you’ll have a disaster zone; and you won’t have anywhere near the savings or investments you thought you had; you will have frittered it all away, and/or lost money in the stock market by not monitoring it.

  28. bobbird says:

    Sandy, I think you are correct. The letter writer was more disturbed about having a layman [I don’t use PC pronouns] using the pulpit at the time designated for the priest-only homily, not so much about money matters or length. The best way to handle this is to 1) have someone talk before Mass, and away from the ambo or 2) after the Final Blessing but before the Recessional. Then it is NOT part of Mass. I sigh when we endure 3-4 extraneous talks in the course of a Mass … at the start, after the Sign In, about the weather, who is from out of town (which always gets applause), birthdays. Then another yik-yak when children are dismissed for catechesis. Then the regular sermon. Then announcements. And then sometimes another quasi-sermon about something. Let the mundane be completely outside of Mass, but keep that captive audience in their pews. It’s not rocket science,

  29. robtbrown says:

    The problem of parish fundraising is understandable. The simple truth is that US Catholics don’t trust the Church with their money.

    1. There have often been appeals for seminarians. Now that the news is out that for years seminaries were a convenient place to flop for homosexuals.

    2. In addition to the sexual problem for years seminaries have been producing many men who were confused about the Faith, a consequence of poor theological formation.

    3. The comments of Pope Francis have exacerbated both problems. Also the news that the Vatican financially supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign

    4. There are also the renovations by financially naive priests. New sound systems, new pews, new lights on the altar, all intended to whip up pastoral fervor. This reminds me of the American attitude toward schools: If schools aren’t very good, improve the infra structure.

  30. Charles E Flynn says:

    I regret that I did not note where I read that medieval Catholics were not particularly concerned if their domestic premises were modest, as long as they had magnificent churches in which to worship God.

  31. GregB says:

    Because of its historic prevalence, in jest I refer to bingo as being the eighth sacrament of the Church.

  32. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    Though a parking lot is not a cosmetic issue, why can not a priest not just say we need money for a parking lot please use the envelopes or put that on them. Filling one out whether you plan on giving irks me. It seems like it we more than about parking lot to go on for 20 minutes.
    Giving a Tithe online with an automatic giving make sense as it in some ways is a bill that must be paid so it should be part of your budget and actually not thought about. Then there is another word for offerings.
    Actually the temple and the early church did they actually ask in the temple in between slaughtering bulls? Tithes were at certain times. Offerings were according to when you received blessings and for certain sins, but were not mandatory. If people are grateful you don’t have to ask, just tell them what they can bring their offerings for and that is a minute or two and can be done by the priest.

  33. hwriggles4 says:

    Here’s a few additional comments:

    1. One reason pastors make a pitch for an appeal during Mass is at most parishes, 70% of the congregation attends Mass weekly and leaves immediately following the closing song. My Protestant brethren often share with me that this is “normal ” in their churches too. Therefore, the pastor makes this pitch because the people are there (and in many cases, the bishop ordered him too. Oftentimes, my bishop prepares a homily ahead of time on an audio device covering this yearly occasion to be played throughout the diocese on that day. This is not uncommon. )

    2. I agree with the poster who commented about pay. I have known personally at least three solid Catholic youth ministers who changed jobs. Two were guys who after having their third child, realized they each had to return to a secular job, in order for their wives to be able to stay at home. Another one (a female) left to return to teaching school. Sadly, I do have Catholic friends who left parish work due to disagreements, laziness, too much criticism, etc.

    3. I do tithe regularly at my registered parish, and use the envelopes. However, I sometimes attend a parish that is in an affluent neighborhood (there are two good solid priests there along with an altar rail and a reverent Mass). When I go there, I normally will not contribute more than $5 in the collection, mostly because I don’t think the parish needs it.

    4. Some pastors and finance committees are better about managing money than others. The pastor at my mother’s parish walked into a hornet’s nest when he was assigned there (the previous pastor was dismissed after a public incident). This new pastor noticed the interest rate on a note from recently completed construction, and was shocked how high the interest rate was. This new pastor had enough sense (and guts) to go to the bank, talk to executives, and actually renegotiated the note at a much lower interest rate. I commend this new pastor for lowering the parish debt.

    5. If you get a chance, check out the work that was done at Fr. Dwight Longnecker’s parish in South Carolina. Some architectural firm told him an estimate that was outrageously high, and his parish accomplished the work at about half the cost. In other words, don’t let an architect take advantage.

    6. An old pastor I remember discussed tithing one Sunday. His recommendation: 5% to the parish, 1% to the diocese, and 4% to other.

  34. CasaSanBruno says:

    As opposed to an irksome collection in Mass, in my old parish the collection baskets went missing. I later found out a homeless guy was seen walking down the street with the basket making his own collection with the long-handled basket.

  35. rtjl says:

    I am among those responsible for raising funds in my very cash strapped parish and I have a simple solution. If parishioners don’t want to see their church closed and if they don’t want to be bothered by fundraising appeals, one option is to consider being generous about the money they put in the collection plate and that without being asked. They might even consider tithing.

    I don’t mean to sound rancorous but it is a fact that our collections are well below what they could be or should be. Of course, there is the flip side of this and that is that many parishioners don’t put money in the collections because they have little confidence that money given will be used well. If there is an onus on parishioners to support their parish generously, there is also an onus on pastors, parish councils and finance councils to demonstrate responsibility with respect to funds donated.

  36. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Dear rtjl generosity is much easier when the recipients are clear about where the money goes. What proportion of the Mass collection goes to the diocese? And what proportion of that goes to unworthy causes?

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