Christians of all denominations today tend to look for communities where they feel like they can belong to the larger group. Sometimes the neighborhoods have similarities that tend to easily find commonalities with others. Back when communities and neighbors were more closely linked, there is no real issue with this model.
Traditionally, parishes were designed to be close in proximity to the community it served. The intent was that you should be able to hear the church bells ring from your house, at least in towns and villages before roaring engines dominated the auditory landscape. Technically, parish boundaries still exist, but it’s not required that you attend that specific parish.
The world is a different place now, and communities rarely mean the people within walking distance of your house. Now, communities are formed through different types of connections and can span entire cities or even regions.
One of the problems with this large exchange of people is that Christians can begin to form niche communities that only fit a particular mold of the parishioners in their community. In many parishes, this is most commonly seen through financial means.
These days, we even have churches known as commuter parishes because the parishioners are spread over a large area that requires driving in from across town. This may become even more common with time because of a number of Catholics are getting displaced because of gentrification. Traditionally minority neighborhoods that were full of Catholics are being replaced with a new crowd that doesn’t practice Christianity.
Austin, the heart of our diocese, is ranked as the most economically segregated metro area in the country. There are many factors that contributed to this situation, but we need to ensure that this doesn’t hurt the parish communities in the metro area the same way.
Without making too many assumptions about tithing, we cannot limit ministry activities to those that meet a threshold of financial giving. Parishes should not hold public events that price out low-income families with kids. Several of these or even just one egregious fundraiser can be enough to communicate that they are not welcome to be full members of the community. If there are very generous donors that the parish wants to thank or invite, then events like that can be held in private.
Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
– Luke 12:33-34
A Focus on Fundraising
I have seen parish staff members so focused on raising capital that they begin to see families for what they can contribute to the campaign over what the parish can do to serve them. We can’t judge others by their financial status and determine a minimum salary in order to participate in our community.
If we are truly doing the work of the Lord, then we can trust God will provide.
“Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.”
This one should be simple, but it can be difficult to get leaders to agree to look at church finances differently than we see things in our American perspective. The American dream depends so much on capitalism, but the Church has often pointed out that it’s not as great as we think it is. We can’t just let the poorer communities fend for themselves while the richer parishes do as they please.
There is some great progress happening in dioceses across the country, but we still have plenty of work to do on sharing the wealth to do the work together. Starting will small steps to keep festival and event prices low enough to let all members participate will go a long way.
The next hurdles come in finding ways to help with childcare at the parish for parents that want to serve or participate in events. This is important to help with the diversity in age and incomes. The steps after that could help share more money within a diocese to prevent traditionally poorer parishes from not getting the help they need to do essential building fixes or updates. From there, we can trust that the Lord will bless our efforts if we trust in Him.
1940 Solidarity is manifested in the first place by the distribution of goods and remuneration for work. It also presupposes the effort for a more just social order where tensions are better able to be reduced and conflicts more readily settled by negotiation.
1941 Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this.
1942 The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods. In spreading the spiritual goods of the faith, the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods as well. And so throughout the centuries has the Lord’s saying been verified: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well”:(47)
For two thousand years this sentiment has lived and endured in the soul of the Church, impelling souls then and now to the heroic charity of monastic farmers, liberators of slaves, healers of the sick, and messengers of faith, civilization, and science to all generations and all peoples for the sake of creating the social conditions capable of offering to everyone possible a life worthy of man and of a Christian.(48)
CCC # 1940-1942