A Note from our Pastor
A NOTE FROM OUR PASTOR
My dear family of St. Matthew!
I am going to borrow a statement by our Bishop Daniel Conlon and adapt it to myself — here it is: As your pastor, I am committed to providing quality Catholic school education at our St. Matthew Parish, just as I am committed to providing quality Catholic faith formation programs for our families whose children attend public schools. I agree with our Bishop that although life has changed over the past decades here in our part of God’s world, we all still need to have Catholic elementary schools available for the future health of the Church and society. You will read almost these exact words from Bishop Conlon at the end of the following statement he has issued, which is very, very GOOD NEWS for parishes like ours here at St. Matthew’s that have the blessing of a Catholic School as part of our parish family and community. Anyway, immediately below follows the Good News for us and all Catholic Schools of our Diocese of Joliet.
Shalom-peace and joy in the living, loving, caring and giving Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Fr. Gregor
STATEMENT FROM BISHOP R. DANIEL CONLON
REGARDING NEW PARISH ASSESSMENT FOR SCHOOLS
The Diocese of Joliet is blessed with excellent schools, thanks to the dedication of many people. Parishes with schools provide $14 million for those schools each year. The Schools Task Force concluded, however, that for a few struggling elementary schools outside financial support is essential. They recommended, and I agreed after further consultation, to introduce a new parish assessment.
Some people ask if the “diocese” can help these schools. The Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal and the existing 5% parish assessment, plus some investment income, fund the diocesan central services and other obligations. There really is no significant money left over.
Why are parishes without schools expected to provide financial support for struggling schools? The essential answer is that solid Catholic education is a resource that should be available to every family wherever possible. If some parishes do not operate schools, they should still help support schools to assure that their own families continue to have access to Catholic schools. The fewer schools that operate in the Diocese of Joliet, the fewer options families have for Catholic education.
There was a time when having a school was a common part of parish life. Today parishes are finding increasingly the benefit of collaborating with their neighbors to operate various programs rather than duplicating everything. Why not look at schools that way?
The new assessment on regular collections will take effect on July 1, 2020 and will generate around $560,000 annually. It will be graduated, depending on the financial strength of each parish, with 3% being the average rate and 5% being the highest rate. Even with the new assessment, our diocese will still be below the average assessment rate for parishes in the nearly 200 dioceses in the United States. (The parishes in Ford County and Iroquois County will not be subject to the new assessment, because no Catholic schools operate among the very small rural parishes there.)
Some parishes already contribute regularly to the support of underfunded schools. The continuation of that support is essential. Any parish that contributes to a designated school or schools, at an amount equivalent to or above its assessment rate, will not need to pay the school assessment.
The amount collected each fiscal year as a result of this new assessment will go into a separate diocesan fund. I have appointed a five-member Grant Commission to receive grant applications from schools truly in need of additional funding. In addition, the commission is charged with working with school officials and others to find ways to strengthen these schools in order to reduce their need for grants.
There should be less need for “out of parish” tuition rates, at least for families that contribute regularly to their own parish in the Diocese of Joliet, since all parishes will be supporting Catholic schools. Likewise, I am hopeful that the assessment will spur increased enrollment in Catholic schools from among families whose parishes to do not operate one.
As your bishop, I am committed to providing quality Catholic school education in the Diocese of Joliet, just as I am committed to providing quality religious formation programs for our families whose children attend public schools. Life has changed. Not every parish chooses or can operate an elementary school. Yet we all still need to have them available for the future health of the Church and society.