From the Pastor | February 26, 2021
My last letter to you was during the Christmas season. Doesn’t it seem like a lifetime ago? I think it is time to bring you up to date with a comprehensive survey of news of the parish.
I am happy to report that even in the midst of the pandemic the work of the parish has continued at full throttle, although often in very different and novel formats. Most important of all, the various ministries of the parish are active and have learned to adapt to current circumstances without in any way diminishing their enthusiasm and commitment or fulfilling their principal responsibilities. In this regard, the parish is thriving.
Let me now inform you of the business side of things. There are a number of construction projects that are underway or nearing completion. Our new elevator that will allow access into Wallace Hall from 84th Street will be ready for inspection by the City within the next few weeks and will become operational as soon as a new walkway is constructed that will lead from the elevator to the side door of the church. The inside bronze door at the 84th Street entrance will also be automated to provide easier access to anyone in a wheelchair or using a walker.
Recall that the primary goal of our capital campaign, Your Parish, Your Home, is to provide full access to parish facilities and the installation of long-overdue safety systems, such as fire alarms and sprinklers throughout the physical plant. Among the first projects funded by the capital campaign was the construction of a ramp that provides barrier-free entry into the Parish House. As we took a closer look at all the access points into the Parish House, the church, and Wallace Hall, we recognized the need to provide a safer and more dignified approach into the Lady Chapel from the narthex of the church. If you have recently been inside the church, you may have noticed a large plastic sheet that blocks that area of the narthex. Work has begun on a new entrance to the Lady Chapel and a freshening of the interior of the Lady Chapel itself. This work is projected to be completed in time for Easter.
The funding for these construction projects has been provided through the Capital Campaign. I am happy to report that our goal of $7.5 million is within reach. It is extraordinary to think that we have been able to keep to the original, pre-pandemic timeline for our capital campaign that will draw to a close in two short months! We are not yet there, and it is not too late to join other parishioners in this singular accomplishment by contributing even a modest amount at this time. Every dollar counts!
Unrelated to our capital campaign, there is another construction project that is taking place unobtrusively in the church. It is the installation of a state-of-the-art audio/visual system that will allow us to livestream liturgies, concerts, and other events. The makeshift system we are currently using does not have the versatility or quality that we require. Equally important is the decision I made to continue to livestream Masses on a regular basis even when safety restrictions are lifted and people are allowed to return to places of worship. Recognizing the importance of livestreaming Mass, and after consultation with the Parish Finance Committee, I authorized the a/v project to go forward on the condition that we raise the necessary funds for its installation. Our goal of $350,000 is also within reach, thanks to the generosity of parishioners and non-parishioners who have found so much consolation in being able to attend Mass remotely. Your donation at this time will not only help us reach our goal, but it will also allow us to further include in this project the installation of a similar system in Wallace Hall at an additional cost of approximately $300,000. It is a big request that I ask of you, but necessary if we are to be present to those who would otherwise be unable to experience what we cherish most about our parish – our liturgies, our concerts, our lectures, and the profusion of events that bring us together as a community.
Last month I announced to the parents of students at the preschool and grammar school a building project of a different kind. Given the strength of both schools, as confirmed by expert reviews by Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education, and the unanimous recommendation of the Parish Finance Committee, it is the appropriate time to bring the two schools together. Effective September 2021, Saint Ignatius Loyola School will offer a Pre-K3 through eighth-grade program of studies. I am grateful to Ms. Mary Larkin, Head of School, for her willingness to take on this project.
You may recall that less than two years ago the parish’s new mission statement, drafted by an ad hoc committee of parishioners and parish staff, was formally accepted. It was to be the basis of a strategic planning process that was to have begun in March 2020. The original plan for rolling out this process had to adjust to the unforeseen circumstances that arose through the early course of the pandemic. That is not to say that this project was placed on the back burner. On the contrary, the circumstances created by the pandemic and their impact on the Church and society at large were incorporated into my thinking about how best to proceed. In September 2020, my essay in the e-newsletter addressed our common commitment to create a new paradigm of the church in a post-pandemic world that would become the blueprint for our strategic plan for the future.
Post-pandemic strategic planning has been an on-going topic of discussion at meetings of the Parish Staff. In January we devoted a morning of prayer to this matter, that was ably facilitated by Father Jim Martin, S.J. Heeding the invitation of Pope Francis in his latest book, Let us Dream, The Path to a Better Future, we prayed that we might be guided by the Holy Spirit throughout the process of discerning our future as a parish, designing for the Church the hopeful prospects of proclaiming God’s kingdom in new ways. In the next several months, I will appoint a planning group whose charge will be the drafting of a strategic plan for the parish. Such a task will be the responsibility of all parishioners. At various points in the planning process, you will be called on to offer your input. I encourage you to become actively engaged in this process so that every parishioner will proudly take ownership of our strategic plan.
Anticipating a more active role for laypeople in the governance of the Church in a post-pandemic world, I have decided that it is the appropriate time to create a Parish Council to advise me in my service as Pastor. I will soon announce the names of those who have accepted my invitation to participate in this new initiative as well as explain in more detail the function of a Parish Council in our context. I recognize and re-affirm the critical responsibility the Parish Ministry Council has in expressing the perspectives of the ministries of the parish. In order to promote greater collaboration among parish ministries, however, the Parish Ministry Council will now include the leadership of all our ministries. It is my hope that broader representation at meetings of the Parish Ministry Council will forge a dynamic stewardship of the rich tapestry of the ways we work together to proclaim God’s kingdom among us.
In December we unveiled the new parish website. If you have not yet viewed it, I encourage you to do so and refer to it often to learn about what is happening at the southwest corner of Park & 84th. The new website is more versatile than the former one. I am grateful to the team who worked tirelessly to create a user-friendly, highly informative, and visually attractive communications vehicle. I invite you to take out this latest model for a test drive and regularly get in the driver’s seat and turn on the ignition at your computer or smartphone. You will be amazed at the breadth of programs and activities that occur at the parish on a daily basis.
I will conclude with a brief report on some figures that have a significant impact on the life and well-being of the parish. Pre-pandemic, 1,100 to 1,300 people regularly attended the 6 weekend Masses. Quadruple that for the number who attended Christmas and Easter Masses. Since the “re-opening” of the church on the first weekend of July an average of 450 people attend the 5 weekend Masses (the Wallace Hall Family Mass has yet to resume). The highest number was at Christmas, but even with the increase it was nowhere near the allowed capacity for each Mass. God willing, this will change as vaccines roll out and places of worship are allowed to open with fewer capacity restrictions. The unhappy corollary to fewer people attending Mass has been the dramatic decrease in revenue that is generated by the Offertory (i.e., weekly) collection. The operating budget deficit is staggering, suffering from a shortfall of several hundred thousand dollars. When considered along with the loss of revenue from other activities of the parish, the deficit exceeds more than $1.0 million. In consultation with the Parish Finance Committee, I have been able to address this situation by using the reserve funds of the parish. Obviously, we cannot sustain the operations of the parish in this manner.
And the work continues, so does the need for your continued and sustained financial support. Whatever your means will allow, please help us reach our capital campaign goal and cover the cost of our a/v initiative for the church and Wallace Hall by contributing today. Finally, please be faithful to the weekly Offertory collection and register online at ignatius.nyc so your donation is recurring and charged to whatever personal account you choose.
My last word is one of gratitude. I am very grateful for the advice and good counsel of the Parish Finance Committee for the past year. I am equally grateful to all of you for the many ways in which you have contributed to the vitality of the parish. Working together we have accomplished much to bring Greater Glory to God.
God bless you!
Sincerely in the Lord,