One of the things that I mentioned last week in my bulletin article was our new diocesan assessment, known as the “Parish Tithe.” I thought I’d share with you all a bit of information regarding what exactly that is. Whether or not you have heard this information before (in previous bulletins or in the Bishop’s letter in the mail), perhaps this will help to clarify things.
Essentially, the “Parish Community Tithe” replaces what used to be known as the Annual Catholic Services Appeal for our parishes. Our “ACSA,” as it was called, was a yearly goal assessed to each parish, meant to help sponsor Diocesan programs and faith formation content, educate future priests, and provide the support needed to operate our Diocesan Curia. Without getting into too many of the details, that assessment was roughly 12.5% of each parish’s total weekly contributions for a year. Our parishes both participated in an incentive that reduced that amount substantially, and as a result, we have been able to meet or come close to meeting our ACSA goal in many of the recent years.
With the new “Parish Tithe,” the assessment to each parish is now reduced to 10%, but the incentive that substantially reduced our goal has been abrogated. For now, as with ACSA, this new goal comes as an “assessment” (so if our parish does not meet our goal, the balance will be expected to be made up for by the parishes directly).
However, the future hope is that, as each of our parish families embrace the invitation to practice good stewardship by participating in their own tithe of 10% to the parish, so too each parish would be able to tithe 10% of their contributions to the Diocese. Thus, in the future, there would no longer be a need for each parish to be “assessed” anything; it would simply be normative for a tenth of our collections to be offered in support of the Diocese.
Some of you may be asking “Why 10%?” The short answer is that it’s the biblical standard. In Gen 14, God grants Abram victory over the king of Elam, despite Abram and his men being severely outnumbered. Abram then meets Melchizedek, the enigmatic priest-king of Salem, and in addition to the bread and wine which Melchizedek offers as sacrifice to God, Abram offers to him a tithe (from the Hebrew maasrah, literally meaning a tenth part) out of gratitude for what God has done for him.
So, too, do we in the Church promote tithing. Even in the earliest days of the Church, collections were taken to support the local Church and to provide for the needs of the poor. And it was always done precisely in that spirit of gratitude for everything that God has given us, in connection with the sacrifice of bread and wine that we offer at Mass.
Catholics, on average, “tithe” only about 2%. [In many Christian churches, tithing is not optional—in fact, I’ve heard of churches asking for pay stubs! I assure you, we won’t be doing any of that anytime soon!!] It’s difficult, I know, because nowadays there are so many things vying for our attention and resources. By no means does God expect our next house payment or the money we were going to use to pay for our prescriptions this month; but He does desire us to give back whatever we can. God, after all, is the source of ALL that we have, and in a real sense, all was His to begin with. We are asked only to share our part.
I write this not to badger you for money or to guilt you into giving more. It’s neither my intention nor my place. My place, as your pastor, is to nourish your soul, to give you the spiritual principals as Jesus did His disciples, and to invite you into the mission of the Church—to help you see the spiritual benefit of partaking in this glorious task of stewarding the mysteries of God. May God continue to bring us growth, and may our sacrifices for Him be for His greater glory. “Prosper the work of our hands, Lord. Prosper the work of our hands!”
Keep spreading joy!