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Sunday & Holy Day Collections

OCTOBER 2011 - AN APPEAL AT ALL SUNDAY MASSES BY A MEMBER OF THE ORATORY'S CHURCH AND PARISH FINANCE COMMITTEE

Many of us here will be familiar with the considerable costs of running and maintaining a house or flat on a day-to-day basis.  By this is meant, not the costs of the household like food, clothing or educational expenses, but the actual operating costs that necessarily accompany the physical structure itself: heat, electricity, hot water, physical repairs to windows and so on. Not only can they become a burden and an irritation, they are frequently an expensive burden and irritation. The absolute levels of these costs are directly correlated to the size and complexity of the physical structure.

The Fathers of the Oratory too are responsible for a house, this one: God’s house. And they face all the same challenges that we do but with two rather important distinctions: the expenses they must meet are on a magnified scale - as you might expect for this glorious but enormous structure. The monthly bills are quite simply vast.  And, secondly, they do not earn an income, which makes it impossible for them, alone, to pay these bills. And that is what I am here to speak with you about today.  Helping the Fathers meet the operating costs of this – our church.

A brief but important point of clarification should be made before proceeding further: the personal expenses of each of the Fathers are their own responsibility alone and are not included in the operating costs nor are they covered by our Sunday offerings.

When speaking of maintenance bills, what is meant by “vast”? Some examples will help to answer that question: 

1)   Last year the total heating cost of the church was £23,240

2)   The total electricity bill was £15, 570

In fact, the total operating costs of the church were £590,400 or £49,200 per month.

To provide some context, on average, 2,000 people attend Mass here on Sunday. In other words, it costs a minimum of £5.67/person/week to ensure that the Mass is celebrated and the sacraments provided.

How do the Fathers meet these expenses? Or, given that they are without income, perhaps the more pertinent question is - upon whom do they rely for help to pay these expenses? The Vatican? No, they receive no money from the Vatican. The government of the United Kingdom? No, the Fathers receive no payments from the State. The Diocese? No, nothing is received from the Diocese of Westminster.  Other Oratorian communities? No, each Oratory is independent and expected to be financially self-sufficient. The answer is they rely on our generosity alone. When the collection is made each Sunday, our contributions go directly towards covering these operating expenses.  Of course, that is not the only way we can help the Fathers; another is by what is termed “Planned Giving” or remembering them in our wills.  

And how are we doing? The numbers speak for themselves.  Remember, the cost per person to simply keep this building safe, lit and warm in the winter is £5.67/week. Each of us, on average, is donating £2.28/week - or £119 per year. Based on the average annual UK salary of £26,000 this translates into less than ½ of 1% of total annual income. For additional perspective, the average UK household spends approximately £1,200/year or £23/week on their cats and dogs.

We could be doing better.

Why should we be doing better? Why should we give more? In fact, why should we give at all? Because we have an obligation, as Catholics and in accordance with our means, to provide for the Church so that it has available to it those things that are necessary for Divine worship. This is a general obligation of all Catholics irrespective of country, diocese or parish.  The church depends upon us entirely to help meet her material requirements so that she, in turn, may provide for our spiritual requirements. There is no other source of income.

But let’s take a closer look at this, our church, the Brompton Oratory. We all know how special it is, we all love it so much that many of us travel here from across London, and, indeed, from afar each Sunday. We love the reverence and the beauty of the Holy Mass as it’s celebrated by the Fathers. We are tremendously fortunate to be able to enjoy the glorious music provided by our organist and choir – a choir with very few peers worldwide. What we experience as a matter of routine on Sundays and Feast Days the vast majority of Catholics around the world could only – and do – dream about. The Brompton Oratory is a rare place, with a very special role in the Church.  One might look at it as a wonderful, vibrant green shoot of the faith.  It is our green shoot.

However, green shoots, no matter how beautiful and promising, are fragile and dependent upon the good will and care of others to survive - let alone thrive.  And there can be little doubt that every one us sitting here today would like to see this parish thrive for many generations to come.

But if this is to happen, it will require our enthusiastic, increased and continual financial support.  It will require substantially more than £2.28/week. The Fathers depend upon it - we all depend upon it.

Thank you.

Bob Shea (the Oratory's Church and Parish Finance Committee).


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FROM THE PARISH PRIEST

In 2010 the average amount given by each person present at Mass in the Oratory church on Sundays was £2.45.

Those who take the Sunday collection week by week (lay volunteers) tell us that approximately one quarter of those present at Mass give nothing to the offertory collection. It has to be remembered that a number of regular Mass attenders make their weekly contribution by generously gift-aiding a regular sum, and therefore do not generally put anything further in the collection each Sunday. We are grateful to those who gift-aid their donations. It enables us to reclaim the tax on what is given, and is therefore a very advantageous way for people to support the church.

It remains true however that a substantial number of people who regularly come to Mass here give nothing. I ask them, please, to make a weekly contribution according to their means. The Oratory church receives no external funding from the Vatican or the local diocese. In that sense we are wholly self-supporting, and we need the weekly collections to keep the church open and in good repair.

It is also true that many who attend give much more than the average figure of £2.45. Some give £10 or even £20 each week for which we are sincerely grateful. But this means that many people who do contribute are actually giving much less than £2.45 each week.

All who are come to Mass here are asked to give according to the their means, each Sunday and Holyday. Given the annual deficit for the Oratory church and parish, I make the following appeal to all:

Please would you consider giving £5 (i.e.five pounds per adult) each time you come to Sunday Mass. 

To those who already give this amount, and more, we offer our grateful thanks and the assurance of our prayers.