a deficit of €50,000 is forecast for the St Conleth’s Parish, Newbridge, end-of-year accounts for a second year in a row, prompting the parish to seek an increase in contributions from parishioners.
Concerns are now rife that the annual wages bill of €250,000 which makes up to 50 percent of the parish expenses, will not be sustained for next year.
Parish priest Fr Joe McDermott blamed the economic downturn for the sizable shortfall in the accounts. “It is the economic situation coupled with less people practising at the moment,” he said.
He also hit out at those who use the Catholic church for ‘one-off’ occasions but don’t contribute financially during the year.
“There has been a gradual decline in support for our fund raising - it’s the times that are in it. I would be concerned if we had to let people go. We spend a quarter of a million on wages every year and that has nothing to do with the priests. That covers the parish centre staff, musicians, pastoral workers and sacristans.”
According to the parish priest, reserves from better years have allowed this shortfall to be met so far, but this cannot be sustained in the long term.
“Wages are about 50 percent of our expenses or thereabouts,” he added. “Then there is lighting, heating, insurance, maintenance and repairs of church. That comes to about €50,000 to €100,000 a year. There is a small amount of money already there as over the years one or two small legacies have been left and the deficit will have to come out of that. Employees have taken a pay cut which we appreciate, while our own income for priests has dropped also.”
The parish committee is now asking that those parishioners who can, to increase even slightly their weekly contributions.
“Morale for the Catholic Church may be low but we still have several thousand people - between six and eight thousand people - practising every week,” he said.
“There is a huge number of people who have dropped off but that trend began back in the 1970s and 1980s.
“We need a lot more courage from people to stand by their convictions and stop using the church for one-off occasions such as Communions and Confirmations if parents don’t have a commitment to faith.
“It is the same for people coming in to get married because it’s nostalgic. I wish we had more integrity with people.
“People who use the church as a one off are not generally contributing but they expect the church to be there for them.
“People’s expectations have to change and they need to stop using the church for a social occasion rather than a religious one.”