Dear brothers & Sisters
I want to keep you up to date with some developments within the Church, both at diocesan and national level regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. I again thank you for all that you are doing at this difficult time. These may be challenging times, but we remain confident and trusting in the Lord’s mercy. Please continue to take care of yourselves and each other.
As we are all aware the lockdown is placing our parishes and diocese under financial pressure. When Churches do reopen the numbers permitted to attend a Mass, due to social distancing regulations, will be greatly reduced. No baskets or equivalent will be passed around for the Offertory Collection. Offertory Envelopes may be placed in boxes as people leave Church but typically retiral Collections never realise as much as Offertory Collections do Church life cannot return to normal until a vaccine is created and widely implemented which means that we will continue to face restrictions until the start of 2021, at the earliest. It is therefore imperative that we strategically plan and adapt.
The most obvious benefit for parishes will be to significantly increase Standing Orders which would guarantee regular income for your parish. Parishioners can do this themselves on-line. I know that many of you have already been working on increasing Standing Orders.
For three months the diocese will have reduced parish payments to the levy by 50% and for a previous month it was cut by 25%. However, the diocese cannot maintain this level of reduction indefinitely. The diocese has made savings of just over £2,000 per month but with the present arrangement the amount the diocese receives from the levy has fallen by £9,000 per month. Therefore, the diocese is losing approximately £7,000 per month. The diocesan budget is based on ‘break even’ and there will be a cash flow problem. The Trustees are committed to continue supporting parishes, but the question is how best to achieve this. We want to protect every parish and the diocese in a way that is balanced, just and fair. The Treasurer is already providing the Trustees with weekly updates highlighting any parishes which may have low reserves. Our intention is for the diocese to both save more money (e.g. furloughing of staff, other cost reductions) as well as increasing income through fundraising (a Working Group has already been examining this).
Praying for Parishes
For the past month I have been praying daily for a particular parish in our diocese. Many people have appreciated this and so I will continue the practice. I will celebrate a special Mass for Castlebay Parish on Tuesday 26th May and then Northbay Parish on Friday 5th June. During these Masses I intercede for the whole parish: the clergy, all who worship in the Parish Church and Chapel(s) of Ease and everyone who lives within the Parish boundaries. The Masses are live-streamed through the Diocesan website & facebook at 10am.
Pentecost Sunday National Rosary Rally
Pope Francis is encouraging Catholics to pray the Rosary in their family homes during the month of May, especially when the Pandemic is making us aware of the value of our families and making it possible for us to pray together in lockdown at home. He encourages simple Rosaries and joining online Rosary initiatives to pray to Our Lady for deliverance from Covid-19 and he has composed two prayers for this intention. You are invited to join in an initiative that follows on the Pope’s request, the Pentecost Sunday National Rosary Rally, from 9am to 9pm. Our Diocese of Argyll & the Isles has been asked to pray a Rosary at 5pm. Bishop Brian will lead an online Rosary at 5pm (diocesan website/YouTube) but he also encourages you to pray at home as a family or individually or to create local groups (e.g. in Gaelic, neighbours, parish, in Polish etc).