Dear Friends in Christ,
Please remember that to be considered a registered, active and contributing parishioner, one has to not only register but financially contribute to the parish by means of electronic funds transfer or by dropping your donation in specially provided envelopes. The envelope system tracks both Mass attendance and giving. We have parishioners who sometimes find themselves for short or longer periods unable to give, but they still drop their envelope in the basket, to show that they were here. Every year, we look at those who are registered in the parish, and if there is no discernible activity via EFT or envelopes, they are reduced to inactive status. This is also important so that the Diocese does not assess Prince of Peace for inactive parishioners.
We also have parishioners who come to Mass faithfully, and are actually quite generous contributors to the weekly offertory through cash, but who have reservations about being tracked in any way. Often they will be in contact with the parish administration, so we know who they are, and do not mark them inactive. Participation in ministries of the parish is not a relevant criterion for being considered active in this way.
The envelope system is an imperfect way to ensuring Mass attendance and giving, but it is a very near universal one in churches of all sorts. In the Catholic Church, there are numerous reasons why we highly encourage using the envelope system to mark Mass attendance and giving. First of all, in order to serve as a godparent or sponsor for baptism or confirmation, Catholics have to send a letter from their parish that they are registered, active and contributing members of their local parish. When parishioner choose not to come to Mass or give in a way which is objectively verifiable, the parish has to write a letter to the parish requesting the information that we have someone who is registered but does not show any discernible activity. Please do not think, “Well, Father sees me and knows who I am,” because the letter is not based on the memory of the celebrant, but what is in the database.
Also, to be married in the Catholic Church, most parishes require that Catholics be active, registered and contributing parishioners to even start the marriage preparation process. As with the above scenario, parishes cannot write a letter to say that this is the case if the use of the envelope system is not discernible. Most parochial schools also give a discount to active, registered and contributing parishioners. At Prince of Peace, that discount is only given when it can be proven that the person receiving the discount is using the envelope system 75% of the time to attend Sunday Mass. Our school does not require an average dollar amount for the envelope, but many schools have a range or a minimum.
According to canon law, a parishioner is defined as the baptized within the boundaries of a particular territory, or registered as such in a territorial or what is called a personal parish. At Prince of Peace, we have registered parishioners from all over the place. But to be considered active and contributing, which is necessary for enjoying several other benefits of membership, the envelope system is the best means of doing so.
If you consider Prince of Peace your spiritual home, we encourage you to register, use the envelope system regularly, and prayerfully discern your weekly and capital contributions. Maria Rauch, the parish secretary, and Phil Head, Director of Administration, located in the Parish House are always willing to answer any questions you may have in this regard. This is the most sure-fire way to receive all that you need. I know that some people do not really like this system, but I didn’t create it, and it is pretty near universal in American Catholicism and a lot of other churches besides. When I was a child, growing up in the Baptist church, I was required to give 10% of my allowance to the Sunday offertory, and every Sunday, my Mother asked, “Did you go to the bathroom? Do you have your Bible? And do you have your envelope?” I am grateful for their example and formation in stewardship!
Fr. Christopher Smith