Message from your Pastor
A Lengthy but Important Letter on A Major Decision on The Future of St. Ann And St. Brendan Parishes.
May 10, 2020
To: Members of St. Ann and St. Brendan Parishes
From: Fr. Brian Clary, Pastor and Fr. Bob Connors, Temporary Administrator
FROM FATHER BRIAN
First, I want to thank everyone who has offered their prayers during my stem cell transplant. I felt them
very much and they helped me in many moments during the past few months. I am on my way to stable
health and hope to return to the rectory within the coming weeks. It has been quite a “trip” not only
enduring the treatment itself which had many up and down days, but also dealing with the on-going
course of the pandemic. It’s hard enough to “feel” separated from you; and worse, to “be” separated from
you. Again, my heartfelt gratitude. God willing, I will be back working in a few weeks.
I want to acknowledge the “journey” we are going through, not only as families, workers, neighbors, but
also as a faith community. Who could have ever imagined this experience? It has been a heavy burden
for you and all priests who miss serving you. Our ministry is who we are. At the same time, trying to
keep in contact through the Flock Notes, etc., I hope has offered some connection. My prayers are for
everyone who is suffering because of the virus, especially for your family members and friends who have
contracted the disease. I pray for relief for those suffering mentally, physically, spiritually and financially.
FROM FATHER BOB
With the pandemic arriving, the task as Administrator, added to my other ministry, was a less time-
consuming, but I am glad to do it. I want to thank the staff, the Leadership and the people of both parishes
for their prayers – for me, and especially for Fr. Brian. These are very difficult times to journey through
and praying with/for each other is important. It is a time of openness and trust in the Holy Spirit. I hope
you and your families are doing well. I know you look forward to Fr. Brian’s return, but even in his
absence, critical issues arise and must be addressed with urgency. We are fragile and have no choice.
* * * * * * *
This letter is to inform you that we are in a high-risk financial situation threatening our
sustainability and causing us to make a difficult decision regarding the relationship between the
two parishes – the same challenge being faced by many parishes in the Archdiocese. With the
consultation and consensus of the Leadership, we are asking the Cardinal to merge St. Ann and St.
Brendan Parishes into one new parish retaining the two worship sites. For the future of the
Catholic presence in the area this action must be taken. We thank the Leadership for their
prayerful, thoughtful and clear advice in this matter. It is no surprise we are struggling just as many
of you are struggling. The goal is to retain the Catholic presence in our neighborhoods. Let’s review our
ministry with you for the past two years, so you can appreciate coming to this decision.
Two years ago, the Archdiocesan concluded that neither parish could survive financially—the debt being
incurred was overwhelming. Almost $300K was borrowed from the Archdiocese to meet operating
expenses, just to keep going; the situation was dire. Both parishes were facing diminishing cash on hand
and the Archdiocese might have to come in and close both—which no one wanted. Rather than enact that
painful decision, acknowledging the frequent change of pastoral leadership, knowing the painful past
experiences of both parishes, and not wanting to lose the Catholic presence in this area, the Archdiocese
assigned two “well-seasoned” priests as co-pastors to observe, judge and act - to try their best to revitalize
the parishes. One last try. That decision was made “for” you. We were not sent here to close the
parishes, but just the opposite, to do what we could do to keep that presence. Finances were strained;
repairs increasing; most of all, participation was dropping.
We carry an insurmountable debt of $900K+ ($300K+ at St. Ann; $600K+ at St. Brendan with the
school). [Note: the loans come from funds deposited by other parishes. We owe, not the “Archdiocese”,
but our sister parishes. We used their money to keep operating.] More distressing, we cannot address the
huge deferred maintenance as the buildings continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate, raising some safety
concerns. With little cash reserves, no more loans from the Archdiocese and the unknown consequences
of the virus, we need to work together for the Church community, assess future property use and act in the
interest of the parishioners. We all know our financial situation was tentative. We feared that a major
unforeseen expense would be a problem. Who would have ever expected that a pandemic would force us
to this hard decision?
Honestly, at the beginning of this year, even before the virus, after significant efforts, exhausting ideas on
many fronts from incredibly passionate and dedicated people - we were in a more fragile position than we
were two years ago. Above all, the decreased attendance, coupled with a strained cash flow - even using
half of an additional $200K line-of-credit (we spent only $50K/each thanks to the extra $100K raised by
the Gala) - hampered efforts at outreach and the ability to do any repairs. Due to the virus consequences,
the Archdiocese is now incapable of providing any more money and has canceled the remaining $100K.
[On a good note, we received the SBA/PPP loans to cover all payroll for two months.] Still, the national
trend is foreboding. Every social survey confirms a continued drop in religious affiliation and active
participation. Those predictions describe us – parishes with fewer younger people.
Last Fall, Fr. Brian proposed to your leadership that it was time to consider consolidating both parishes
into one. Then, his sickness prevented further detailed discussion. Now, because of the virus, our
situation is critical because of three realities: First, as noted above, prior to the virus, decreasing
attendance and income has flattened or lowered. Second, the buildings are in serious disrepair. Third, we
have a challenging high debt. In the wake of the pandemic, all forecasts predict a very slow phased-in
recovery. We are not alone. Over half the parishes in the Archdiocese expect to face a crisis both in
returning attendance and financial solvency. We need to prepare for the future.
A merger allows us a consolidation of effort, combining all the assets and liabilities of both parishes, and
the ability to work together to build the local church. Note that both worship sites remain – in fact, both
church names remain. The merger will mean a new “parish” name (to be determined). This hard decision
is also based on a “Long-term Feasibility Study” done for us by the Archdiocese addressing all areas of
collaboration with the conclusion that closing a campus had to be considered. The Leadership disagreed
with the conclusion and stressed a merger must keep the two worship sites. With dwindling cash flow,
attendance numbers uncertain; going forward, a merger provides hope to sustain a Catholic presence.
These past two years, to meet our needs, so many have worked beyond what anyone could expect. Your
Leadership has met for over thirty times. We held four open meetings to update you, had constant
discussions – with agreement and disagreement – and above all, were willing to accept the ideas which
surfaced in almost every case. Trying to get people back to church, raising money, esp. with the Gala, was
persistent. One effort/idea came after another. No one should feel bad about the efforts. They were
wonderful. But apart from a spike here and there (the curve if you will), the energy and effort in both
parishes has been carried on by a small group of people who have worked hard; yet, factually, we have
about the same average attendance but less income now than we did two years ago.
We are aware there will be negative reactions to this change. We know the emotional depth of both
communities for their parish. We fully appreciate that merging is difficult to accept. Above all, we are
very sorry to bring this matter to you during the COVID-19 crisis. It is not the best time, but we have no
choice. Time is running out. It’s projected each parish will lose $7K-$8K a month and could run out of
savings within a year or so. We need to prepare for where we expect to be a year and a half from now,
because the deficit in finances and the deterioration of buildings continues. Asking the Cardinal to
approve a merger is moving forward in a positive and proactive way.
We brought this decision to your Leadership and proposed we act decisively: First, to ask the Cardinal to
merge the two parishes into one parish. [Note: this is critical for the school. If an “independent” St.
Brendan Parish closes, then the parish school closes. If the parishes merge, the new parish assumes the
responsibility for the school.] Second, there will be a time-sensitive urgency to engage in serious
discussions leading to informed decisions regarding pastoral care, staffing, sale/lease of buildings and
finances, the result of which will mean significant changes as our new parish grows. One praying
community – with two sites - together - can support and nourish an active faith life for everyone.
We have worked well with your volunteer Leadership for over two years. They know the facts;
they are well informed; they understand the consequences. We accept their unanimous consensus
that a merger take place with the following understanding: (1) they strongly support maintaining
two worship sites; (2) St. Brendan's school remains open as long as it is financially viable (see
above - a merger is a safeguard!); (3) The new parish can sell properties to address the debt
and deferred maintenance. They agree that the financial problem is our costs are projected
to exceed our revenues for an extended period because of the pandemic and that there are
insufficient reserves to allow us to ride out the crisis. The merger only allows the two
parishes to access each other's current bank accounts and does nothing to address a
negative revenue problem, nor the decreasing attendance. But, in working together, a
merger gives us promise. To assure a Catholic presence remains, we can do more together
than separate. It is a challenge and they are accepting the challenge to address the high-risk
realities that face us after the merger takes place. They are a faithful, hopeful group working to
represent you – and they do it well. Their emails are listed on the next page for your response. We
are grateful for their willing to risk with courage and determination, and trust in the Lord.
A parish is not its buildings, nor its bank accounts - it is the people of God. It is about growing in faith.
Yes, money is a problem; it is not the solution nor our goal – an active Catholic presence IS our goal!
We hope this merger will be approved by the end of June so that we can work this summer on solutions
moving forward. We will keep you informed. Also, we apologize, but know that this less-than-ideal
method of communicating such a major change was not our preference, but with the shutdown and an
unpredictable future, it is necessary. We can’t wait! Time eats away at our resources. We ask you to trust
in the Lord who is with us always. Easter Jesus is our Hope! The Holy Spirit is our Guide! May God
continue to be with you and your family during this viral crisis.
Thank you for listening. Peace.
Fr. Brian Clary, Pastor Fr. Bob Connors, Temporary Administrator
Christine McLaughlin (SB PPC)
Tom Tobin (SB PPC)
Mary Lou O’Connor (SA FinCom)
Michael Ryan (SB FinCom)
Michael Flynn (SA PPC)
Larry Feeney (SB FinCom)
Mark Hegarty (SA PPC)
Ann Grigas (SB FinCom)
Bill Sansone (SB PPC)
Liz Angell (SA PPC)
Stefanie O’Shea (SA PPC)
Tina Higgins (SA FinCom)
Jim Hunt (SA FinCom)
Message from Fr Bob Tuesday, March 17, 2020
SEPARATED BUT UNITED - THE BODY OF CHRIST. I keep thinking how hard it is for my mind to get around all that is happening. I suspect that this is true for you as well. We have gone through some tough times in the past few decades, but this is truly unique. It is not the worst we have experienced, but it is a challenge. In the worst of times, who would think the church would stop Mass? Not you or I! This crisis has to be faced honestly and intentionally by us all. We have to cooperate if we are going to end it as soon as we can. No one likes the church shut down, yet we are in unprecedented times. We may be separated but we can be united in our intention, our patience and our solidarity as a Catholic people. Please know that we are praying for you and your families. Please offer a prayer for us as well.
On a positive note, Fr. Brian has turned the corner of his treatment and is beginning to feel better. Thanks for your "prayer a day for Fr. Brian". It is working. He still has a road ahead of him, but knowing our support and prayer is really helping him. Keep it up.
During this Lent 2020, who would have thought that we would be bearing this cross? Last Sunday, Jesus was thirsty at the well. He will also express his thirst on the cross before He dies. We are experiencing a variety of "thirsts" this Lent and in the coming weeks. Let us reflect on the "life-giving" waters that Jesus has given us, and realize how our suffering can be balanced by recalling the suffering of our Savior. He knows our pain. There are a lot of resources online and on TV with masses, etc. If you are feeling that need, please connect with them.
God bless us all at this time. PEACE be with you.
SHARING OUR JOINT NEEDS - THE FINANCIAL CHALLENGE WE ALL FACE. It is very clear that as the crisis continues, every sector of our country will face economic challenge: Families, Business, Institutions and Parishes - including ours. We want to let you know that we do understand the choices that you have to make. We ask that you consider our choices as well. We depend on any support that you can give us. ONLINE GIVING can really help us and I encourage you to join that. Also, we will be appreciative of any support you can give to the parish. Gratefully, this past year, with your continued support, we have not had to borrow from our line of credit. Thank you so much. You have been generous in so many ways and we hope that you can continue to remember the parish with its liabilities just as you address your own. May God and God's Spirit lead us through this incredible and mind-blowing experience.