A Pastoral Letter… Mass Bookings, Finances, Diocesan Structures, etc.

A Pastoral Letter to the Parishioners of St. James’ & St. Matthew’s

My dear parishioners, I hope that you and your loved ones are keeping well. In this letter I wish to bring to your attention a few practical matters concerning St. James’ in Kinross and St. Matthew’s in Auchtermuchty, and also to share with you some recent developments on a diocesan level.

You will know that I have just returned from my pilgrimage/retreat at Our Lady’s Shrine in Walsingham where I was blessed to have some time and space for prayer and reflection, and where you were all remembered.

Our focus as a parish is always the Gospel and our striving to be faithful to Almighty God. Our faith is incarnational, as Jesus Christ came in the flesh, and therefore we cannot avoid the practical and material implications of living and working and evangelising in the world, whilst always keeping before our eyes the ultimate goal of Heaven, and of always seeking intimacy with the Lord. I ask you to prayerfully consider what I now bring before you as practical issues for the parish and the diocese, and to pray that always we will do what is best to help us be to true and faithful to the Lord and the commission He has giving us of bringing the Good News to our brothers and sisters.

Mass Bookings:

I appreciate we all have a desire to return to normality in life after the restrictions that have been placed on us, and this is no less true in regard to the manner in which we worship God. As another little step forward I hope, very soon, to drop altogether the booking arrangements for attending Holy Mass. Effectively this will mean that as of Monday 31st May no bookings for Mass will be required, including weekends and weekdays. So that from Monday 31st May it will simply be a question of first-come, first-served at all Masses until our capacity is reached. Whilst this is a move forward I have been somewhat reluctant to do this as I know it may mean that some people may end up being turned away at the door once capacity has been reached. Such a thing is so against the grain for us as Catholics, but sadly, in these circumstances, it would, unfortunately, be necessary in order that we adhere to the restrictions the government has placed upon us. So in short: from Monday 31st May no Mass bookings will be made, but your track and trace details (name, contact details) will still be required at the church door.

In due course, and according to circumstances, I will also review other practices we have adopted during pandemic times and consider when we should, and if we are able, to return to a more normal manner of worship – considering such matters as when the distribution of Holy Communion takes place and whether we have readers at Holy Mass other than myself, etc.

Diocesan/Parish Finance:

Recently the Diocese has made us aware of its own financial struggles, to the point that the bishop has decided to make major changes regarding finances which have repercussions for us and all parishes. To clarify, the Diocese has always placed a levy on the parishes which for some time has stood at 15% of our income – this money is taken from the parish monthly to fund the working of diocesan structures and staff. Given the financial problems that the Diocese is facing we have been informed that our own levy (in St. James’ & St. Matthew’s) will rise by 11% to the new figure of 26% of our income. As you will appreciate, this is a significant raise to help support the Diocese with its struggling financial situation. To make this absolutely clear for our own circumstances whereas we have been paying over £600 per month to the Diocese from what comes into the parish, I have just been advised that for the remainder of this year (for which we have already paid £2,540.00) our monthly payments will be increased to £1,571.40 – the total being a levy from St. James’ and St. Matthew’s for this year of £15,111.20.

This is such a significant rise in what is being asked of us as a parish (and not exclusively of us, of course), that I feel bound for the sake of the parish’s future financial well-being to bring this to your attention and to appeal once again to your generosity, asking, humbly, that you might consider, if your means allow it, to increase your contributions where possible, so that we can try in some way to compensate for the greater demands that are now being made of us for the sake of supporting the Diocese. Notably the Diocese itself has had to make some members of staff redundant to also help alleviate the difficulties.

What is positive news is that our income over this past while of pandemic has dropped less than anticipated, and this is thanks to your commitment and generosity. The plain truth is that the parish depends entirely upon your contributions, we have no other source of income.

Diocesan Pastoral Structures & Parishes:

As the bishop has been looking at the overall situation in the Diocese quite naturally the structure of the Diocese in regard to pastoral provision has had to be considered, and so I would like to share with you some insights into what is being or is likely to be reviewed as we move ahead. This information is taken from a recent letter from his Lordship to the clergy of the Diocese, an excerpt of which I provide here below for your own information and consideration:

The Diocesan Trustees or, as they are now called, Diocesan Directors, have also been active

in setting up a preliminary Strategy Group to examine pastoral provision across the

Diocese, with a view to bringing their findings to parish, deanery and to the Priests’ Council

for consultation.   The key question here is to conduct an AUDIT examining the viability of

parishes, according to a number of criteria:

1. Number of practising parishioners.

2. Number of non-practising parishioners.

3. Overall Parish income.

4. The Condition of parish property*.

5. Distribution of priests.

6. Viability of any Mass centres which may be attached to parishes.

7. Changing demographics in parish, deanery, diocese

8. Particular pastoral challenges in individual parishes

9. Provision of priests in parishes, across a deanery

10. Demographics of priests; age profile, vocations, on-going care and formation.

One of the principal criteria will be to do with property assessments* which have already

begun in the Diocese, undertaken by D.M. Hall.  Already, two parishes have been identified

as being greatly at risk because of their physical state, the cost of refurbishment and whether

major repairs can be justified on the grounds of the number of those practising and further,

the ability of the parish to recover payment for repairs.   Obviously, this cannot be the only

criterion to be examined in the discussion of the future of a parish, as many other factors have

to be taken into account.  But the physical state of parish property and the economic state of a

parish can be an early indication that the continuity of a given parish community may be

called into question.   This is obviously a work in progress, and as a work in progress, the

results will go before the various consultative bodies for assessment and consultation, as and

when things become clearer.

In this month of May I ask you in a special way to invoke the guidance and assistance of Our Blessed Lady for the our dear bishop, for the Diocese and those who are charged with making decisions about our future, and, of course, for God’s blessings on our own small part of the Lord’s vineyard here in Auchtermuchty and Kinross. Please remember these intentions in your daily Rosary.

St. James’ and St. Matthew, pray for us! Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Martin Pletts, Parish Priest

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