To the Editor:
My wife and I have lived in Bettendorf since 1967 and have been members at both Our Lady of Lourdes and St. John Vianney parishes at different stages. We usually attend Sunday Mass at St. John Vianney and occasionally daily Mass at Lourdes. We are fortunate to have these two excellent churches, with sound liturgy and diverse programming available in town. Yet I wonder, given declining church attendance, aging populations, fewer priests and increased costs for everything, how much longer the Catholic community can adequately support two separate parishes for the foreseeable future.
A year ago I became aware of some serious inconsistencies and inequities with the Annual Diocesan Appeal (ADA) especially as it pertains to Lourdes. The formula for assessment has been in place for 16 years. Surely it needs review and some modification? Last year an official at St. John Vianney (assessed at $159,000 this year) was surprised that Lourdes’ assessment of $158,000 was so high. Lourdes shows declining numbers and older members unable to keep up with escalating costs. They are not being replaced by younger givers. Unlike St. John Vianney, Lourdes has its wonderful K-8 school, a major extra budget expense. A diocesan official told me there is a discount for churches with schools. What is the discount and how is it determined? Is the figure negotiable for parishes struggling to reach their ADA target and may have extenuating circumstances? St. John Vianney is fortunate to have the services of two priests, Lourdes has only one — hardly a fair situation and clearly an unbalanced workload between the two parishes.
The ADA is a good and essential funding for priests’ education, training, health insurance, retirement and the like, but its assessment formula needs to be administered evenly and fairly and be more flexible, open to question and scrutiny from concerned parish financial officials.
Thank you for your positive statements regarding the Annual Diocesan Appeal and its funding for seminarian education and other ministries. In the past 16 years we have looked often at how to set ADA goals for parishes. We have also checked with other dioceses and have discussed goals with our Presbyteral Council. Every time we discuss it we feel the way we set goals is fair for all concerned.
The ADA calculation is based on parish income with a discount of up to 15 percent for an elementary school and up to 15 percent for high school support. This is a $270,319 discount for Our Lady of Lourdes this year. St. John Vianney does have two priests to serve 1,875 households; Our Lady of Lourdes has 1,142 households.
Six of the diocese’s 79 parishes have two priests. St. John Vianney, the largest parish in the diocese, is the only large parish without a school. All six of these parishes are larger than Our Lady of Lourdes and one of these serves two parishes. Bishop Martin Amos and our Priest Personnel Board struggle annually with the decision of priest placement.
Our Lady of Lourdes has done outstanding work in promoting stewardship. Parishioners share their time, talent and treasure. I complement Our Lady of Lourdes for their great achievements amidst their struggles to support Catholic education.
Sr. Laura Goedken, O.P.
Director of Development,