When I came to Macon in 2004, Macon was considered a second tier city in Georgia, along with Augusta, Columbus and Savannah, with Augusta second only Atlanta, the only first tier city. Today though Macon is now ranked with the third tier cities of Albany and Valdosta and Warner Robins.
The county to the immediate south of us where the largest Georgia employer is (Robins Air Force Base, in Warner Robins) is booming and will soon be more populated than Macon. The two Catholic parishes there (Houston County) are growing.
Not so for the three Catholic parishes in Macon. In fact the other two smaller parishes could be combined with one pastor and one associate. Holy Spirit Church really doesn't need a full time priest as pastor, it could be a chapel of ease for St. Peter Claver, just my opinion but having a full time priest there is a wasteful use of priestly personnel.
This is the letter I wrote to our parishioner for our January newsletter. You have to do what you have to do on the parish level as well as the diocesan level:
We’ve been partying for the past several years like it was 1999, to borrow from Prince’s mega hit of the last century! But it is 2016 and we can’t party anymore like it is1999 at least not at Saint Joseph Church and in Macon.
As I’ve informed you before and of course you should know from other sources, Macon/Bibb County is stagnant in terms of growth. In fact the county has declined by more than 10,000 citizens in the last 10 years. We haven’t seen many new people move into Macon.
The opposite is true of Warner Robins/Houston County which soon may eclipse Macon in growth and population.
Because of this and other factors too, Saint Joseph Church which peaked in 1999 with about 2400 households is today at 993 households. In 1999 we would have had combined in our school and PREP about 60 children preparing for First Holy Communion in the second grade and about the same number of 8th graders preparing for Confirmation. Today we are at about 35 children combined for First Holy Communion and the same for Confirmation. This of course corresponds to the less than half of the number of households we have today compared to 1999.
Our offertory income, however, since 1999 has increased each year despite the loss of parishioners who have moved or died. But this has begun to decrease a bit each year in the last three years.
So as I promised I would do, for our current fiscal year which ends June 30, 2016, we made some cuts to programs and staff salaries that amounted to about $50,000.
As we prepare for our new fiscal year which begins July 1st of this New Year I am making a $70,000 cut to our budget with some of this cuts beginning this February. We are cutting salaries of some of our lay employees as well as the budget we have for Family Advancement Ministries, our school, Mt. de Sales and costs related to stewardship.
Cutting rather than growing is not something I’ve had to do as a pastor and I find it very difficult. Cutting our employees’ salaries is not a pleasant thing at all and I appreciate their understanding as well as the heads of the various ministries that are receiving cuts. Our budget is from your free-will offerings and when that falls so do many other things.
I wanted to let you know what we are doing and that I am being pro-active as your pastor in being a good steward of the gifts you donate to our parish budget and to position our parish budget for our 2016 new reality, the new normal!
We can be nostalgic for the past and I tend to be but it isn’t 1999 anymore and we can’t party like it is. It is 2016 and we have to adjust to our new parish situation and make sure we are strong spiritually, morally and financially. God bless you and a Blessed New Year to you too!
Fr. Allan J. McDonald