Friday, November 30, 2018 - Updated: 8:39 am
When he asks his parishioners to support Parish Share, Father John Rushofsky starts from the premise that many Catholics don’t understand how the campaign helps their own parish.
Throughout his years as a pastor in the North Hills, McKeesport and other communities, he has taken time to explain how Parish Share gifts benefit the faithful. His parishioners have responded generously, often raising more than their parish’s assessment.
“We set a goal over the assessment, which lets people know we’re really counting on them,” Father Rushofsky said. “We also list the capital improvement projects from the past year that we’ve been able to accomplish by reaching our goal.”
Even as it helps parishes raise money for their own projects, the Parish Share program helps the Church of Pittsburgh respond to important needs across the diocese. These include promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life, forming seminarians, strengthening parish ministries to youth and young adults, and educating young people in Catholic schools and religious education programs.
Following the Pennsylvania grand jury report on past abuse of children by Catholic clergy, some parishioners have questioned whether Parish Share and offertory donations are going to settlements and other legal expenses.
“They may have been confused by news reports quoting incorrect and misleading information in the grand jury report,” said Father Tom Kunz, associate general secretary. “No donations designated for specific use by donors have been used to compensate victims, nor will they be used for such purposes in the future.”
Likewise, funding from Our Campaign for The Church Alive! is overseen by a separate nonprofit board and can only be used for specific purposes detailed in parish and diocesan case statements. No gifts to the campaign can be used for expenses related to sexual abuse of minors.
Parish Share gifts directly support parishes in many ways:
• Funding helps to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life, supporting various forms of outreach to men and women who are discerning God’s call to serve the church.
• Men enrolled in seminary are able to receive their education and formation for the priesthood or diaconate primarily through donations to the Parish Share program.
• Parish Share pays the salaries of experts in fields such as young adult ministry, evangelization and digital communications, who help parishes strengthen their ministry in those areas.
• As a direct result of Parish Share gifts, children and teenagers learn the faith in Catholic schools and parish religious education programs.
Parish Share also provides support services to parishes, including religious education certification for directors of religious education and catechists, youth ministry and campus ministry programs, and financial, payroll and legal services.
Without assistance from the diocese through Parish Share, all of these efforts would be more costly for parishes.
“Although we often think of Parish Share as a gift to diocesan administration, all of this money ultimately benefits parishes because it funds services that the diocese provides to them,” Father Kunz said. “It’s a way of sharing with each other as Jesus told us to do, so that parishes with more financial resources are able to help those that are struggling.”
That’s one message that Father Rushofsky brings to his parishioners, with help from his parish finance council, which identifies the ways in which Parish Share helps their own parish.
“I point out how the work of the diocese benefits parishioners and people often are surprised,” he said. “Parish Share provides us with benefits we wouldn’t ordinarily have.”