By Cathi Douglas     5/4/2020

Many Catholic individuals and families are suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. So are Orange County’s Catholic churches. 

Diocese of Orange Bishop Kevin W. Vann in March ordered the doors of local churches closed in keeping with California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shutdown edict. The shutdown effectively ended parishioners’ opportunities to drop donations into the offertory basket, and as a result giving to parishes has significantly decreased. 

The dramatic funding decrease jeopardizes ongoing church functions and ministries such as feeding the homeless, delivering groceries to shut-ins and providing services to the poor and elderly, local pastors warn. 

For this reason, the Diocese of Orange asks Catholics to visit supportyourparishoc.org, a website that links directly to their parishes so that they can easily give electronically. Local churches gratefully welcome hand-delivered checks and accept checks via mail as well. 

“The annual parish budgets rely on the regular Sunday giving as the primary source of income for the parishes,” notes Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector and Episcopal Vicar, Christ Cathedral. 

“In addition to providing Mass for our parishioners, the celebration of the sacraments and a place to come to pray, parishes offer a wide variety of ministries, among them faith formation for children, youth and adults, youth and young adult ministry, ministry to seniors, ministry to the ill and homebound, liturgical ministries, outreach to the poor and marginalized, to name some,” Fr. Smith says. 

The novel coronavirus crisis has forced the diocese and some parishes to furlough many employees, Fr. Smith adds. At the same time, “costs related to compensation benefits, for example, health insurance, diocesan assessments, facilities operation as in maintenance, insurance and utilities, continue to need to be paid.” 

If parishes tap into reserves – providing they have any – they risk being unable to return employees to the payroll once the crisis has passed. 

“Our capacity to do this is absolutely dependent on the ongoing financial support of our parishioners at this time,” Fr. Smith says. “With regular collections substantially down, as can be expected at this time, this could affect our future capacity to provide services and ministries as the level we had been offering.  

“We hope, of course, that things will balance out in the future so that we can keep providing such ministries and services. At the same time, it is well understood that financial support of parishes is an even greater sacrifice for many at this time and is very much appreciated.” 

Yet in some parishes like Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, online giving has surpassed expectations, says Father Daniel Seo, parochial vicar. 

“During this crisis and much to my surprise, thanks to our rector, Father Patrick Moses, making an initial presentation and plea for people who are in a position to do so making ongoing electronic gifts, we have been able to sustain our financial position,” Fr. Seo says.  

“We’ve been more fortunate than some neighboring parishes in not yet having to furlough most of our staff,” he adds. “We have been able to continue with each of our different ministries, many of them really taking off online through apps like Zoom.” 

Giving to the Church is an act of thanksgiving to God, Fr. Seo notes. “Making gifts to the Church reminds us of all our blessings.” 

Indeed, this quarantine has called Catholics to develop spirituality that keeps them strong. “The goal is to maintain and even deepen our relationships with Christ. 

“Through online devotions, livestreaming of the Holy Mass, and adorations, we have the opportunity as a parish family to reexamine our lives,” he adds. “There are tremendous blessings here that usually we miss because of the pace of living in this technological age.”