RESPONSE has been generally good to Cardinal Hume's plea fast week for every home in the Westminster diocese to contribute £10 as a first step in reducing Westminster's crippling £6.5million debt.
The diocese hopes to raise about £900,000 from the appeal, which was announced in most parishes last Sunday. The diocese hopes to reduce its capital debt by £2million in the next year to 18 months.
At the parish of Our Lady Help of Christians, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, the parish priest, Fr Philip Lemmon, said that £413 had so far been raised, which was more than double the normal Sunday collection. There are about 200 to 300 families in the parish with an average Mass attendance of 600.
"There is obviously more to come,. but this is a good start," said Fr Lemmon. "Some people have included nice little encouraging notes for the Cardinal with their gifts.
"Some people in this parish can certainly afford the sort of money asked for, although I have heard some adverse comments such as how did this state of affairs come about? But I expect that is inevitable."
St James's Church, Spanish Place, said that they had so far raised £600 for the appeal, which greatly ex
ceeds the average weekly collection of about £250 from the 1,000 people who attend the church.
The parish priest, Mgr George Tomlinson said he felt that the appeal was coming along quite well but that the parish was also considering the sale of some land on a long lease so that the proceeds could be lent to the diocese.
Fr Leonard Collingwood, of SS Michael and Martin Church, Hounslow, said that £212 had been raised last Sunday, but pointed out that this was only the first week of the appeal. The parish has fluctuating Mass attendance and last week there were about 1,490 in the congregation.
The amount raised was less than the usual collection at the church but the parish had already sent a donation of £1,000 to the diocese and had 110,003 on loan to the diocese.
At the Sacred Heart Parish in Holloway, Fr Michael Tuck said it had been decided to pass the envelope straight on to the Cardinal unopened. About 100 envelopes have so far been collected, but Fr Tuck said that not all of them contained £10.
"Many people made a genuine and honest attempt, but this is not a rich area and there are so many appeals just now," he said. The normal parish collection raised about
£120 a week, but Fr Tuck thought that the diocesan appeal would raise much more from the 1,000 people who attend the church.
At St John the Baptist Church, Hackney, Fr Barry Ffrench said the response to the appeal had been very good. There had not been a vast quantity of envelopes returned, but many of them had contained more than £10.
Older parishioners and those attending weekday Masses had been particularly kind, he said. "One lady who brought in her envelope said that it was only a widow's mite but it still contained £10."
Several parishes in the diocese have decided to handle the appeal in a different way to fit in with their existing arrangements. At the Sacred Heart Church, Kilburn, for example, the appeal is to be launched this Sunday as a pilgrimage to Aylesford had been arranged for last week.
The_parish of St Thomas More in Swiss Cottage decided to send a cheque for £1,000 to the Cardinal immediately, and will be announcing details of Westminster's financial state this Sunday.
Westminster, however, is not the only diocese to have long-term financial commitments, or to have incurred large debts on school building programmes.
The archdiocese of Birmingham, for example, has a £6,202,000 debt on school building on which annual interest and capital repayments are being made on a basis which will clear this debt by the year 2000.
These annual payments are met by contributions from the parishes. In addition, the diocese also has debts incurred on building and renovating churches and the ordinary running costs of the parishes.
Despite these financial commitments, parishes in the diocese have raised considerable sums for charity, and in 1975 raised £224,163 for such projects as the missions, the Rescue Society and the Cathedral Maintenance Church Collection.
Southwark is another diocese which has incurred large debts due to school building. At present the Southwark debt for schools stands at £4 million, which is serviced from the Diocesan Development Fund to which all the parishes contribute. In addition, a £750,000 debt has been incurred by the parishes for the building of churches, halls and other parish projects.
In the Northampton diocese, £1,250,000 is owed to the Department of Education and Science, which involves the diocese in an annual repayment of capital and interest of approximately £140,000. About £250,000 is owed to banks, involving an annual repayment of Continued on page 2, col. 4
Appeal going well
Continued from Page 1 capital and interest of about £40,000.
In most cases these annual payments are met out or current parish income, but in cases where there is a shortfall the diocese is able to 'provide the balance needed from central funds.
Among other dioceses contacted, Hexham and Newcastle said that they did not as yet publish an annual financial statement but were aiming eventually to give an annual statement which would neither confuse nor mislead people.
At present parishes with resources lend at low interest to those who need to borrow with the diocese acting as banker. All school commitments are met in this way while all other projects have to wait until sufficient money is available for them.
• Mgr Ralph Brown, Westminster's Vicar-General, who has been responsible for coordinating much of the diocese's financial reorganisation, said this week that he was very pleased with the response to the Cardinal's appeal.
"We have been astonished and heart-warmed by the generosity of the response to the Cardinal's appeal thus far," he said.