MOST priests find it distasteful and embarrassing to remind parishioners that it is a duty to support them according to their means, so it is better that a member of the laity should draw attention to this matter.
During the last 50 years 1society has changed considerably and economic pressures often require both the husband and wife to work in order to afford a house and support their family. Consequently there is less voluntary help available to the parish priest and more limited opportunity for him to visit the family.
Priests are now fewer but are trying to do more with less help and support. Curates are a dying breed and housekeepers, if affordable, a luxury. By virtue of their vocation, it is a lonely existence for many priests. What is not done for them voluntarily must now be paid for at the economic rate. The quality of life for the parish clergy has greatly deteriorated.
We all know how expensive it is to run a home with the ever increasing costs for lighting, heating, telephone, food, clothing and transport. Whatever we give in the Sunday Collection is used to cover not only the priest's house and his modest living expenses, but also the lighting, heating and normal maintenance of the Church. The money is used entirely at the priest's discretion but he often goes short to benefit the parish.
It is a shock to learn from a survey in three disparate parishes, one moderately affluent, that the average donation per head is 53 pence less than the cost of a standard loaf of bread. Analysis of the collections over a number of Sundays showed that only onethird gave a El or more. The remaining two-thirds averaged per capita only '20 pence. Averaging the published accounts of two moderate sized parishes over the last six years and excluding any building work or payments to schools or bishop's house, the annual cost of running the parish with only one priest is £11,767 or £226 a week.
While many people are generous in their support, many more show little understanding, regard or concern for the priest and his work. Scripture says that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel (1 Cor.ix 14) and therefore the Sunday collection is not an optional charity but a duty. Whatever the truth of the matter, we should all examine our conscience. Surely, in justice, those who regularly enjoy a drink, smoke, theatre or sporting fixtures should put at least the equivalent cost of their pleasure, be it a pint, packet of 20 cigarettes, etc., into the Offertory plate weekly. Those who honestly cannot afford much cash can always offer their services in kind. We can all assist the priest by a specific invitation, perhaps a meal, and create the opportunity for him to visit the family.