The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s has appealed to its parishioners because of the state of its finances and to help keep up with operational costs for its structures, including the Basilica.
© — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
The Archdiocese of St. John’s is struggling financially to maintain its buildings, such as the historic Basilica.
The archdiocese said in its financial statement the deficit for 2013 was $1.1 million, a sharp drop from its overall $1.6-million surplus in 2012. Income dropped by roughly $1 million between the two years.
“This is a situation that cannot continue for much longer,” Archbishop Martin Currie said in the financial report.
“Unfortunately we are an old archdiocese with many buildings built for another era and it has become costly to maintain our infrastructure.”
Currie also noted maintaining pensions and benefits for priests “who have given their lives to serving others is very costly.”
Heat and lights for 2013 on church buildings cost nearly $90,000, one expense in a total exceeding $500,000 to keep up buildings and property owned by the archdiocese.
It was noted there were significant bequests in 2012 that helped the archdiocese that year.
But there was no reprieve the following year.
“In 2013, the corporation subsidized the insurance costs for the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist,” the report said.
“The costs of maintaining this building alone cannot be borne by the Basilica parishioners. This building is a heritage structure that requires significant capital to maintain.”
The archdiocese said it’s trying to keep costs down and will have to find money elsewhere.
“As a result we must search for ways and means to fund this and other buildings like (the Basilica), through either financial grants from private organizations or government bodies,” the financial statement said.
Most years, there has been a deficit, Currie told The Telegram Tuesday.
But in 2008 — when the global recession hit — the financial situation became critical and the archdiocese has been trying to recover on its investments since then.
The year 2012 was an anomaly of recent times, as it brought a major donation, he said.
“Most years there has been a considerable deficit,” Currie said.
“Sure there is a concern with rising costs, fuel and maintenance.”
The archdiocese is looking into different pension options than defined benefit plans for priests.
And as part of long-range planning, it will also examine its holdings to see which churches can be closed and buildings sold. For example, St. Paul’s and Mary Queen of Peace are close to one another, he said.
Among the 38 parishes, there are also a number of rural churches that no longer have large enough congregations to sustain the expense.
“Sometime we have to ask some tough questions,” Currie said of the future.
One property the archdiocese won’t part with is the Basilica.
Currie said the archdiocese is in the process of a $1.7-million retrofit of the Basilica, and part of it is a new green heat system that will help over the long run, to reduce heating costs by about 30 per cent as it replaces the old oil-fired system.
There are also electrical upgrades being done on a gradual basis, and stained-glass windows to be releaded, Currie said.
The Basilica Foundation is raising funds for the ongoing work.
Currie acknowledged the younger generation is not as active in church matters, including donations.
“Hopefully, we can have a new uprising of faith,” he said.