Parish's Tithing Has Helped Support Glenmary for 30 Years
"But tithing is a type of stewardship that an increasing number of Catholic parishes are embracing," says Joe Soncrant, pastoral minister at St. Andrew Parish in Rochester, Mich. "It's a grass-roots way of helping people in need." Joe serves the parish as Christian service coordinator and also tithing committee chair.
St. Andrew launched its own tithing program more than 30 years ago. At the same time, it eliminated all other special parish collections and fundraisers—such as bingo, raffles, festivals and chocolate sales—and instead focused only on weekend Mass collections.
Ten percent of these weekend collections—the parish tithe—goes to charitable agencies. And every month, 70 percent of this tithe goes to charitable groups serving in the United States and 30 percent for causes outside this country. St. Andrew helps support about 300 beneficiaries including Glenmary. "As long as their ministries are consistent with Catholic social justice teaching," says Joe, "we want to help them."
Through the years, St. Andrew members have had a strong commitment to the program. "Parishioners tell us they give more because they know this is their primary way to support both the parish and charitable groups helping people in Michigan, the United States and the world," Joe says.
Mary Coyle, a member of the tithing committee since its beginnings, says members meet monthly to prayerfully discern how to disburse the funds. And Glenmary has been a consensus choice since the program's early days. "We know about Glenmary and the good work they do."
Joe adds that the committee values Glenmary's outreach to those in need—in areas of the South and Appalachia where there is usually no Catholic presence until Glenmary missioners arrive.
St. Andrew's approach allows for differences in parishioners' financial means. "People can give time and talent back to the Lord as well as treasure," says Joe. "If their money is limited, they can do more volunteer work. There are many ways to give, and the parish doesn't try to measure their giving. We trust our parishioners to figure it out."
The tithing committee sends out 15-20 checks monthly. "We list the charitable-agency names and donation amounts on our Web site," Joe says. "And we post thank-you notes on our church bulletin boards. These notes really bring home for parishioners how they've helped people in need."
Even during tough economic times, he says, "Our parish members haven't wanted to change the way they give and tithe. They really believe in this kind of stewardship."
Once other parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit found out about St. Andrew's tithing, they began asking for information. Today, more than 25 parishes in the archdiocese tithe from their weekend collections, many influenced by St. Andrew's successful efforts.
In his many talks about how to set up a tithing program, Joe tells parishes they can start "at 1 or 2 percent—or whatever level lets them cover all their parish operating costs while also supporting charitable causes."
This article appears in the Spring 2013 Home Mission News newsletter.