Unbound for Mission
Becoming unbound from our debt so we may fully advance our mission
“And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’
The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go.’” John 11: 43-44
“Just like Lazarus, we come out of our tombs to follow Jesus on a pilgrim mission that grows and expands the kingdom even as we walk, wander, run, trip, stumble and fall heavenward.
But before Lazarus can go forward, the Lord commands that the disciples untie him so that he can go! Likewise, we need to untie our parish from the burden of debt so that we too can move forward on this mission!
Clearing our debt will enable us to achieve our mission to extend the Kingdom of God throughout Farragut by expanding and enhancing our ministries and serving those less fortunate outside our parish walls. By clearing our parish and school’s lungs of debt, we can breathe more fully and become an engine of charity throughout our parish, our town and beyond!” – From Fr. Joe’s homily on the 5th Sunday of Lent
We invite you to join us as we unburden our parish of its debt and more fully advance our mission of building up the Kingdom of God in the name of Jesus Christ.
Father Joe’s homily on March 21, 2021
St. John Neumann Parish Fundraising Priorities
Our two main fundraising priorities going forward are Debt Reduction and Campus Maintenance/Upkeep. As you may recall, the Steier Group conducted a parish survey in January 2020, which yielded the following results:
- 66% of the survey participants were in favor of a major fundraising effort focused on debt reduction and campus maintenance/upkeep.
- 70% of the survey participants said they would make a gift to this effort.
We began to plan for such an effort but then we “pushed pause” as the pandemic struck, which had a profound impact on our families and on the economy. We are now picking up where we left off a year ago as these goals we want to accomplish as a parish are substantial, and time is of the essence.
How much do we need to raise?
We have accrued approximately $8.5 million in debt because of two primary factors: 1) Debt from church and school construction over the past twenty-five years which hasn’t been paid off; 2) Income which has remained flat over the last several years, which has continued to put us farther behind. We need to raise $8.5 million so we can clear our parish of this debt (more details below).
Additionally, we need to increase our weekly offertory from $25,000 to $40,000 to cover regular operations costs and interest on our debt (more details below).
Why are Debt Reduction and Campus Maintenance/Upkeep our two main priorities?
Our substantial debt has an enormous impact on our parish and it’s simply not sustainable for our future. Most importantly, clearing our debt will enable us to achieve our mission to extend the Kingdom of God throughout Farragut by expanding and enhancing our ministries and serving those less fortunate outside our parish walls. By clearing our parish and school’s lungs of debt, we can breathe more fully and become an engine of charity throughout our parish, our town and beyond. Additionally, any further growth – such as construction – will require a strong, stable financial position, which includes no debt. It would not be responsible for us to continue adding to our debt and pass it along to the next generation.
We focus on maintenance and upkeep of the campus because the physical body of the Church continues to need attention and care, just like our own bodies. For example, recent and ongoing repairs to the church roof, flashing and doors, and stucco work will ensure an effective barrier against damage inside. Shifting to a maintenance contract for HVAC facilitates a longer lifespan for the equipment we currently have as well as better purchase-and-install prices for those units that will soon need to be replaced. Addressing these and other projects more and more from our regular operating budget will allow us to gradually address needs on a schedule we choose and plan, and less in response to the failure of a system. It’s just like having our annual physical instead of always running to the emergency room.
How did we get here?
We have accrued significant debt over the last couple of decades from parish and school construction… debt which needs to be paid off. Additionally, income has been flat for a good amount of time, which has continued to put us farther behind. Just as all other organizations, households, and families have expenses to pay, we, too, incur expenses for all we provide (the church building, all our other parish and school facilities, utilities, debt interest, insurance, maintenance, repairs, priests, sisters, staff, all our ministries and outreach, etc.).
As a non-profit, our costs can only be paid for through giving, and this giving enables us to participate in God’s work by ministering to and serving others.
What are we being called to do?
Many years ago, a small group of people established St. John Neumann Catholic Church (the first Mass was held on July 4, 1977). Masses were first celebrated in homes and other miscellaneous locations, then they were held in the church on Jamestown Boulevard, and then finally, construction was completed on our new church in 2008, thanks to many generous parishioners. Now, we have an opportunity to ensure a sustainable and secure foundation that will benefit not only all of us today, but also for the generations of parishioners who will follow us.
Much like the St. John Neumann parishioners who founded our church (some of you who are reading this) as well as our fellow parishioners who contributed to our church building (many of you who are reading this), we have an opportunity to create a legacy so countless others inside and outside our parish may be ministered to and served for generations to come.
The mission of St. John Neumann Catholic Church is to build up the Kingdom of God in the name of Jesus Christ. Taking care of our financial needs will enable us to expand and enhance our ministries now, serve our parishioners better now, serve the poor better now, and grow our church… and it will ensure our capacity to do all this well into the future.
How do we get there?
As noted above, we need to increase our weekly offertory from $25,000 to $40,000 to cover campus maintenance and upkeep, operations costs, and interest on our debt. Failing to cover these costs continues to add more to our debt. We have made real progress in finding ways to save and we will continue to look for cost cutting measures in our budget as well, but increasing weekly offertory is a most important part of the equation.
One area in which we have made great progress is St. John Neumann school enrollment and fundraising, both of which have experienced substantial growth over the last few years, which is wonderful for the overall mission of our parish, and which also helps us financially.
Second, as noted above, we need to aggressively pay down our $8.5 million in debt.
Negative checking account balance: $1,464,000 (from not enough income over the last several years)
Funding the following reserves:
- $152,000 (columbarium)
- $433,000 (parish life center)
- $70,000 (school account)
- $200,000 (plant reserves/emergency fund for unexpected expenses)
Total of these reserves: $855,000
Current loan balance from parish and school construction: $5,500,000
Grand total/rounded summary of the above:
$200,000 (to have a positive operating cash balance for miscellaneous expenses)
Total: $8 Million
These are some large figures!
Yes, they are, without a doubt, and they will only continue to get much larger unless we do something about it now. This debt limits the real work God calls us to do… ministry, outreach, serving those less fortunate, and growing our parish community. Think about these figures in a different way, though…
- St. John Neumann has 1,600 registered households.
- If every household gave $50/week, in just 4 years we would pay off the entire $8 million debt while also raising $40,000/weekly in offertory.
- So, let’s say one of our SJN households gives $50/week to the parish. That equals $2,600 a year. If this household’s annual income is $52,000, their annual parish giving of $2,600 would equal 5% of their income. Many of our households have an annual income much greater than $52,000, so giving $50/week to the church would equal a percentage of income much lower than 5%.
- As you can see, achieving our goal will require as many households as possible to give to the degree that they can. And, of course, it will require many families that are blessed with the resources to give above and beyond this amount to do so (as many have and still do).
- This is a steep hill to climb but it is very do-able, particularly if we have strong parish participation. So, we ask that you spend some time in prayer and think about what you can do to help us achieve this goal.
What happened with the plans for a parish life center?
Raising money to build a parish life center was part of the Home Campaign that the Diocese of Knoxville administered several years ago. A portion of the funds raised at St. John Neumann helped fund diocese initiatives, a portion of the funds raised was designated to debt reduction, and a portion of the funds raised was designated to construction of a parish life center. The amount raised for the parish life center during the Home Campaign, as well as donations made since then, equal just over $430,000. While a parish life center would be a wonderful asset, and ideally it is one we will have someday, the amount of money raised is not enough to build, furnish, and maintain a building even if we had no debt at all (and we have substantial debt).
The money raised for the parish life center is still in an unfunded reserve. As you can see in the financial details provided, one objective of our fundraising priorities is to fund this reserve. Once we pay down our debt and have a much more secure financial position, this reserve could then be applied to continued fundraising for a parish life center.
How does St. John Neumann Catholic School fit into all this?
The school is the most important ministry of our parish. The school’s vision statement helps articulate this point:
“St. John Neumann Catholic School, in union with the Catholic faith community, is dedicated to forming disciples of Christ who live their faith and pursue academic excellence. We encourage students to seek greater knowledge, awareness, and expression of their gifts to glorify God. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we provide an exceptional education and foster the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love.”
As Catholics, we are called to form disciples of Christ. We are called to evangelize to others so they may become part of the Kingdom of God and develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As you probably know, the Catholic Church in America has been shrinking at an alarming rate for years and continues to do so. Through the school, which is part of our parish, we are directly forming disciples of Christ every day and we are inviting others to our faith every day.
Additionally, our parish has been greatly expanded over the years by families who decide to attend our school, which benefits us tremendously. The future of our parish depends (as does the Catholic Church), in part, on the students who will remain part of the parish when they grow up and/or return to the parish when they grow up.
Finally, education has always been a high priority of the Catholic Church, and especially helping provide a Catholic education to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it. Many people do not know that there is a significant number of SJNCS families who receive financial assistance so they may benefit from a Catholic education. This, too, expands our parish community, it enriches it, and it helps secure our future. The school is a ministry God calls us to fulfill, and it is one that provides abundant blessings and benefits for our parish and for the Catholic Church as a whole, and it will continue to do so for generations to come.
As noted above, the debt we need to pay down consists of both church and school construction as it has grown since its founding in 1997. Student enrollment and school fundraising help contribute to our finances, and over the last few years in particular, the school has made a significant impact as enrollment and fundraising have grown by leaps and bounds and the outlook for both remains strong.
What about other parish funds I would still like to support?
You can still give to other priorities, as all giving is meaningful and makes an impact! Parish Charity is just one example of a fund that has experienced significant growth over the last year, including $10,000 in matching grants from the diocese. Please continue giving to this or other funds if it is your passion, but our top two fundraising priorities will be debt reduction and weekly offertory so that we can eventually serve even more people inside and outside our parish community.
So how can I participate in this?
1. Pray for the success of our fundraising efforts so we can establish a strong foundation for our future and continue advancing our mission of building up the Kingdom of God in the name of Jesus Christ.
2. Give (or continue to give) to this important fundraising effort for St. John Neumann parish. We have already received some very generous gifts over the last several months, so we invite you to give and help us sustain the momentum.
As always, you can give online to Weekly Offertory or Debt Reduction or you can give via check (make sure to write in the memo section what it is for). Going forward, when you designate gifts to Debt Reduction, 100% of it will be applied to debt principal.
Lastly, and most importantly, if you’re blessed with the resources to make a significant investment in this fundraising effort, please contact our Director of Development, Patrick Wade. And please consider naming St. John Neumann as a beneficiary in a planned gift, such as wills, trusts, insurance policies, retirement plans, etc. You can contact Patrick Wade to learn more about planned giving opportunities.
Director of Development
St. John Neumann Catholic Church and School
SJN Parishioner and SJNCS Dad