Pastors surveyed across the country this year relayed to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) that financial matters worry them most.
While the causes for their worries varied by region, 21 percent of priests reported to the research center that “financial issues” pose the greatest challenge to their parish in the coming years because of increasing operating costs, rebuilding projects, loss of parishioners or declining donations.
The CARA study found pastors in the Northeast and Midwest cited church attendance decline and deficit as the source for concerns, and those in the South and West related the need for expansion and improvements due to growth.
Of these same pastors, 18 percent said their greatest challenge is evangelization and poor outreach, according to the center’s survey.
Several pastors in the Archdiocese of Denver were asked to respond to the survey results and the challenges they see in their own parishes.
Father Matt Hartley of St. Peter Church in Greeley said the primary challenge is and will always be the salvation of souls.
“My opinion is to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said about a pastor’s priority for his parishioners. “Then they’re going to take care of the finances. If you put finances above salvation, it’s like building a sand castle—it’s not going to last.”
He added that educating parishioners about God and his law should also be a priority.
At St. Joseph Church, pastor Father Matthew Book said the survey shows a great variety of concerns and reflects a diversity of parishes and circumstances. Although a new pastor at the Golden parish, he said family ministry is the greatest challenge he anticipates in the coming years.
Pastor Msgr. Peter Quang Nguyen said his diverse parish All Saints Church in Denver struggles at times with leadership and ownership.
“In this area, All Saints is in the zip code of 80219,” Msgr. Nguyen said. “This is the zip code that used to have a reputation as lower-class, poor conditions and a lot of different social problems. However, I firmly believe they can make a difference and rediscover who Jesus is for them.”
He said he’s focused on helping parishioners reactive a pride in their heritage that has roots in the faith, and to become intentional disciples.
“Through my leadership, I try to remind people it’s about time to take ownership, to promote believing and a renewed sense of belonging,” he said.
The Denver Catholic Register asked three pastors in the Archdiocese of Denver their response to the question: What is the greatest challenge facing your parish?