Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
As you know it has been three years that we, the Vocationist Fathers, have been here. I think you are experiencing and appreciating the spiritual and social upbringing that we have brought to this parish. We have completed a great deal together! I feel this is the right time to give you a clear understanding of the parish’s financial situation.
In 2014, I was planning to join the Air Force as a Chaplain; then I came to find that my superior, Fr. Louis, was asked by then, Bishop Paul Bootkoski (Emeritus Bishop of Metuchen), to have the Vocationist Fathers serve at St. Cecelia’s. Fr. Louis appointed me as Administrator. Upon answering my concerns and questions Father Louis told me that I was going to a wealthy parish with strong buildings, where I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. Then the rain came…our maintenance staff was running and placing buckets all over the Church. The entrance of the Church façade was tilting out. It was then that I knew it was not a “HEALTHY” building….needing immediate repairs; a roof, air conditioning system and brick work, etc.
When I arrived I reviewed the financial reports of the parish and came to know we were in a huge deficit of over one million dollars. I realized then that we needed to make immediate changes, as well as assess the long-term needs of our parish. I came to identify that the current bank balance was $74,000.00 and our expenses were $69,500.00. St. Cecelia had an outstanding mortgage of $282,117.00, as well as prior year’s unpaid Diocesan assessments of $1,076,220.00. We started eliminating all excessive expenses such as unnecessary personnel, contracted services and even the Rectory household expenses. I want to make you aware that in the past 3 years St. Cecelia has turned around the day to day financial situation of the parish. After an annual loss of $326,000.00 (in 2014), the parish showed a slight profit of approximately $2,000.00 in 2016.
Additionally, the school expenses were being paid by the Edison Board of Education. The lease agreement between the Diocese and Edison Board of Education gave them the school building rent free for 2 years with the stipulation that they renovate the building, replace the boiler and roof. Any time over the 2-year agreement period the Board of Education was to pay for every 6-month extension a payment of $900,000. They stayed one 6-month period and the Diocese received $900,000. But, that amount was applied to St. Cecelia’s mortgage and a portion of prior Diocesan assessments. I’ve spoken with Bishop James Checchio and one month’s rent of $150,000.00 will be for the renovation of our kitchen in Lourdes Hall; which has already been approved and we are currently waiting for a start date.
As you may have heard, last month we signed a lease with the Woodbridge Board of Education to lease St. Cecelia School for 5 years with renewal options for 25 years. Woodbridge Township is absorbing the cost of nearly $7 million to make all the necessary renovations and to bring the school up to ADA code. The school rent of $450,000.00 per year will ensure our ability to pay off all our debt in the near future, as well as make other improvements as they become necessary to the Church properties. Every year the Diocese assesses us 15% of our ordinary income $88,300.00, plus subsidy for elementary schools $35,400.00, high schools $4,200.00, insurance $92,047.00 and 25% of rental income $112,500.00 which totals $332,447.00.
It is very important that you, the parishioners, realize that your weekly Offertory collection is what will keep the Parish viable and meet its day-to-day obligations. I ask that if you are a regular contributor to please maintain your giving. If you are not a regular donor, please consider doing so as your means permit; whether by using envelopes or through Faith Direct. On February 6, 2023, (in five years) St. Cecelia’s will be celebrating its 100 Anniversary as a Parish Community and we, the parishioners, are proud about our 100 years of history. We appreciate and are grateful for the previous generations for their generosity to make the situation viable to practice our faith. I wish, hope and pray that we continue on the same path for future generations and that the Parish of St. Cecelia is here for another 100 years.
God Bless You,
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,
A number of years ago Doug Alderson wrote a beautiful article in Campus Life magazine. It described his 2,000 mile hike down the Appalachian Trail. Doug had just graduated from high school and had lots of unanswered questions: Was there a God? What was the purpose of life? Commenting on all this, Doug wrote: “there had to be more to life than money, TV, parties and getting high…My hike was a search for inner peace, a journey to find myself.” The hike proved to be more difficult than Doug anticipated. At times the trail became dangerously steep. The days were often rainy. Doug’s clothes got soaked, his feet got wet, his body shivered and ached at night. But Doug didn’t give up. The long hours of walking and climbing gave Doug a chance to think. They also gave him a chance to get to know himself better. There was no one around to influence him. Five months later Doug reached home. He was a different person. Even his dog eyed him strangely, as if to say, “Where have you been? What have you done? You look different.” Doug was different. He had found what he was searching for. There was a God. Life had a purpose, and he had a role to play in it. Doug summed up his experience this way: “I was more my own person. I liked what I saw in myself.”
Doug Alderson belongs to that long line of people in history who have gone off alone to think about the meaning and purpose of life. Moses did it. The prophets did it. John the Baptist did it. And, in today’s gospel, Jesus does it. During his 40 days of being alone, Jesus experienced three great temptations. We might compare the three temptations to a preview of a movie. A preview tells us just enough to spoil the gospel story. The temptations of Jesus are like that. They tell us just enough about Jesus to get us interested in him, but not enough to spoil the gospel story. For example, the temptations give us a preview of who Jesus is and what he came to do. Take the first point: who Jesus is.
The first thing the temptations reveal is that Jesus experienced the same inner battle between good and evil that we do. He felt the same inner conflict between right and wrong that we feel. This suggests that Jesus is human like us. But the temptations suggest something more. Although Jesus was tempted as we are, he reacted to temptation differently than we do. Jesus didn’t waver or hesitate in the face of temptation. He didn’t give in to temptation in the least. This suggests that there is something special about Jesus. What is this specialness? The devil himself gives us a clue when he says to Jesus, “If you are God’s Son…” The devil suggests that Jesus is not just another human being. He is God’s Son come to live among us. Years later Paul explained Jesus’ nature this way in his Letter to the Philippians: “[Jesus] always had the nature of God, but he…became like man and appeared in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6-7). And so the temptations preview the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?” Jesus is both man and God.
This brings us to the second point: what Jesus came to do. What mission did he have on earth? The temptations preview the answer to this question also. To see how they do this, we need to recall today’s first reading. Right after Adam was created, the devil tempted him and Adam fell. From that moment on, every man and woman was held in slavery by the devil. Now the devil tempts Jesus. But where Adam fell, Jesus stands firm. This suggests that Jesus has come to free us from slavery. This suggests that Jesus has come to right the wrong of Adam’s first sin. Commenting on Jesus’ mission to do this, Paul says in today’s second reading: “As the one sin condemned all mankind, in the same way the one righteous act sets all mankind free and gives them life.” In other words, Jesus is the “second Adam,” who has come to right the wrong of the “first Adam.” That’s exactly the way Paul explained Jesus’ mission in his Letter to the Corinthians. He writes: “Just as all people die because of their union with Adam, in the same way all will be raised to life because of their union with Christ…the first Adam, made of earth, came from earth; the second Adam came from heaven…just as we wear the likeness of the man-made of earth, so we will wear the likeness of the Man from heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, 47-49) In other words, Jesus came to be the new Adam of a new human race.
By way of conclusion, then, Jesus’ desert temptations review two important facts about Jesus. First, he is the Son of God became man. Second, he is the new Adam whose mission is to restore life to all people. Today’s readings are a fitting introduction to Lent. They underscore what Lent is all about. It is reliving Jesus’ desert experience against the devil. It is more. It is celebrating Jesus’ victory over the devil. And insofar as we unite ourselves to Jesus in his battle against the devil, to that extent we will share in his victory, also.
Lord Jesus, you are the Son of God became man. You went into the desert to be tempted by the devil and to begin your mission as the new Adam. Help us enter the desert with you. Help us share in your Lenten battle that we may share, also, in your Easter victory.
(Courtesy of Mark Link, SJ)
God Bless You,