Friday, March 17, 2017

Welcoming the World, One City-Full at a Time …

Written by  Jim Nakoneshny

 A lot of events take place at the Cathedral of the Holy Family. A lot of events.

This always surprises people who come here outside of Sunday Masses for the first time. They are amazed at the steady stream of visitors coming through the doors on their way to meetings, school functions, faith formation activities or other events. Some folks are still surprised that anything at all happens in a church during the week. A handful of these activities are rental events, but the vast majority are functions put on by and for our own parishioners, ranging from weekly Eucharistic Adoration to Moms’ Morning Out sessions to Pancake Breakfasts put on by the Knights of Columbus.

We recently did some estimates on the number of events which took place in this facility in 2016. It averaged some 185 scheduled activities each month, totalling more than 2,200 functions over the course of the year. Together, these brought approximately 250,000 people into the cathedral in 2016. Imagine the entire population of Saskatoon coming through the building each and every year.

We all know how much work it is when you have 25 people over to your house. Sure, you’re glad they came, but its work nonetheless. Now multiply that by 10,000. That’s a reality for our staff. And it’s a huge amount of upkeep needed for this building. Our cost just for janitorial supplies each year is roughly $9,000. That’s garbage bags, soap, paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning supplies. No labour – just supplies. Waste and recycling pickup adds another $4,500 per year.

Somewhat like Texas, everything here is big. There are 60 air filters to replace every 3 months, 60,000 square feet of floors to mop and vacuum, 3 acres of parking lot to plow, 33 toilets to clean. In the main worship space alone there are nearly 500 light bulbs - probably another 1,000 or more in the rest of the building.

Of course, it’s big not because we want it to be, but because it has to be. Holy Family is the largest parish in the diocese and we require a lot of space to gather together. We've also been entrusted to be the Bishop's church as the diocesan cathedral. This means that when the people of the diocese gather together to celebrate, they do it here.

In addition, we are one of the fortunate parishes who are growing, with new families continuing to join our church community. When St. Nicholas School opens in Evergreen this fall we will have 7 Catholic schools as part of our parish family. Since we opened our doors just 5 years ago, over 800 children have been baptized in this church - enough to fill 2 schools alone!

When our parishioners chose to build this place it was so that we would have sufficient space to gather as a faith community to pray, to celebrate, to grieve, to socialize and to learn. Many of them gave generously to be able to build something that would benefit their children and grandchildren. They made the choice to put off new cars, home renovations, holiday travels and retirement dreams so that this church could become a reality.

Many others have joined our parish community since it was built.  Most share and support that initial vision. A number of our families have come from places in the world where simply going to church is a dangerous activity. Having a wonderful space that we can call our own is a dream that many others can’t hope to realize. At this point in history, as Pope Francis reminds us, with more places talking of closing doors it is even more important that we open ours wider.

But building a church is only half of the story. Like everything else in life, it's important that we continue to look after it properly. All told, our maintenance costs for last year totalled over $95,000.00 for parts, supplies and technical services. Add another $10,000 per month for basic utilities such as gas, water and electricity and the cost of keeping our doors open is at least $215,000 per year.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t include the very substantial administrative costs of running a large parish, such as salaries, insurance, telephones, computers, copier paper, liturgical supplies, vestments, youth group functions, etc., etc., etc. This was $215,000 strictly for maintenance and operations on essentially a brand new building. As everything continues to age and as tens of thousands of people continue to pass through our doors each month and generate additional wear and tear, these costs will continue to rise. We must also plan to set aside funds each year for potential long-term projects such as parking lot repaving or eventual roof repairs.

For responsible stewardship, a sustainable preventive maintenance program needs to be in place and properly funded. As is often the case with churches, it is a challenge to reach that goal. A large part of the reason is that as a charitable, non-profit organization we don’t have the option of imposing a fee on our members or otherwise raising our prices. We are almost entirely dependent upon your donations to cover our costs. It’s true that every little bit helps. Big bits, for those who can spare them, can help even more quickly.

As we look ahead, it’s important for all of us to reflect on what this place means to us and the role it plays in our lives - for our families, our community and for future generations. Are we doing what we can to support our church and to help it grow?

We are Holy Family. This is our home. Help us to welcome the world, one city-full at a time.

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