Dear Sisters and Brothers –
With more than 80 million people vaccinated in the U.S., my cautious optimism about what our faith community might be able to do together in 2021 is becoming less cautious and more optimistic. Recently, I have even allowed myself the fantasy of engaging in my former practice of casually walking the church aisles and greeting you in your pew before Mass starts. Just typing that sentence puts a grin on my face.
This increasingly positive perspective enables me to begin to see in a slightly new way all that we have lived through. The processing of the events and emotions of the past year will take a long time, to be sure, but today it causes gratitude to rise up within me: Gratitude for parishioners who have called other parishioners to check in or shopped or cooked meals for those who needed; gratitude for volunteers and staff who have worked so hard to provide worship and ministry for Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas, and now another Lent, as well as opportunities for you to stay connected to your faith and to one another, and even to make new friends; gratitude for your patience with us as we’ve figured this all out, and for the outpouring of support and encouragement that has sustained us; and finally, gratitude for God’s imagination that has taken long hours and goodwill from so many and made more of this moment than any could have imagined.
Many of you have helped us get here with your financial support. You were particularly generous last December with your support of our Year-End Appeal for our digital ministries. Technology has been invaluable to our faith and our community life this year, and your generosity has helped us continue to innovate. And that’s a process. As an example of just how much a process this can be – and as a “thank you!” for your generous support – I’m embedding a link to a digital musical collaboration by our choir. As you will see, this inspiring video was intended for Christmas, but, well, we’re learning as we go, and adding new things on top of old responsibilities after nine, ten, eleven and now twelve months into the pandemic isn’t easy. I hope you enjoy this beautiful and joyful piece, despite its natural home in our previous liturgical season, as we begin our third week of Lent!
Letters from the various agencies you supported through our annual Advent Giving Tree – also digitally delivered to you! – have been trickling in over the past weeks. They are filled with gratitude on behalf of those whose Christmas was brighter because of your generosity. Sr. Marguerite wrote, the Good Shepherd “Gracenter has taken a financial hit because we are supplying all the women’s personal needs now … so we are even more grateful for your generous support”. And Episcopal Community Services wrote, “… you opened your hearts and wallets to put a smile on so many faces. Our clients were thrilled with the gifts they received”. In all, St. Ignatius parishioners donated almost 600 gift cards to 10 agencies, for a total of $14,725 in gifts. So many in our community experienced Christmas more joyfully because of you!
The final report I have for you is about last year’s Archdiocesan Annual Appeal, which local and virtual parishioners alike supported. Our assessment in 2020 was $196,798, and through the sacrifice of nearly 470 households, we raised $165,595 toward that goal. I am very deeply grateful to all of you who participated. You helped to ensure a Catholic education for children who would not otherwise receive one, to provide services needed for young couples to get married, and so much more. I’m happy to share with you the good news that because of your strategic giving last year, our AAA assessment for this year is $171,082, down more than $50,000 from two years ago.
As we move from what some have come to call the “dark winter” of 2021 and into a spring that seems filled with reasons to hope, we extend our deepest gratitude, well-wishes, and love to all of you. As one parishioner expressed to us in our recent annual survey, the coming together we’ve experienced as a community during these times is simply “indescribable”, as the work of the Holy Spirit usually is.
Thank you, and with anticipation and expectancy, let us look forward to what God will bring in the months to come.
Fr. Greg Bonfiglio, S.J.