Every Catholic in the world must belong to a parish. Parishes are either territorial, meaning that they encompass the souls living in a defined geographical area: or personal, meaning that certain persons register in a parish that has a certain charism to which they are led. Prince of Peace is a territorial parish, but people both within the territory (Taylors) and outside of the territory indicate that they want to be members of our spiritual family by registering with an appropriate form. Because a pastor has certain rights vis-a-vis his flock, he cannot provide certain elements of pastoral care to some souls without prejudicing the rights of other pastors. Registration in a place where many people are not Catholics gives some kind of formal recognition that one finds a spiritual home in a certain parish and can expect spiritual care from that parish’s clergy.
In addition to registering in a parish, Catholics have a grave obligation under pain of mortal sin to provide for the needs of the parish to the extent that they are able. Regular Mass attendance and giving are ordinarily objectively verified using the envelope system, dropping your offering in a special envelope provided by the parish. It is not a perfect system, and some sad souls like to try to game the system, but it has become local custom in the United States. Individual parishes each have different criteria for distinguishing between an active and an inactive parishioner. Ordinarily, at Prince of Peace, a household is marked inactive if there is no discernible activity trackable by the parish office. Some parishioners who find themselves in homebound situations or temporary financial crises ask to remain listed as active parishioners. Those who do not are marked as inactive parishioners.
Parishioner status does not affect who can come to Mass, confession or anointing of the sick, who can be buried from the parish, participate in parish activities and programs, and a whole host of activities. Only registered, active and contributing parishioners, however, may have their child baptized or confirmed in the parish, may receive the parishioner rate or financial aid at the parish school, or be married in the parish.
During this global health pandemic, however, ascertaining who is an active parishioner according to the usual criteria is not as clear cut as it once was. The Bishop has dispensed us from Mass, and many people would be there if they could, but are in the danger zone for contracting the virus. Also, there are many people who have all of a sudden found themselves in very different financial situations than before, and cannot contribute at the level they were before. Remember that the normal expectations for regular, active and contributing parishioner status are a reasonable minimum for a practicing Catholic to be coherently called so. But these are not normal times, and the Church does not seek to burden her children unduly at such a stressful time.
Therefore, I would like to enact the following policy for the July 2020-July 2021 Fiscal Year:
In order to be considered an active parishioner for the purpose of: having children baptized or confirmed in the parish, receiving the parishioner rate or financial aid at the school, or to be married in the parish, these are the requirements:
1. be registered in the parish with the proper forms and not be registered in any other parish
2. attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation in the parish when and if you find it reasonable to do so and you would not be embarrassed to stand up in front of Jesus and explain why you’re not at Mass
3. use the envelope system or some form of Tithely, WeShare or EFT to continue to support the church as sacrificially as you are able
4. communicate in writing to the pastor if there is a reason why you want to be continue to be considered active if number 3 is impossible (you don’t even have to state the reason, just let him know there is a reason)
For this fiscal year, the envelope system will not be used to track attendance, since for much of this time, the obligation is not in effect and there are many who will be unable to come to Mass, but who consider Prince of Peace their spiritual home and are still united with us in prayer and other means of support. No one will be automatically inactivated during FY 2020-1 unless they die, move out of the county, register in another parish or request to be inactivated.
I want this policy to be clear, so that there are no surprises. We intend in July 2021 to revert to our previous policies for determining active parishioner status, unless our review of it at that time makes an extension of the present policy necessary. We don’t want anyone to be marked inactive from parish life during this year merely because they made a prayerful and prudent discernment not to come to Mass or because their financial situation was such that regular and trackable support of the parish was impossible.
Likewise, many of the normal expectations that we have for religious education, sacramental preparation and participation in the rites and ceremonies of the Church, will need to be re-envisioned for the greater good of souls during this time. Any temporary adjustments in those policies will be communicated as necessary, and are always done with a view to a reasonable engagement with the life of the Church during a very stressful time for everyone.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact the parish office at 864.268.4352.
Thanking you for your continued support of this amazing spiritual home I remain
Yours in Christ,
Revd Fr Christopher Smith, PhD/STD, KHS
Pastor, Prince of Peace Roman Catholic Church
1209 Brushy Creek Rd
Taylors, SC 29687
Mater mea, fiducia mea!