A parishioner gave me a book by author Thom Rainer. He is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He’s a respected pastor, researcher, and author of over 20 books. Two are best-sellers: Simple Church and I Am a Church Member.
Thom travels to churches all over the world. He sees about 7 to 10 churches losing ground, declining, or frustrated. He notes that about 7,000 North American churches close their doors each year. Churches are struggling. They experience infighting, conflicts, contentious meetings, strained budgets, strained attitudes, and strained relationships.
And yet, there is something else going on. Thom has seen a strong trend in other types of churches and parishes in recent years. They don’t have massive numbers. They don’t have a state-of-the-art facility. They aren’t the most talked about church in town. They don’t have massive successful ministries that people point to. They’re not “cool.”
Still, they matter! They are powerful. They are making a difference. They are being used by God in revolutionary ways. They are often small to medium-size parishes that are having an impact in their neighborhoods. They’re feisty, tenacious, determined, dogged, persistent. They make things happen.
Rainer calls them “Scrappy Churches.”
They are like independent bookstores that have stayed open and thrived amid an Amazon world. Why? Because they take good care of their customers. Scrappy Church parishioners know that God is not done with their parish. They believe that God put them in their location for a reason. God wants them to become a potent force for Him in the community. If these churches or parishes closed tomorrow, the neighborhood would not only miss them, they would scream in protest. The neighborhood would rise and complain to whatever Bishop or church leader is in charge. They would say, “Don’t you dare close that church!”
Many Scrappy Churches were not doing well. Yet, in case after case, Thom has seen these churches turn their parishes around. How did they do that? Thom points to six transitions that these churches made that defy conventional wisdom. Let’s start looking at those six factors next week.
On an unrelated matter, allow me a request. Before being appointed Bishop of Harrisburg, Bishop Senior spoke to me about St. Raymond. He always liked the parish. He felt that it had a unique story. He said that it had a special mission for the archdiocese and the Philadelphia area. As former Rector of St. Charles Seminary, he wanted to share our uniqueness with seminarians. He proposed assigning a seminarian to the parish on Thursdays. This would be their “field education” assignment. If possible, perhaps a transitional Deacon could be assigned to St. Raymond. This young man would be at the parish on Thursdays as well as assist on weekends.
To do this, we need to provide a suitable living space for him. We have space available on the second floor of the rectory. The problem is that the rooms are full of unneeded, unused furniture. There are kitchen tables, end tables, lamps, chests of drawers, dressers, etc. I am looking for someone to help sell, dispose of, or donate this furniture. This would then open up some living space in the rectory. Some people are good at this and might see it as a fun challenge. I do not (it’s not my “charism”). If intrigued, please contact me at 215-549-3760 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you. Fr. Z
Fr. Charles Zlock, Pastor
Good Things are Happening at St. Raymond!
Our first St. Raymond Trunk or Treat was a success! About 60 ghosts and goblins, princesses and pirates – all hungry for Halloween treats – stormed the parking lot at St. Raymond, headed for the 10 cars that assisted in the “Trunk” contest.
Remember that Jesus is the reason for the season! St. Raymond Advent Life Groups meet the weeks of November 12th through December 16th. Day and evening meetings are held throughout the week at St Raymond, in homes, and via Zoom. 90 minutes + once a week + 4 weeks = a new relationship with Jesus and others. Interested? Pick up a flier from the back of the Church (or download it below) and look over the different groups.
Then make a phone call to the Life Group Leader to save your spot. YOU MUST REGISTER IN ADVANCE TO ENSURE YOUR PLACE AT THE TABLE. A more spiritual you is the best gift that can be given! Want to know more? Call Minta Brown at 610-329-7256 or email email@example.com.
Prayer for Peace in the World on October 27th
Pope Francis has declared Friday October 27 a day of Prayer, Fasting and Penance. To accommodate this, St. Raymond Church will be open from 8:00am- 7:00pm.
Mass - 8:00am
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament - 8:30am
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - 8:30am- 6:55pm
Confessions - Available throughout the day. Call the Rectory at 215-549-3760 to set up a time.
To ensure that someone is in the church during the entire day during Adoration, please sign up here. You can sign up for any length of time. One hour is preferred, but not required.
Celebrating Our Youth with Generation Grace
Do you have a child in grades 6-8? Please contact Brandi to get them involved in our Middle School Youth Ministry. Below is the schedule that was created for the children. We would love to have all our Middle School Kids involved. Brandi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-549-3760.
Sunday, 10/29 - Pumpkin Picking @ Kohler Farms
Sunday, 11/12 - “Give Me S’more of Jesus”
S'mores making in the School Cafeteria and reflection
Homecoming for St. Raymond School Alumni
Come back home to see old friends and to visit your school. The day starts with 10am Mass, followed by a reception in the School Hall. Spread the word and RSVP today!
Family Faith Formation Sessions
"Let the children come to me”
Attention Parents/Guardians: Family Faith Formation Sessions will run September 17, 2023 – June 2, 2024.
Parents with children entering grades K through 7th grade are encouraged to attend. Sessions are held immediately following the 10:00 Mass every other Sunday in the lower church. Enrollment forms are located on the desk in the rear of the church. Contact Arleen Daniels at 215-549-3760 or email@example.com to receive a form via email. The greatest gift you can give your child is the gift of faith formation. If children do not experience how to live for God, the world will certainly show them how not to!
You are Invited!
St Martin de Porres Mass, with Commissioning of Fr Zlock
Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez recently commissioned ten new Missionaries of Mercy with their mandate from the Holy See. St Raymond’s Pastor, Reverend Charles Zlock, is honored to serve in the new role! This is a special ministry, focusing particularly on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The St. Raymond Church family is invited to witness the Commissioning Ceremony led by Archbishop Perez on Sunday, November 5 at 3:00 PM at The Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul. Please contact Brandi at 215-549-3760 if you are interested in riding in the church van.
Fr Zlock is overjoyed that the brief ceremony will be included in the annual St Martin de Porres Mass, honoring the first Catholic Saint of color.
More information is available at Catholic Philly.
Celebrating The Lives of Our African American Saints
Saint Joseph's University joins the National Black Catholic Congress in Celebrating the Lives of Our African American Saints and Heroic Examples of Holiness to the Church and the World With a reflection offered by Sister Cora Marie Billings, RSM H'17 "My Whole Self: The Inspiration of Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA"
PLEASE JOIN US ON Wednesday, November 1, 2023, 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. The Chapel of Saint Joseph - Hawk Hill Campus Saint Joseph's University 2525 Cardinal Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131
The event will be live-streamed via the SJU Campus Ministry YouTube page join us at this link. Refreshments to follow. An All Saints Day Mass will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Chapel. ALL ARE WELCOME !!! For more information contact: Rev. Daniel R. J. Joyce, S.J.
“Love is shown more in deeds than in words.” ― St. Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises
Annual Stewardship Collection
Dear St. Raymond Family,
I am writing to you with an update on the finances of the parish. I apologize for the delay with this report. More on that below. I also wish to ask for your generous support of St. Raymond during this year’s Stewardship Sunday.
Perhaps you remember 1978. It was the “Year of Three Popes” (Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II). It was a disorienting time during the church. Last year was the “year of three pastors.” Similarly, it was a complex and, at times, unsettling time. Nevertheless, St. Raymond came through the transition well. There are many signs why St. Raymond enjoys a fine and well-deserved reputation within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Much occurred over the past 9 months. On the request of Pope Francis, We held two parish listening sessions in light of the worldwide synod. Archbishop Perez asked us to form a select committee to develop three parish priorities and six SMART Goals. We reconstituted a new Finance Council. We hired a new director of Finance and Accounting. The archdiocese asked us to implement new finance and accounting procedures.
We accomplished this while still having our Advent and Lenten Life Groups. We begin to update the musical and liturgy infrastructure. REST continued to help several families transition as citizens. We initiated a new family catechesis program for our PREP program and started a new RCIA program for people desiring to be received into the Catholic faith. Our weekend liturgies also continue to be vibrant and nurturing.
In the midst of these changes, we continued to deal with the finance and accounting challenges associated with a rapid turnover of three pastors, two finance/accounting directors, and one bookkeeper. When you consider the spiritual, liturgical, temporal, and pastoral changes, ensuing financial challenges are reflected and supportable.
The financial picture of St. Raymond is mixed (see statistics below). Our overall church income declined by 5%. Weekend and Christmas collections were down. However, the Easter collection increased significantly (+145%). The expense side of the ledger was positive. Overall expenses decreased by 1%. Some of this was due to changes in Pastoral Staff personnel. Some was due to the excellent work of the Finance Council, which monitored and helped to control expenses.
As a general rule of thumb for churches, the weekend collection alone should cover the cost of the parish mission. This is a sign of a viable and vibrant parish. Coming out of Covid, we are not doing badly, but the financial picture is still tenuous. I am exceedingly grateful to all of you for your generosity. I am well aware of the sacrificial giving of many of you in support of St. Raymond.
I am asking for you to prayerfully consider two requests. First, sign up for electronic giving rather than weekly envelopes. The printing, sending, collecting, and counting of envelopes is a labor-intensive and costly process. Electronic giving reduces expenses.
It also provides a consistent, reliable source of church income, especially during holidays, summer vacation, and those times when your family might be away from the parish.
Second, consider offering $150 the month of October. When you consider inflation, people on fixed income and family financial responsibilities, this might simply not be feasible for some of you. I understand. Give what you can. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
In closing, as I look ahead towards the Advent/Christmas season, I am excited about the momentum in the parish, especially coming out of the National Black Catholic Congress. I am honored to be the Pastor of such a wonderful "Parish Family.” To quote one former pastor, "There’s something about St. Raymond.”
Fr Charles Zlock
PARISH FINANCIAL SUMMARY
Total Expenses: $519,734
Expenses as a percent of income: (83%)
Income: $595,773 (-5%)
Weekend: $498,170 (-10%)
Christmas: $5,257 (-23%)
Easter: $11,956 (+146%)
Total Expenses: $515,714 (1%)
Net: $80,059 (-24%)
Expenses as a percent of income: (87%)
10/28 and 10/29 Monthly Prayer Team after Mass (always last Sunday) Bring your prayer intentions to our prayer teams and let us pray for you!
All Saints Day
Wednesday, November 1 is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation. Mass times are 8AM and 7PM.
All Souls Day Thursday, 11/2
Masses of Remembrance
During the month of November, the Church advises us to remember and pray for those who have gone before us and whom we believe are enjoying the presence of the Lord. St. Raymond’s will be celebrating our Annual Masses of Remembrance to remember all of our deceased parishioners and family members who have died in the past year. The names of the deceased will be read aloud during the Masses said on the weekend of November 4th and 5th.
Why not package them for Caring for Friends.
Containers are located in the Sacristy. We are in constant need of a variety of meals for ailing seniors. The one meal that you discard can be a meal for an ailing senior living alone. Frozen meals can be dropped off at the Rectory between the hours of 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM. Volunteers are also needed to deliver meals to seniors on a weekly basis. For more info, contact Arleen at 215-549-3760.
REST in Philly
Have questions or want to RSVP? Contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 267-331-1682.
Bethlehem Olive Wood Arts For Sale
Bethlehem Olive Wood Arts is THIS WEEKEND at all Masses!!
Christian Carvings & Statues, handcrafted Olive Art Straight From the Holy Land to our Parish.
A representative from the Bethlehem Olive Wood Arts Factory from the Holy Land will be present after all the masses to display and sell handcrafted olive wood art pieces. Olive wood items are made of authentic olive trees from Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Take advantage of this opportunity to find a unique and beautiful gift for yourself or someone you love this Christmas. Everything is hand-carved and all proceeds will benefit Christian families in the Holy Land.
Made By Christian Hands. Loved By Christian Hearts
Thanksgiving Food Bags are available in the rear of the church as well as envelopes for monetary donations. Food donations can be left in the vestibule of the Church or dropped off at the Rectory. Monetary donations can be placed in the Sunday collection basket or dropped off at the Rectory. Please have your contributions in prior to Sunday, November 19th. If you or someone you know are in need of a Thanksgiving Food Basket, please contact the Rectory Office at 215-549-3760.
Upcoming Community Events
Malvern Retreat at St. Raymond
Please join Father Zlock, your Parish Men’s Group and Men of Malvern Retreat House for an hour of socialization, refreshment, and enlightenment into the benefits of a personal retreat experience that is a blessing to all men ages 10 to 99. This is a real opportunity to get to know your fellow parishioners in your shared walk with Christ!
Wednesday, November 1st from 7-8pm in the St Raymond Basement (Sister Rosemary Room). Call Melvin Thornton at 215-549-1105 or Atiba McCoy at 267-588-8888 for more information.
Mother Mary Lange Lecture in Black Catholic Studies
The Third Annual Mother Mary Lange Lecture in Black Catholic Studies will be held on Thursday, November 2, at 7:00 p.m. at Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law. There is free parking in that area of campus. We will also live stream the event.
This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Maureen O’Connell, professor of Christian social ethics at LaSalle University. Dr. O’Connell is also the author of Undoing the Knots: Five Generations of Catholic Anti-Blackness (Beacon Press 2021).
Claver Awards Banquet on November 11th
Community News & Announcements
St. Eleanor Catholic Church in Collegeville, PA is searching for a Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries. St. Eleanor serves over 13k Parishioners in suburban Montgomery County, PA. For inquiries & interest please email Linda Coyne at email@example.com or call Linda at 610-489-1647 (x11) for full job description. Visit us at www.steleanor.com.
This Week's "Go Forth" Suggestion from Archbishop Perez
Here's a list of resources that can help. ~Archbishop Pérez
Archdiocese of Philadelphia Updates
Please sign up to find out what is happening around the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. https://www.phillyevang.org