Fr Wilfred Atin, parish priest St Michael Church Penampang

By Linda Edward

Dec 18 2020

PENAMPANG – An unprecedented pandemic situation lays bare the reality of critical finance for most people, and the Church is no exception.

Fr Wilfred Atin, parish priest of St Michael Penampang, said now the parish needs to move away from conventional fundraising methods to an easier one which is less burdening, relaxing and more spiritual.

“(There is a) need to move from the conventional methods of fundraising like dinners, raffles, concerts and bazaars. I believe there should be better ways in which everyone would not be burdened and would happily be contributing to the parish finance,” said Fr Atin in his recent Advent Pastoral Notes.

Having just adopted the parish aspirations entitled “Towards an Amazing Parish” last Sep 29 which focus on improvement in administration, pastoral, finance and property, the critical finance situation due to COVID-19 makes a hiccup for St Michael parish towards realizing her aspirations.

Moving forward, on Dec 17 Fr Atin introduced a new financial support system for St Michael Church to all the parish leaders called the Parish Donation System.  

The system involves a Parish Donation pledge from each family or individual parishioner in the Kampung Catholic Communities (Kg CC) and KKD (Komuniti Kristian Dasar) across St Michael.

Fr Atin revealed that the Parish Donation System is not only a more organized method but would also interconnect all faithful across the parish networks. He hoped that it would become a ‘new norm’ system.

Underscoring that this is “a more organized method with transparency and proper monitoring”, he was confident that it would eventually benefit the communities in the parish and motivate them to live the Gospel values.

“It’s a norm that would be interconnecting all the parish networks; individual parishioner/family, KKD, Kg Catholic Community, zones and Mission Office,” he explained.

The donation system will see commitment pledges from family and individual parishioner in the range of RM10 to RM2000 or any desired amount on an option of weekly, monthly or yearly basis.

St Michael’s Church comprises estimated 16,000 – 18,000 parishioners with estimated 3,800 – 5,000 families.

Fr Atin said it would be quite a task for the Parish Mission staff and leaders of Kg CC and KKD to implement it.

The system will be implemented by involving leaders of Kg CC and KKD as the main liaison to the families and individual donors, as well as to the Zone Pastoral and Finance Committee leaders who will then connect with the Parish Mission Office.

The Mission Office will sort out the donation pledges from the name records and will ensure that all donors’ data be kept strictly confidential.

Fr Atin said the Parish Donation is different from the Sunday Collections or other established forms of donation in the parish.

He informed that while it may be new to St Michael parish, the system however is not a new invention.  

“It is quite common in other parts of the world especially in the USA. It is called by different names such as Parish Giving, Catholic Online Giving etc.

He maintained “Parishioners in Penampang would need time to adapt to it and to make it part of the system in the parish.”

On the distribution of the donations, Fr Atin explained “The parish priest, together with the Parish Finance and Property Council, will decide on the distribution of the received donation to zones, Parish Catechists Fund and Parish Education Fund annually, or as and when required.”

On a positive note, he hoped that it would be a maximum financial support to help transform the whole parish and zones for better administration and pastoral facilities including building a car park and multipurpose hall, cafeteria, gallery, offices for all ministries and lay movements and parish cemetery.

Why St Michael parish starts this new financial system?

In his Advent Pastoral Notes Dec 10, Fr Atin spoke in length about the need of a new finance system:

“This new system of Parish Donation is especially urgent as we are currently facing an unprecedented situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our parish finance sources have been generated from Sunday Collections, fundraising events, marriage fees, Advent Carolling, Lenten Appeals (for a specific usage), mass intentions and the government grants.

It was quite manageable before the pandemic struck us but not anymore.

“We used to collect between RM12,000 to RM15,000 weekly from the collections of 13 churches under the Penampang parish. As time goes by, there is a big collection gap among these churches, the highest being RM5,000 to RM8,000, while the lowest being RM15 to RM35.

“St Michael’s Church, by and large, has been the biggest contributor as far as Sunday collection is concerned.  But again that was before the pandemic.

“The last time I checked, our Sunday Collection was only RM6,868 with the biggest contribution still from St Michael, Penampang which amounted to RM2,479 only.

“Needless to say, that is partly due to the restriction on the church attendance and the existing online masses. We do get some online donation but it is also not so encouraging unlike when MCO just started.

“Every month we are spending a fixed sum of RM22,496.80 for staff salaries. That includes contribution to EPF, SOCSO and EIS. Don’t forget we also need to pay utility bills namely electricity, water, telephone and UNIFI, Clergy and religious allowance, parish vehicles running and maintenance expenses, office stationeries and rectory household expenses.

“We have had no Sunday Collections for a few months except recently. You can imagine how critical our parish finance standing is now.

“So, all the more reason, we have to start with this “new system” of financial funding.” – Source: St Michael Parish Penampang