IFRM implementation to expand

BRAINTREE -- Fresh off a successful pilot phase, the Archdiocese of Boston is moving towards additional implementation of a new way for parishes to financially support its central ministries.

The archdiocese recently concluded the first phase of the Improved Financial Relationship Model (IFRM) with 33 volunteer parishes and will now begin the second phase of implementation with 40 additional parishes using this new method.

Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia Father Richard Erikson said the new model resulted in a "more positive, fruitful relationship" between the archdiocese and the parishes, a simpler fundraising strategy, and relieving the parishes of the "burden of multiple fees and abatements."

He also said that the first phase of the financial model resulted in "greater unity, greater trust and greater simplicity," and that he hopes that carries into the second phase.

While Phase I was more of a pilot phase, Father Erikson said, the second phase represents additional implementation.

"Phase I was really a time of testing and also a time to work out any concerns in the model," he said. "Phase II is really moving towards full implementation."

Phase I parishes realized increased offertory and grand annual incomes, as well as increased rebates for exceeding their Catholic Appeal assessment, according to the archdiocese.

On average, Phase I parishes saw their weekly offertories increase 15 percent and their grand annuals increase 10 percent. Thirty parishes ran increased offertory campaigns.

Parishes also saw better cash flow as a result of absorbing the monthly tithe payments into their budgets.

Regarding the Catholic Appeal, 19 Phase I parishes increased their pledge amount from the year prior to the launch, and 25 of the 33 Phase I parishes exceeded their assessment. Prior to Phase I, only 20 of those parishes received rebates.

The archdiocese returned a total of $336,000 to parishes which exceeded their Appeal goal, a 205 percent increase from prior to their participation in the IFRM pilot.

Parish support for central ministries increased two percent as a percentage of base revenue.

Under the new system, parishes would contribute 10 percent of their total offertory, grand annual, and rental income, as well their Catholic Appeal assessment to support archdiocesan central ministries. This replaces the numerous fees that were part of the old model. The Catholic Appeal assessment, under the new plan, represents 8 percent of a parish's base revenue.

If a parish exceeds their appeal assessment, the new model rebates 50 percent of the excess back to the parish, up from 25 percent under the old plan. The new model also grants abatements in certain circumstances to parishes that do not meet their Catholic Appeal goal.

Payments are made to the archdiocese in monthly installments.

Parishes with schools would be exempt under the new plan from the portion of the tithe that supports schools.

The archdiocese is also providing fundraising assistance to parishes as part of the endeavor.

Father Erikson called the model a "win-win" for the archdiocese and the parishes.

"It's really a beneficial model for the archdiocese and the Church as a whole," he said. "It does promote a sense of the Church and we're all in this together."

Director of Parish Financial Services Denise McKinnon-Biernat and Tricia Fraser, of the parish financial services department, discussed how the new model works with current and future pastoral planning efforts of the archdiocese.

"Our mission is now tied to the mission of the parishes," McKinnon-Biernat said.

Fraser also said how the new model dovetails with pastoral planning.

"As we're building stronger parishes, the IFRM fits with that," she said.

The Phase I parishes met at the Pastoral Center on March 7 to discuss the result of the initial phase of the new model.

McKinnon-Biernat, Fraser and Jacqui Miller, another member of the IFRM implementation team, reported that goals for the plan included improved financial stability for the parishes and the archdiocese, as well as increased communication between parishes and the archdiocese. There was also a focus to moving parishes to a "more equitable system of support."

Speaking with The Pilot following the meeting, representatives from parishes participating in the IFRM discussed how the new model has benefitted their parish.

Father Richard Fitzgerald is the pastor of St. Paul Parish in Wellesley and a member of the archdiocesan committee that helped develop and roll out the plan among the parishes.

"Through the tithe system, you know exactly each month what your support is going to be to central ministries of the archdiocese," he said. "You don't have a lot of bills coming in from the archdiocese."

"It's a much cleaner system," he added.

He also noted how an effective an increased offertory campaign can be.

"People see it very clearly and if you put the facts out there people respond," Father Fitzgerald said.

St. Athanasius Parish in Reading was not part of Phase I, but volunteered for the second phase.

"It joins both groups (the archdiocese and the parishes) more," said Joe McDonough, a member of the finance council there. "I think there's more transparency."

The parishes participating in phase II of the IFRM are:

Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston

St. Angela, Mattapan

St. Matthew, Dorchester

Most Precious Blood, Hyde Park

Our Lady of Victories, Boston

St. Patrick, Roxbury

Holy Family, Dorchester

St. Peter, Dorchester

St. Agnes, Arlington

St. Cecilia, Ashland

St. Michael, Avon

St. Peter, Cambridge

St. Anthony, Cohasset

St. Mary, Dedham

St. John the Evangelist, East Bridgewater

St. Paul, Hingham

St. Joseph, Holbrook

St. Joseph, Kingston

St. Anne, Littleton

St. Rita, Lowell

St. Ann by the Sea, Marshfield

St. Lucy, Methuen

St. Agatha, Milton

St. Elizabeth, Milton

St. Pius X, Milton

St. Thomas Aquinas, Nahant

St. Linus, Natick

St. Catherine of Siena, Norwood

St. Mary, Plymouth

St. Peter, Plymouth

St. Athanasius, Reading

St. Theresa, Sherborn

St. John the Evangelist, Swampscott

St. Patrick, Watertown

St. Julia, Weston

St. Denis, Westwood

St. Jerome, Weymouth

St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena, Charlestown

St. Marguerite D'Youville, Dracut

St. Katharine Drexel, Roxbury.