State of the Parish

02-06-2024NewsFr. Chris Axline

Hello St. Mary Magdalene,

Thank you for tuning in to this State of the Parish address. This last year has provided many opportunities for us to invest in our parish; especially in our worship space and there are the final parts coming in! Thank you all for your prayers and support in these improvements that have enabled us to focus on, and give glory to God!

My goal today is to share with you how we are managing our resources as a parish, address our financial standing, and share a vision for the future of our parish community and its long term goals. As part of this address, I will be sharing a lot of numbers. Don’t worry, if you miss something in this video as a text of my message will also be printed in the bulletin of February 11th.

First, I would like to reminisce some of our parish history. We were founded officially in 2002 with Labor Day weekend being our first Masses. At that time we were meeting in school gymnasiums and even for a while at an airport! This means, too, that we’re also a 21 year old parish! Then, through several years of sacrificial giving we were blessed to build our current building in 2011, where we now celebrate Mass and have many of our programs. This building was done with a combination of raised monies and an approximately $4 million dollar loan, a loan which we are still paying off. This means that we’re: a) currently servicing debt of  over $2 million dollars b) maintaining the buildings we have; and c) seeking to build additional facilities to meet the needs of our growing parish. Through your great efforts and generosity we have secured very favorable terms for our debt service.

In regards to maintaining our current facilities, our costs are going up as our building ages, which means more maintenance is needed. For example, we are anticipating within the next several years having to replace and/or update our interior light fixtures as well as those in our parking lot. This project is estimated to cost us around $25,000 dollars, as many of our light fixtures at that point will need to be entirely replaced and updated. With the addition of perpetual adoration,  we  also need to improve our security system on campus to ensure the safety of our adorers and all those who visit our campus. The cost of security upgrades will be at least 16,000 dollars. 

Each year but especially this last year, we have made capital improvements, and while we budget for these  improvements  each year, this year they have exceeded what we have budgeted. These improvements  include improving our technology throughout the campus by making sure that we have updated computers in the office and new TV’s in each classroom. We are grateful to all who have donated newer TV’s to  us for use in our  classrooms. Regarding computer and cyber security, we have invested in upgrades and protections since we gather confidential information.  The IT contractor is providing solutions and support that includes, but is not limited to, making sure our databases, servers, cloud storage, and antivirus/antimalware software is up-to-date and monitored 24/7. This was a long overdue update that we have been able to address due to the continued stable plate income of the parish.

We have come to recognize that with the a/c outage this last summer, that our air conditioning units are about halfway through their lifespan, so we have signed a maintenance contract in order to maximize and monitor these units to keep a/c outages to a minimum and better plan for replacements and cost mitigation on repairs. All of these things I have mentioned from lighting to cyber security to our a/c contracts are supported by the general plate income as well as all the usual things you expect like the utilities, payroll, loan payments, and diocesan assessments.

Currently, our monthly plate income is roughly $121,000 and our monthly expenses are approximately $110,000 dollars meaning that each month we have a budgeted surplus of slightly over $11,000 dollars. We hope each month with this surplus to build up savings, cover incidental expenses and other situations as they arrive. Our monthly expenses are broken down as follows: 

  1. Our monthly loan payment is just over $18,000 dollars a month.
  2. Our monthly assessment (a tithe we make to the Diocese of Phoenix) is just over $22,000 dollars a month. Please know that this assessment is not used frivolously but is used to support the diocese in ways we could not do by ourselves.
  3. Monthly maintenance of facilities such as landscaping, janitorial services, repairs and property insurance cost is just over $10,000 dollars.
  4. Our monthly administrative costs such as staffing, technology, utilities, and supplies are approximately $58,000 dollars a month.
  5. Monthly liturgical expenses (votive candles, oil, hosts, wine, mass stipends, etc.) are $1,800 dollars a month.

As you can see, we are doing well. Yes, we are tight in our income/expense balance but we’re still moving forward!

As I stated in the opening, we have also been blessed to undergo some renovations to our sanctuary space. This was made possible through a combination of sacrificial giving from the parish campaign launched in 2017 and from the Diocese of Phoenix’s Together Let Us Go Forth Campaign that was started in  2019 and will wrap up in 2025.. The goals of our 2017 campaign was twofold: 1) fundraise for a parish hall and 2) begin renovations on our current building into a permanent worship space. The 2017  campaign had a goal north of $3 million dollars, which we unfortunately did not achieve due to factors that we did not foresee at the time. So, rather than prolonging the campaign without seeing any tangible fruits to our efforts, my Pastoral and Finance councils advised and I agreed to refocus our efforts. We began renovations on our sanctuary and once this phase of renovation, which is expected here in the next six months with the installation of the final mosaics,and the completion of the Together Let Us Go Forth campaign we will resume fundraising for the hall. Thus we have  one more year before we begin to seriously fundraise again on the hall. While these campaigns did not provide us with enough for the parish hall, they did provide us with the funds to fully pay for the $1.26 million dollar renovation project in the church in cash.

This sanctuary renovation project included demolition of the temporary wall and floor fixtures, expanding the sanctuary area, laying down marble flooring in the sanctuary, the mural work on the walls, the new altars and ambo, and the four mosaics which will be installed this year. The original design of our current building was meant to be a hall and gymnasium with a church to be built later. However, under the previous pastor it was discovered that renovating the current building in order to turn it into our church was more cost effective than building a new church building as building a hall is financially and process wise an easier endeavor than building an entirely new church. Thankfully, this renovation which is the first phase of converting our building into our permanent church was done without taking on additional debt because of your generosity and support which I am extremely grateful for! This means that we still have a little over 1.8 million dollars in the bank to use for seed money for the next phase which I hope to be the Hall, meanwhile these funds are set aside and will not be used and will accumulate interest.

One project that is ongoing came up unexpectedly but was time sensitive and very opportune for the parish. A residential property adjacent to our land came on the market and after looking at it would make a proper rectory. With the consultation and approval of our priests, pastoral and finance councils, we approached the diocese about acquiring this property.  This new rectory means  that Mary Magdalene’s priests will be much closer to campus and enable us to meet the Diocesan guidelines regarding priest housing. In a short history, we currently have three priests living in a home designed for two.  We have quite literally outgrown our current rectory with the addition of a third priest living at St. Mary Magdalene. The new rectory also allows for a guest room and restroom so we can have a seminarian or priest visit the parish with no added expense. This new rectory is being financed in such a way that we will  use the approximate 250,000 dollars in equity from our current rectory plus the parish’s generous original investment to offset a substantial amount of the purchase price and take a short term loan for the remaining balance. Through this purchase alone we will save the parish approximately 1.5million in building costs if we were to try and build a rectory on campus due to our commercial zoning status, utility and other costs associated from building ground up. This also frees our parish property as we have one less building that needs to be built on property. I do want to mention that we have had several donors that have agreed to help us start a minor fundraising effort to pay off  the new rectory as well. I am humbled by the outpouring of support I have received for this project in its short time of existence! I truly feel the support and love of our parishioners! Please note that we are financing this in such a way that we are not touching any of our existing funds, this means that the fund for our hall is untouched  by this new purchase. Additionally, this new rectory includes an exterior, climate controlled storage building which the parish will  use so that we will  declutter and open up more space in our existing classrooms! I have asked Fr. Arthur to oversee this project since this will be the 4th rectory he has remodeled and has a fantastic skill set to manage this project. This means that I am not distracted or taken away from my focus which is caring for and expanding our parish.

Our future expansion includes the construction of a parish hall, which will greatly increase our program offerings via construction of additional small and large meeting spaces. With our sanctuary renovations now complete, the rectory project overseen by Fr. Arthur,the hall is the next major project to which I am now turning my attention. While we have an excellent start towards our hall, we will need to continue to manage our expenses and will require additional, sacrificial giving from all of us to complete construction of the new hall. I would like to see us build this parish hall without taking on additional debt. Remember, we’re still paying off over $2 million dollars in debt, which means that yes, it will take longer to fully fund it first, but it will also ensure that we do not pass on a financial burden to future generations. Working with the Diocesan Office of Buildings and Properties, I was able to get a rough estimate that the hall will cost upwards of 5 million dollars. We currently have 1.8 million dollars on hand which means that we now have over 3 million dollars we need to raise as a parish. I will be starting the preparatory work of designing a hall that meets the needs of our parish now and into the future in a cost-effective manner.

I want to thank you all for your generous support of St. Mary Magdalene. And I want to thank my staff and the Finance and Pastoral councils who help me manage the resources and goals of St. Mary Magdalene. Their dedication and insights are much appreciated.

With this account of our current resources, I also want to offer a challenge and reiterate the importance of supporting the parish. Almsgiving is a beautiful part of our faith that gives us an opportunity to offer our gifts and life back to God and to help promote the spreading of the Gospel and continuing the parish life we enjoy here. No gift amount is too small. For example, we have approximately 2,200 registered families and parishioners. If every family sacrificed one cup of coffee a month, assuming a $5 cup of coffee, that amounts to an additional $11,000 dollars in monthly income, or $132,000 dollars additional income each year. Think about the practical applications of that: if we’re currently operating ~$10,000 dollars in flexible spending, and offering all that we do, imagine what we could do as a parish community with an additional $132,000! To put it bluntly, St. Mary Magdalene’s programs and parish life events literally cannot exist without you, and I, my fellow priests, the parish and finance councils and staff are incredibly grateful to you all and for the trust you’ve put in me to manage and shepherd St. Mary Magdalene with their assistance. Know that you are all in my daily prayers, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about what I have shared with you all today.

Let’s close with our building prayer:

All-powerful and all-merciful Father, You have created all things through Your Son, and have made Him the unshakable foundation of Your Kingdom.  Through the gift of Your eternal wisdom, grant that our efforts to build the parish of Saint Mary Magdalene for Your glory and our own well-being, may progress day by day to its successful completion.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saint Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

God bless,
Fr. Chris