Chapter 5 – Money, Money, Money

Religion is a business.  If you do not agree with this then you must not go to church very often, you do not go to church related activities, and you just keep passing the basket past you each weekend at the Catholic mass.

Look, I know that everything costs money.  NOTHING is free.  I used to work at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.  People from all over come to go through the museum and of course they end up in the museum store.  You cannot believe the comments from people informing me at the register how expensive the HOF items were.  My response was always, “Nothing is free from the NFL.”  Its the same at any church.  If you want to go to a church that is comfortable and has working air conditioning and heat then it takes money.  One thing that makes the Pro Football Hall of Fame and any religious institution seem like peas in a pod is their non-profit status.  What does this mean?  Basically it means that they have no true owners so the people who head the non-profit institution are not making a profit.  So now that I see this one attribute that connects the Catholic Church and the Pro Football HOF.  Where does all the money go?  I know that the Catholic Church helps many people with donations and with services so their money collection and where it goes makes sense most of the time.  Now the Pro Football HOF is another question and my next book!  That will probably be called Touch Down Jesus II.

The Catholic Church as a whole has 271,602 churches worldwide with 20,000 of these churches in the United States.  There are 70,412,021 registered Catholics in the U.S.  That actually means that there are most likely 72,000,000 million Catholics in the United States.  The extra two million are the unregistered Catholics that appear at Christmas and Easter and are the sitters in the main church who arrive an hour before mass to sit with every member of their family thus making my family sit in the adjacent building for church overflow.  I have never sat in the main church for either of these masses because I choose not to put myself in the position of fighting for any pews to sit in whether they be in the back or in the front.  We always sit in the other building and guess what other people who show up twice a year?  We get out before you because our communion line is shorter!

As I now look at these numbers I have solved the Catholic Church’s problem in attaining money.  It simply needs to ask every registered Catholic to send in one dollar and there is $70,412,021.00 yearly.  I  think that everyone would donate their dollar easily every year.  Why haven’t they thought of this yet?  Is is too simple to ask?  They could ask for that one dollar but I know that there would be the Harvard economics whiz on the church board who would then add that we might as well ask for any other monetary donation that the tither would see fit to give.  Man, the Harvard whiz just killed my one dollar idea and now as is common in most Catholic churches, you give what you can and what your heart and conscious tells you to give.  I still like the one dollar yearly for a starter fund.

So if you are not Catholic let’s tell you all about how the Catholic Church collects money.  First they collect weekly at all of the weekend masses.  If you are registered at the church where you always attend they will send you mass collection envelopes that are highly decorated.  Some are decorated so that you can clearly see that the envelope with the Christmas poinsettia is for the Christmas mass.  Some envelopes have scenes on them though that really confuse the giver and some envelopes I have noticed are for the extra giving days that may have a missionary from another country and or group that is also asking for money for their efforts of help.  When your monthly envelope pack comes in the mail for a two month cycle it should have about 10 envelopes correct?  Mine has about 25.  I will be honest I look through the envelopes and decide which I will be using.  I wonder if there is anyone out there that always uses all of their envelopes?  Please get in touch with me if you do!

So the church collects at each mass and they do this with baskets that are passed down the row and each person either drops their church envelope into the basket or they may choose to drop loose bills into that basket for collection.  It is kind of like the hot potato game in that if you do not add to the collection when the basket comes your way you pass the basket on quite quickly.  If you are making an offering then you can take 2-4 seconds longer to place that offering in the basket making sure that you allow everyone to know that yes I’m giving this Sunday, are you?  As you read this you should also realize that if you do attend a Catholic mass you do watch who puts in on that day and who doesn’t, you are tracking that basket.  Next time that you go to mass try not to watch, its a hard job.

When I was a kid the ushers had baskets on a stick.  They would go to each pew and would slide the basket down so that if you were giving money you just dropped it in as the basket on a stick went on by you.  I always was waiting for an usher to hit someone in the head with the basket on a stick move.  I’m sure it had to happen at some time.  Sadly I never got to see that spectacle.  The baskets on a stick were replaced by regular baskets and the collision basket happening was taken from ever being checked off on my personal bucket list.

Another money collection activity has been added in addition to the basket pass it down collection at weekend masses.  When the baskets are being passed to the adults, the smaller children are given money to personally take up onto the altar in front of the priest who is serving that mass.  The kids wander up, they usually give the priest a hug, they throw the money into that basket and then they try to find their way back to their parents.  I have seen kids get lost and their parents have to retrieve them.  The kids are cute going up to the altar and the best is when the animated kid jumps off of those altar stairs to return to their pew.  I’m waiting for a kid to get hurt doing this and then this form of money collection will be stopped. Well, it will either be stopped or collection helmets will be sold.  There is another money collection idea!

When you are a kid and the money basket goes by you, you cannot help yourself at looking into the basket to see how much money has been collected.  I remember looking at how much money was collected as I sat in the middle pews with my family, to me it was a lot.  Now that I write this, I can only imagine how much money was in the basket as it hit that back pew!  I wonder of it ever overflowed and had to be emptied before everyone gave?  I will never know this unless I can find a chronic back row kid sitter from St. Joan of Arc.

My favorite collection story is from my friend who lives in Findlay, Ohio and goes to St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church.  Dana’s youngest child Abby was always inquisitive and was ahead of her time when it came to understanding and in thinking beyond her years.  I remember being at their house before Christmas when Abby was about 5 years old.  I wanted gift ideas from Abby so that I could get her a Christmas present that she would really want.  I asked her and her answer was, “I want boobies for Christmas.”  We all laughed because we all were sure that Abby was just being funny.  “NOPE!”, came the comment from Dana, “thats all she has really been asking for!.”  I tell this story to lay the way of how this curly red headed girl reacted to situations.  I told you, she was ahead of her age group.  Abby was always a character and this attitude was also maintained in the church environment.  Dana tells the story of how Abby, while sitting on her dad’s lap while he had fallen asleep in church was waiving her hand in front of his face to check for life.  With everyone looking, Abby kept on testing her dad.  Is he sleeping?  Let me put my hand in front of his face.  No movement.  Let me put my fingers under his nose.  Yep, we’ve got air movement.  So now that you know Abby, you can envision her bouncy walk up to the altar to give money for a Sunday kids collection.  One Sunday Dana gave her a five dollar bill to take to the altar collection basket. Dana remembers Abby looking at the five as though they were allowing her to give their entire lunch money savings for this weeks offering.  Five dollars even ten years ago was a lot of money to a five year old.  Abby went up to the altar, its a straight shot down the aisle at St. Michaels, and Dana sees her up there with the other kids.  Abby returns to their pew without the usage of a map or GPS and Dana tells Abby that she did a good thing giving money to Jesus.  Abby responds with a hand out and says, “Here, I got you change!”.  She handed Dana 2 ones and a quarter.  She was used to her mom giving her one dollar to take up.  Abby was also good at math and counting money at her age!

Money.  You go to church and they collect it.  They put it to good use.  Then you go and work in a Catholic school and your whole conception of money collection processes takes a sharp right turn.

I never attended a Catholic school so I was not used to all of the money collection opportunities given when you are part of a Catholic school.  There are your regular fund raising opportunities that all schools have.  Who out there never sold wrapping paper or popcorn to raise money for their school?  We all at some point were asked to sell items and then we could have a chance of being the high seller and then we won a prize of the cheapest local pizza to share with our friends who sold nothing.  I’ll admit it.  I never sold anything other than the items that my own parents bought.  Once again, just ask each student’s parents to chip in maybe five dollars and we wouldn’t have had to send kids out to peddle wrapping paper.

In the Catholic School setting I do not think that one week of school goes by where some sort of money collection is not in the mix of the actual learning at school.  At the schools in which I have taught they had T-shirt sales for special days like the Halloween festival, the parents volleyball tournament, the 8th grade students special t-shirt, the Christmas pageant shirt, and the field day t-shirt.  I have a lot of t-shirts!  Then we also threw in days where the kids paid to not wear their uniforms.  Untuck for a Buck!  Ok so you bring in one dollar and its a day free of plaid.  Good way to raise money but that title is a trick!  It’s not just a buck to untuck your uniform shirt, no!  You can pay another buck to wear a non-uniform shirt.  Another buck allows you to wear crazy socks.  White daily socks ARE boring.  No belt for the day, add another buck.  Want to wear jeans?  Hold on to your wallets, that costs five bucks.  I have helped collect for this Untuck for a Buck day which happens maybe once a month.  Kids bring in baggies of money.  They follow the “buck list” to a T.   As teachers we had the job of making sure that what the student had on and if the student paid that they had the right clothes on or if they were still in their uniform.  Do you think that I had the time for this?  No, I wasn’t going to pay to go to work to get paid.  Really, read that last sentence to yourself again.  It does make sense.

The best money maker during the school year in the diocese where I worked in the Houston area is the Steps for Students money drive.  The money that is collected is to go to each school that participates.  Students sign up people who will donate to them for their school when they run or walk a 5K.  This sort of collection is common for a lot of places that want to raise money.  Last year they raised over one million dollars.  People are very giving and they are very giving of their money towards Catholic education.  Here is the best part of when you sign up for Steps for Students.  I will say that someone creative is in the mix to get to that million dollar goal.  First as a teacher I had to sign up and to do this I had to pay ten dollars.  Ok, so I work for them and I would collect for this event but first I myself who was part of the collection had to donate ten dollars.  Second, the event is held on a Saturday morning, early morning that is and you have the choice to “Hit a Snooze button” when you signed up if you were going to collect money to “run or walk” the 5K but knew that you were going to actually get up to go the distance to collect money from your donators who truly thought that you had it in you to run and or walk a 5K.  Genius idea I tell you!  Tell people that you are going to push yourself to go the distance for education and then just hit that button to snooze your Saturday away but you still get the donations.  Go fund me!!!!!

The Catholic Church is said to be one of the wealthiest churches in our world.  They want to have Catholic schools to spread our beliefs.  I have worked in a Catholic school and believe me when I say that I did not work there for the amount of salary that I was given and that is fine.  I did not choose to work in a Catholic school setting to become a millionaire.  My one problem is that the Catholic Church wants to have schools, parents pay tuition but still there is never enough money to properly equip the school.  Collect that dollar from all of the registered Catholics and maybe we could have that money go to purchasing up to date books and technology like the public schools and other private schools out there have.  I do not understand wanting a school and or a business and then not having the money to build and maintain your investment.  Its like the NFL.  Owners own the team and then expect citizens fo build the stadium for them.   (Can you tell that I am a Cleveland Browns fan?)   I really need to come up with my business plan where everyone gives me money to build my dream.  Maybe I should start a collection?!

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