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COVID takes heavy toll on Missions

  • July 30, 2020

Fr. David Reilander spent the early days of the COVD-19 shutdown alongside Catholic Missions In Canada’s financial and administration director Lina Kim diagnosing the potential impacts the pandemic would have on its operations.

Reilander and Kim pondered the damage to Catholic Missions’ ability to fundraise and raise awareness for its mandate to bring the Good News to poor and remote Canadian communities, with a particular emphasis on First Nation reserves, as parishes across the nation were closed down. They also contemplated how the virus would take a heavy financial toll on the roughly 10,000 reliable donors of the non-profit organization.

“As the weeks passed we began to realize that this would be a long-term issue,” said Reilander, president of Catholic Missions In Canada. “We began to worry about what would happen to our revenues. In April, we had our annual general meeting and the board of directors looked at the numbers we presented and decided we needed to cut back on the grants that were allocated and limit disbursement to one area only, which is missionary sustenance.”

About 600 missionaries are financially supported each year by Catholic Missions. Historically, about $4 million is budgeted for this. Kim said $4.7 million was originally targeted this year for mission communities, but $1.4 million has been pulled from that total to help navigate the uncertain months ahead.

The cancellation of the annual Taste of Heaven Gala in late April represented the first major blow to Catholic Missions’ fundraising efforts. Kim expected the Toronto celebration featuring Italian cuisine, entertainment and a silent auction would raise approximately $250,000, specifically for its goal to rebuild St. Francis Xavier Church in Attawapiskat, Ont.

While $155,000 of the $250,000 was lost, Reilander and Kim are grateful for the sponsors and ticket buyers who insisted Catholic Missions keep their money.

“We were very willing to offer a refund, but they were very willing to donate,” said Kim.

Reilander and Kim say the fall and winter months will provide a better snapshot of the economic impact of COVID-19 as the revenue-generating potential is higher during those months than the opportunities available during the summer. Catholic Missions accrues approximately $850,000 from diocesan collections, with 40 per cent of the organization’s revenue in November, December and January coming from church baskets.

But with dioceses struggling themselves in the face of the pandemic, those numbers are expected to fall.

Reilander expects he might not be invited to speak and make monetary appeals in parishes because of the current economic climate.

“In terms of our fundraising and awareness campaigns, when I go out on weekends to preach, no one’s going to want me to come as pastors won’t want money going out of the parishes because they’re hurting so badly and bishops won’t want me coming because the dioceses are hurting so much also,” he said.

“When we can’t get out to fundraise, people can forget about us and we don’t reach new people.”

While hoping for an uptick in fortunes, Reilander says the organization endeavours to remain compassionate about the difficulties their donors face.

Aside from making individual calls to benefactors, Catholic Missions is hoping the fall edition of its quarterly magazine will inspire some donations.

A financial update will be provided to the board in August for 2021. It could lead again to only sustaining missionaries.

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