Here at the Provincial Office it has become very well known who are the two parishes that give the most every year to help the Province financially. We never cease to be amazed that although St George, Ontario, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Ontario, are not the most wealthy of our 20 Province parishes—especially Guadalupe which is 100% Latino—they consistently contribute the most to our dwindling Province coffers. I had to ask myself, ‘What is their secret?’ Overwhelmed by curiosity, I went out to Ontario this past week to pay them an informal visit.
The last time I visited St George’s was about one year ago, so the first thing I noticed, as I stood in the kitchen waiting for Fr Trung Mai to prepare his special blend of coffee for me, was all the changes that had been made. They had been making major renovations of the house that included an all new kitchen, and new water pipes throughout the house, and Fr Trung Mai kept pointing to the ceilings and walls showing me the renovations that still have to be made. I could see that this was no small job and probably a big burden for the parish especially in Covid time, so I asked how he could manage all the renovations. He explained that although the congregation numbers have been down throughout the Covid time the people didn’t stop giving.
‘If they were not coming to Mass, how did you manage to get the donations,’ I asked. It was then that he brought out the special St George’s weekly donation envelope, saying, ‘The people are very generous in spite of Covid and they give from their hearts. They use this envelope.’
I knew that St George’s was one of the parishes that regularly did the Province appeal and was amazed how they could manage the appeal with all the expenses of the parish. So I said that many of our SVD pastors do not do the SVD appeal because the people are suffering, and they don’t have money, and the numbers are down, and there are so many other special appeals of the diocese that they feel they simply cant impose an extra burden on them. His response was simple and straight to the point. ‘The diocese approves of it and encourages it just as much as the other appeals. Furthermore, the people want to join in our mission efforts and we owe it to them. They are happy to give to our mission because they appreciate us; they see something special in us—we take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience unlike the other priests of the diocese. They know our hearts are with the poor. We also owe it to ourselves—is the worker not worthy of his hire? We try not to have two appeals in one month and are planning our next appeal in November after the Mission appeal in October.’
Then Fr Hien spoke up explaining the other reason why they are able to contribute so much to the Province. ‘It is due to our multi-lingual (English, Vietnamese, and Spanish) Mass intentions envelope,’ he said. He then showed me the envelope. ‘We have a box outside and the people put their intentions on the envelope and place it together with their contribution in the box. Before the Sunday Masses we put out a table in front of the church with the envelopes on it. The ushers pass them out to the people urging them to make use of them. Every day I collect dozens of envelopes. The people put in $10, $20, and sometimes even $50 dollars.’
‘But that is not all,’ said Fr Hien. ‘We also offer them the Perpetual Mission Mass League folders. We have them in Vietnamese and English and soon Fr Long will prepare one in Spanish. The people love them for funerals. They would rather purchase perpetual masses for their deceased loved one than flowers. Flowers are there to make us happy; but the Masses make the deceased happy. What is more important?
Soon it was lunch time and Fr Hien, Fr Briccio and I went around the corner to Gloria’s Cocina Mexicana for a wonderful lunch. Fr Trung Mai couldn’t join us because he was still taking the Fire Inspectors around to test all the extinguishers and spray fixtures knowing that getting the approval for another year would be another big expense. I couldn’t help but think how blessed we are knowing that, in spite of all these expenses, God (and his people) do provide.
– Jon P Kirby SVD