November 13, 2013

Macomb County parish retires debt then launches successful campaign

St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish exterior

The $2.5 million debt incurred in building the church at St. Jane Frances Parish in Sterling Heights was retired in 2011. Photo courtesy St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish

Some might characterize it as too much too soon for a parish that had just paid off a $2.5 million church construction debt to launch a capital campaign amid a recessionary economy in a community where 70 percent of the workforce is connected to the auto industry. The pastor and lay leadership at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish in Sterling Heights thought otherwise and forged ahead with a campaign two years ago, receiving more than $570,000 in parishioner pledges through Changing Lives Together for major repairs and upgrades to the church building and other parish properties. The parish recently replaced its solitary, 30 year-old heating and cooling system with multiple programmable energy-efficient systems that will soon result in lower heating bills as the cold weather arrives.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish construction

The parish hall building was the first facility constructed by St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish. Built in 1979, the parish hall provided worship space until the church was built and dedicated in 2000. Photo courtesy St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish.

“I look back on it now and I’m amazed we were able to do it,” recalled Rev. Jerome Slowinski, pastor at St. Jane Frances de Chantal since 2005. “We’ve had a tradition of being open with parish finances and trends,” he explained. “We’ve tried to be good stewards of our facilities and I think the faithful expressed their trust and support of these efforts through their pledges to our campaign.”

The buildings at St. Jane Frances were constructed in phases upon the founding of the parish in 1977, with the parish hall built first and used as temporary worship space. The church was built and dedicated 13 years ago, made possible by $2.5 million in financing from the archdiocesan Loan Deposit Program. The parish never missed a payment and retired the debt four months early in 2011. Not long after, Father Slowinski and his lay leaders decided to join an early group of parishes launching Changing Lives Together campaigns.

“We felt parishioners would understand the need to protect and preserve what we have worked so hard to build,” said Father Slowinski. “We put it in the context of how homeowners manage their finances and care for their property – even if you’re blessed with being current on your mortgage, you still have to be mindful of replacing big ticket items like the furnace and roof while you budget for the routine maintenance,” he added. “That resonated with our parishioners, especially because they knew what we had been budgeting for repairs and maintenance over the years.”

St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish chairs

Robert Skwara (left) and Deborah Coomes (center) led the Changing Lives Together campaign at St. Jane Frances. Father Slowinski is at right. Photo courtesy St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish.

A “state of the parish” summary of financial reports and other trends is regularly published in the St. Jane Frances bulletin, this year’s edition appearing in the October 26-27 edition. “We’ve gone from about 1,800 families five years ago to approximately 1,500 as the population in Sterling Heights has changed and people have left the area because of the economy,” said Father Slowinski.  “Our parishioners know how we’re adjusting to those numbers and realize the importance of evangelization and a personal commitment to the parish.”

Beyond the $76,161 allocated for the heating and cooling system replacement, the parish is being careful with the future use of its campaign proceeds. “We want our focus to be on the sacramental and ministerial involvement of the faithful, and we don’t want building maintenance or repair issues to distract from that,” explained Father Slowinski. “We want to ensure we budget properly for facilities maintenance, we’ll use our parish savings to pay for minor and ongoing repairs, and we’ll use the Changing Lives Together funds for major projects,” he explained.  While campaign funds paid for the new heating and cooling system, funds from parish savings were used to lower the ceiling in the parish hall and to install new lighting to save on long-term costs. “We don’t anticipate any new building projects for the foreseeable future,” said Father Slowinski. “And we have what we’ll need for the repair and replacement projects ahead.”

Updated November 2013

 Changing Lives Together at
St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Pastor: Rev. Jerome Slowinski
Parish founded: 1977
Registered households: 1,500
Campaign launch: October 2011
Parish Goal: $674,487
Pledged: $570,220

Parish priorities:

  • New HVAC systems
  • Replace parish hall roof
  • Repave parking lot
  • Paint church interior
  • Replace church hall doors