Saturday, 6 April 2019

Sharing Poverty

Father Frederic from Bishop’s House was due to visit St Vincent Church later in the day. He was sent by the Bishop to discuss church funds at St Vincent, or more precisely, why the church’s contribution to the Bishop’s Fund has decreased over the past year.

Father Ignatius knew all too well why his contribution to the Bishop’s Fund had decreased. They were in the middle of a severe recession. This particular town had been hit harder than most with business closures, bankruptcies and redundancies. Most of his parishioners were poor and looking for work. The Sunday collection had been getting less and less every week.

“But try telling that to a young priest fresh from College!” thought Father Ignatius.

Father Frederic had graduated as an accountant before becoming a priest; and the Bishop knew too well how to use his talents with figures.

He sent him round to all Parishes to “help improve their finances” and to encourage them to increase their annual contributions to the Bishop’s Fund.

Early on the day that Father Frederic was due to visit, Father Ignatius got in his office and waited for the Parish Treasurer to arrive.

“Have you got the map?” the priest asked Kim, the volunteer treasurer, as she entered the room.

She nodded as she unfolded a large map of the town which she pinned on a large board the priest had acquired for the purpose.

Father Ignatius pulled out four boxes of pins from his desk drawer; some with red colored heads, some blue, some green and some yellow.

He consulted the Parish Records and placed various pins on the map. Kim sat in the armchair silently until he finished. She was about to ask a question when Father Frederic was brought in by Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper.

After the introductions and coffee had been served, Father Frederic looked at the map with all the colored pins and said, “That’s impressive Ignatius. What do these pins represent?”

“Oh well … you see …” mumbled Father Ignatius politely, “Kim and I were analyzing the breakdown of our parishioners’ propensity to consume according to income just as you came in … and from that we could deduce their ability to contribute to church funds …”

Kim raised an eyebrow, not understanding a word Father Ignatius had said.

Father Frederic nodded knowledgeably and said, “That’s very useful … we could use such a system in other Parishes. Show me how it works …”

“Ehm … well, this is a map of the whole town and surrounding countryside,” explained Father Ignatius.

“These red pins all over here represent parishioners who are either out of work, or in very poorly paid jobs … you see how they’re all in the poorer inner city areas where business closures have been particularly prevalent! Sadly, they form the majority of our parishioners, and although many of them do contribute generously to the Sunday collections and other appeals there’s a limit to how much they can donate!”

“Quite so …” said the young priest, “what about the blue pins?”

“Well … they’re middle income families. Office managers, shopkeepers, factory supervisors … that sort of thing … we have a few of those in the Parish and they contribute to the church and the local Catholic schools were they send their children. There’s a limit to how much we can ask of them since they would reduce their donations to the schools to increase ours. Can’t serve two masters you understand …”

“Indeed … yes indeed …” agreed Father Frederic.

Encouraged by his visitor’s enthusiasm Father Ignatius went on.

“Now these green pins … they represent the countryside. You’ll note there’s much fewer of them and they’re all out of town. They are Catholic farmers in the main who not only donate generously financially but also in kind. Many of them donate food and produce from their farms, which is distributed by the St Vincent Society amongst poor parishioners.”

“That’s admirable Ignatius … admirable” nodded Father Frederic.

“And as you may have guessed Father,” Father Ignatius continued, “the yellow pins represent those parishioners who are helped by the church. They are recipients of our generosity rather than contributors.

“Now … would you like to see our weekly accounts of Sunday collections, and how the money is used? Kim here has prepared all the books for you to examine.”

“No that is not necessary …” said Father Frederic, “I’m in a bit of a hurry and have to visit another Parish. This is splendid Ignatius. I’ll explain to the Bishop and he’ll be most impressed ….”

After the visiting priest had left Kim spoke for the first time.

“This map Father,” she said, “and all those pins … does every pin represent a parishioner in St Vincent?”

“Of course not …” replied Father Ignatius with a smile, “I couldn’t possibly remember every parishioner and their personal circumstances and pin them on the board just a few minutes before he arrived …

“I just put a few red pins in the poor area of town. And a few green ones in the countryside … and the others I spattered here and there …

“I’ve met these young enthusiastic priests before, eager to impress the Bishop. Just show them a map with a few colored pins and they’re most impressed at your efficiency and grasp of the situation.

“Strictly speaking, what I said is correct. We have more poor people in this Parish than those able to contribute to our funds.

“If I’d said that, Father Frederic would have asked more questions and wanted more details. But show him a few colored pins on a board and he’s as happy as a child with a new toy!

“I’m far too busy looking after my parishioners, and I prefer to help them in their difficult lives rather than squeeze a few more pennies out of them.”

Father Ignatius paused for a moment or two as he took off all the pins and returned the map to Kim.

“I wonder if our Lord had a board and pins when He helped the poor and the sick …” he asked.

18 comments:

  1. What an inspired idea! However, I wonder if it would still work today, in the Internet age where things are so much more easily quantified.

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    1. I agree Kathy. The Fr Ignatius stories are set in the late 1950s to 1960s in a Northern town in England, well before computers were invented.

      God bless you.

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  2. To answer your question, probably not, but I'm sure He knew all the answers anyway.

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    1. Indeed Terri. Jesus knew peoples' needs before they even asked Him.

      God bless.

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  3. Father Ignatius certainly pegged Fr. Frederic! Having worked for CPA's for many years, I had to chuckle at Ignatius' insight!

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    1. Accountants are the same the world over. I have known a few who can brighten up a place by leaving it.

      God bless you, Mevely.

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  4. I suspect there's a balance between 'by the numbers' and - - - 'by the seat of the pants? - - - administration.

    Fr. Ignatius' 'pins' metaphor is a good point. (ouch. I'll let that stand.)

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    1. Quite right, Brian. When helping the poor it takes more than just being a good accountant.

      God bless you.

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  5. I don't think the Lord needs any pins. He knows we all need some kind of help and assistance to get through this life.
    Good post, Victor!

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    1. You're so right, Bill. Christ knows our needs before we even ask Him.

      God bless you always and your family.

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  6. Love Fr. Ignatius' ingenuity and creativity, Victor. Thanks for blessing us all with another one of his stories.
    Blessings!

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    1. Thank you Martha. This story will be in my next book. It's a new venture I am toying with in my mind. Somehow, it is taking longer to write than my other books.

      God bless you my friend.

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  7. Wonderfully told Victor...the truth with a little help from some colored pins without numbers and figures.
    This is inspirational!

    God's Blessings Victor ✝

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    1. Thank you Jan. Sometimes, some graphics can explain a difficult situation clearly.

      God bless you always.

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  8. Sorry Victor, this comment of mine may be slightly off topic, but when I saw your post title 'Sharing Poverty', I immediately thought of the current need to help others.

    Food banks and now even baby banks have been so much in the news. Poverty is affecting so many more people not only in the UK but world-wide. I see collection boxes and am happy to donate some items. Friends of mine from the local church help out at a local food bank and the demand seems to be on the increase...

    Prayers for all those in need.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Although the Father Ignatius stories and books are set in the late 1950s - 1960s in Northern England, this story is inspired by the current poverty situation in the UK and elsewhere. I have been involved with the Food Bank through our church and other groups like the St Vincent de Paul society.

      I join you in prayers, Jan. God bless you.

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