Thursday, March 20, 2014

A REQUEST TO THE ARCHDIOCESE OF AGANA FOR FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY

Note: I received this letter with the question of whether or not it should just be sent to Archbishop Apuron or posted on this blog. Since the letter addresses many of the concerns already posted on this blog, I recommended that it be shared here on behalf of everyone. I also had some questions as to whether the author was using a pseudonym or his real name, so I decided to redact the name of the sender, especially since the letter already speaks for so many. The letter makes several points which will be extracted in a later post so that the inquiries into financial accountability can be enumerated more clearly. Here is the letter (emphases mine):

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Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron
Most Reverend Archbishop of Agana
Agana, Guam

Your Excellency:

My family has long supported the Church through our stewardship offerings of time, talent, and treasures. Our family has always supported the church, and my parents were an example of faith in action through their generosity.
While I have been aware of some of the issues raised in the media since July, 2013, I have tried to stay away from those issues, trusting that God will guide His church. Matters of ritual adherence and questions of parish unity do not directly concern me, as I know there are those who will decide on these. However, there has been quite a lot of discussion on fiscal responsibility, and I have not seen any clarification to questions asked, and accusations made. I am very deeply committed to helping the Church, but at the same time I am deeply concerned whether my funds are being used as stated.

While I do not speak for the people of Guam, I have been asked to speak on behalf of my family to clarify some issues we are concerned with. Once these are answered, our family will again meet to go over these issues to determine to what level we are to support the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal. All of my questions pertain to the information released to the faithful in the March 2 edition of the U Matuna Si Yu’os on pages 8 and 9.

Q&A #2 clarifies the difference between the “AAA” and the monthly parish assessment. While we have seen an annual reporting of how much is collected from the “AAA” we have never seen how much money has been received by the Archdiocese from the monthly parish assessment. We would like to know how much has been collected in total per year for each of the last five years. We do not need a breakdown by parish, but it would be good to see how parish contributions track between monthly assessments and the annual appeal. Open accountability will certainly help to restore confidence in my family on the needs of the Church, based on an overall picture of Church revenues. Many others on Guam probably feel the same way.

However, this would only provide half the picture for the Archdiocese. An annual financial reporting from the Archdiocese would help us to understand the needs of the Church and highlight the areas of focus by the Church. One of my sisters and quite a few of my cousins live in the Bay Area, and every year the Archbishop of San Francisco publishes a very detailed annual report, 23 pages for 2013. Other dioceses do the same, and it would also help us to see the needs of the Church so we can determine how best to help. I attended the stewardship conference a few years back, and the gentleman from North Carolina, Jim Kelley, stressed the importance of accountability for the growth and success of an annual appeal.

Q&A #3 shows the average CCA collection for the past 10 years is just over $102,000, yet the goal this year has swollen to $253,000 per Q&A #4. This raises several questions, first of which is what has changed from prior years that 2014 will need so much more money. The uses seem fairly consistent with prior years: to cover the seminary, to cover chaplains, to cover miscellaneous items. Why has the need grown by 250% this year?

Since it is obvious the attainment of such a lofty goal is unlikely, what will happen if the goal is not reached? Some have heard that parishes will be required to make up any shortfall from their individual goal, to come from normal parish operating funds. While I do not see that in the two page discussion I would like that particular question to be clarified. Q&A #3 does state all contributions are voluntary, but it does not clarify what will happen to the parish if they fall short of their elevated goal. My family is active in many parishes throughout Guam and we are deeply concerned with the impact this huge goal could have on the fragile welfare of our parishes.

The next question is if parishes are not required to make up the shortfall of their goal, how will the Archdiocese make ends meet? Will they cut chaplain and seminary funding, or will they terminate other programs? If other programs are sacrificed, which ones will suffer cuts?

Regarding the amounts going to various needs, the item “Clergy Support” is odd because it is so small, just $6,600 per year. What is this amount for?

The amount for Chaplains seem very high. A friend who works at Naval Hospital advises that they pay the Archdiocese more than $75,000 per year for chaplain services provided for at USNH. So that, in addition to the $73,300 listed in your Q&A means that three chaplains cost the Archdiocese nearly $150,000 per year. Can you please explain what costs require such a high funding level from the AAA? We understand the monthly stipend of $1,000 per priest, plus the $500 monthly housing expense paid to parishes, and medical insurance. That accounts for about $72,000 for the three priests, but where does the additional $78,000 in AAA needs arise from? Also, is it possible to get GMH and DOC to pay their fair share of services you provide to them?

Lastly, we are troubled by the amount going to the seminary. The amount seems much higher than previous years. And since the funding of seminarians takes a full two-thirds of the AAA budget, it would be good for us and the people of Guam to see a budget for the seminary. Where do funds come from and where is money being spent? A budget for 2014 with a comparison to the 2013 budget would be of great help, and also a statement of actual income and expenses for the past two years would certainly provide for good accountability and open governance.

I am a bit confused with Q&A #5. It states that “both seminaries train men…”. It was always our understanding, since the formation of the second seminary, that the seminary was merely where a person resides, and the institute is where men are trained. Thus, the RMS Seminary has a rector, Fr Pablo, while the Blessed Diego Institute has a Dean of Studies, Mgr. David C Quitugua. Can you please clarify if our understanding is incorrect.

Q&A #5 further says that there are 39 seminarians at RMS Yona, but that 10 of these will not “belong” to our Archdiocese, but are being formed for service to their bishops in Samoa, Texas, and Kiribati. Since AAA will cover 10% of the cost of our seminarians that means it costs $980,000 per year to train 29 men, or nearly $34,000 per student. Can you confirm this? We may consider giving a scholarship to selected seminarians. Will that be possible?

Q&A #5 also says that the other 10 seminarians from other diocese are paid for by their bishops. Can you please advise how many dollars were received in 2013 for their formation? On a related note, do the families and parish communities of the seminarians coming to Guam from foreign lands pay an amount for the cost of their training? If so, how much was collected in 2013 for these men?

Q&A #5 says that one seminarian is in Malojloj, and the cost for that one seminarian is $66,000 per year. That is more than $180 per night for housing. Since the seminary is only where one resides, why does it cost $66,000 per year to house this one person? Would our money be better spent if he stayed in Yona where the building is completely paid for? Also, isn’t the seminary in Malojloj also completely paid for? This seems like an unreasonable expense for us to bear. A hotel room every night of the year would be far cheaper than this seminary. You pay parishes $500 for Chaplains who live “in-residence” in parish housing, why not find a parish for the one seminarian to live in? We request to see the budget for the $66,000 for this one seminarian.

In summary, we have requested for financial information that is common and ordinary for Catholic dioceses to provide to the faithful. I am certain that other parishioners praying over this AAA 2014 appeal would also appreciate this accountability and openness by yourself. We are prompted because of the huge increase in the AAA 2014 goal, and several apparent inconsistencies of the Q&A in this past Sunday’s U Matuna. Budgets and income statements will clarify some of the questions we have, but we also request for a direct response to all the questions contained in the above paragraphs.

Our family wishes to continue supporting the Church to the greatest extent possible. However, we need to clarify these items before moving forward. I am certain many other families on Guam will want to have the same questions answered before they determine the level of support they can provide. After all, it is but one of many causes that seek our hard earned money. Going back many years, the CCA was always a Lenten appeal, and we have always kept that tradition, even though the Guam Church has recently extended the appeal until Pentecost. In order for us to keep the Lenten timetable, we request to hear back from you by  March 21 so we have time to bring the family together during this holy season and gather the agreed upon offering.

Thanking you for a direct response to this matter and may God bless you.

[Name redacted]

My note: I received this letter in early March, thus the request for the Archbishop to answer by March 21. I held it back for my own reasons. But regardless of the deadline date, it is never too late for the Archbishop to answer these questions. It is time!

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