Saint Miriam is Closing!

At least that is the rumor I came home to after my annual week away. Well, that one and several others. It always amazes me how fast false news travels. It surpasses bad news at twice the speed of sound within a parish and is often made up out of whole cloth! The worst part of rumors is not their falsity, but rather how much they hurt the fabric of who we are and what we have created; and, how deeply offensive they are to those who sacrifice so much to build and maintain this wonderful parish. So, let me be direct: this is perhaps one of the stupidest rumors I have ever heard in my almost ten years as your pastor. No, Saint Miriam is not for sale. Yes, I am tired and the past few months of construction and water damage and planning have made me a bit tired (and at times, cranky, admittedly, too) but no, I am not leaving as pastor. And yes, I am human and deserve your support, not your rumors.
If you would define a pastor using words, they would likely include leader, spiritual guide, chief executive, confidant, administrator, confessor, preacher and many more. I, however, have also learned that those who hold this sacred post are also kind of like your dad, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy all rolled into one: we always find out what you think and say, even when you believe we will never find out; and that includes rumors!
Part of my job as pastor is to correct wrong or hurtful spiritual and community behavior, so let me use this time to address rumors. Rumors are destructive at their core. They offer no support to the overall mission of an entity, they are based on personal observations absent fact, and tear at the fabric of an organization. They also go against others, are hurtful, and make a parish someplace that no one wants to go to; they can actually ruin parish life. Rumors also triangulate others. Rather than going to see the person we are having an issue with directly, or finding out facts, we create rumors and place our own spin on them and then pull in others to play along. In the end, this hurts everyone, breaks confidences, causes people not to trust you, and is against the Saint Miriam Covenant  we all agree to abide by to make us healthier and stronger. So, let me use this forum to fix the rumor mill one more time and to get us all back on track.
First, I realize there is a lot going on. We are under construction for our new Friary Rectory and we are repairing water damage, installing a new fence, and upgrading handicap entrances and restrooms, too. We are preparing for the fall, our final changes to our liturgy with the Mass of St. Francis, the additions to Small Groups, and the Saint Miriam Café updates, too! A few new students will begin their journey to study for the deaconate, a revamped PREP/CCD program and revitalized preschool begins. We also welcomed recently our new Associate Pastor, Father John, who is finding his ‘sea legs’ again with us! It is a busy place and we all should be very excited and pull together. Instead, last Sunday, in my absence while trying to find some rest, the rumor mill was brewing that we were closing, which I have now addressed, and these next few surfaced, too. Perhaps the most hurtful was that I did not deserve a vacation, and that my new car and the statue for the Friary that I purchased was evidence that I ‘cry poor’ but live well, and that they would not, therefore, support the parish building project with their donation. 
So, I will state this very publically, I know who made these comments and they are hurtful, not only to the community, but more so to me as a priest, your pastor, and someone who sacrifices more that you will ever know to keep us alive and well. I do not deserve the rumors and I resent them. I am hurt. With that said, I offer my forgiveness and my ear; my door is open should you decide to come and sit and restore our fellowship.
My replies to the recent spate of rumors:
The parish is closing: false, answered above.
My new car: I pay for my own car. I lease it and keep my budget to under $390 a month. I use that car to safely travel to weddings, funerals, etc. that benefits the parish. I lease new every 36 months so that I have no unexpected expenses because, while you think I cry poor, I am on a tight budget and could not afford a major repair. Last year, my car was used to travel almost 12,000 miles for parish business; on a 15,000 mile a year lease, it is almost all about the parish, just like my life.
Vacation: I take one week a year. I deserve it. I should probably take more time! This year’s vacation was paid for by my mother. Please go see her and tell her how ashamed you are that she afforded me time off.
Napkins: Apparently my authorizing the purchase of napkins with the Café logo has once again proven to be abut of an issue. I purchased 5,000 personalized napkins for a total cost of $421.95 with shipping (less than .084 each), and when you do that quantity the logo is FREE, and the company also gives us 10% off for being a non-profit. These napkins last approximately 14-15 months. That saves us from worrying about inventory, running to the store and purchasing at full retail, wear and tear and gas on someone’s vehicle, prevents us from running out unexpectedly, and gives us branding (by way of marketing), and a superior product. But, perhaps the most egregious part of this rumor is that the person failed to know that we also receive a donation of $400 a year from a patron to offset this cost so our total expense was $21.95. (By the way, we purchase over $200 in toilet paper and another $240 in paper towels and not a word is said. Why would these napkins be such an issue?)
Statue:Yes, I purchased a St Francis Statue for the Friary. Total cost was $225.68, minus my gift card from my anniversary that made the new total $185.68, and the total charge is on my Discover Card. I bought it, not the parish.
In the end, for those who think what I give, my personal sacrifices, and how I support or how I lead is not good enough and not deriving of your respect and donation, you may write to request my removal directly to Bishop Gregory. I will honor your voice; I expect nothing less because I earned that much.
Folks, these examples should make us all take note on how wrong it is to give in to our own brokenness and spread falsities around this beautiful parish. It takes me away from my spiritual work that is greatly needed, and it is a disservice…to me, to our ministry team, to one another, our visitors, but mostly to God who sees even more than I do as a pastor. 
Please stop it. This is not Saint Miriam.

One Response to “Saint Miriam is Closing!”

  1. Bp. Mel says:

    Rumors kill the spirit, and many times the life of a parish. Obviously someone has way too much time on their hands. Or are secretly jealous of what God is doing in your parish through you, and others who serve God there. What you do, Msgr. Jim, for the parish and others, puts me to shame. May God continue to bless you and all who serve Christ at St. Miriam’s.

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