Securing Our Future By Fulfilling A Dream
August 16, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ and Friends of St. Mary of Egypt,
We are writing to you with an appeal to honor Fr. Athanasius’ retirement from active ministry.
Fr. Athanasius’ dream was always to have an Orthodox presence in Greenwood. He and Kh. Loretta started our parish as a mission on April 22, 2007, and his hope was to serve for around 5 years with enough growth in members and giving that we could then afford a full-time priest. Since the beginning, Father has donated his time, energy and resources to the church, serving with love and dedication, while at the same time refusing to accept a stipend (for a smaller parish, the yearly stipend for a full-time priest runs from $40,000 to $60,000 a year).
In December 2007 we had just a few thousand dollars in our account. Through our tithes, the gifts of friends, and financial support from the Archdiocese, the Diocese of the Midwest, and St. George, our mission was able to build up our bank accounts. In June 2013, we had enough available to place a $50,750 down payment on our current church building, which was about half of what we had in our account at that time. The hope was that the move would lead to increased growth in membership and giving.
Much work was required to renovate the interior. Thanks to the hard work of our parishioners, we were able to start services one month after moving into this building. Over the next 2-3 years we had to do more work which included installing 2 new HVAC units, replacing the roof and gutters, repaving the parking lot, installing new sump pumps, and substantial foundation work and repair in the basement. Thankfully, we received grants that covered much of the cost of these necessary projects. By the end of 2016 it was clear that even though we were able to maintain the building and cover the operating expenses of the church we did not have sufficient funding nor sufficient growth to support a full-time priest. Father would not be able to retire.
The Priest Fund was established in December 2016 to help us put money aside for a future priest. This was very important to Fr. Athanasius, and we have continued to transfer money from our checking account to the Priest Fund. Father was hoping we would have at least $100,000 set aside by now. In order to help make Father’s dream a lasting reality, and as a memorial to our beloved Kh. Loretta, who passed away on August 25, 2016, we need to also realize that our giving to the church must increase as we are able to do so. Bringing in a full-time priest will add over $3,600 per month to our expenses. The priest fund will help with that at first, but we must be aware of the added expenses of a full-time priest and budget accordingly.
In 2017, we put $25,000 into that fund from a large grant that we received. In the Fall of that year, we were also able to get a mortgage instead of the original lease-purchase agreement for the property. That was a big step, but we still were not growing at the rate Father had hoped for and we were not yet able to afford a full time priest so he was still unable to retire.
In 2018, Fr. Anthony Westerman was sent to us to assist Fr. Athanasius for a period of up to two years. There was hope for growth, but Fr. Anthony’s stay was cut short as he was sent overseas as a chaplain in the Navy, so again Father could not retire.
Three weeks ago, on July 26, Fr. Athanasius announced his retirement from active ministry. His dream of having $100,000 in the Priest Fund is not fulfilled, yet. It seems fitting for us to honor his service to our parish by having a Priest Fund Drive aimed at reaching the goal of $100,000 by his 88th birthday, which is on November 15. Earlier this year, we received a substantial anonymous gift earmarked for our Priest Fund. That brought us to within $40,000 of the goal. We are requesting for people to donate to this as they are able. This is a difficult goal and may sound unobtainable, but nothing is impossible with God. We may not all have something to donate to this right now but let each of us pray that God would provide something to give. Building the priest fund not only helps ensure a future priest for us, but helps ensure Orthodoxy in Greenwood for generations to come.
Donations can be mailed via check to the church, 102 E Broadway St, Greenwood, IN 46143 earmarked “Priest Fund” or you can also contribute via Zelle transfer to email@example.com with “Priest Fund” in the memo line.
For the foreseeable future Fr. Gabriel Monforte will be serving us on Sundays and he will be receiving $200 a week which is standard. This expense will not come out of the priest fund; it will be part of our regular monthly expenses, so please, in addition to donating to this special drive, prayerfully consider increasing the amount of your regular offerings if you are able to.
In Christ's love,
Keith Nystrom, Parish Council Chairperson
Amal Hanania, Church Secretary/Treasurer