Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 24, 2019

Soon we will be into the holy season of Lent. All of our ministries are gearing up for this special time.
Let me bring you up-to-date on several things that are also going on around here. First, as you may have heard, the Diocese of Austin is now in the middle of a major capital campaign with a goal of $80,000,000, to create endowments for the many good works of the Diocese: to train new clergy and care for elderly clergy, to help rural parishes that are struggling and to grow new ones in the areas that are expanding, to support religious education and Catholic schools, and to support ministries and charities. The Encountering Christ Campaign is a positive way to prepare for the future in this growing, active Diocese.
To conduct this campaign well over the entire 24 counties and 120 parishes of the Diocese, the campaign has been broken into three waves. The pilot group and the first wave are now completed. St. Austin is in the second wave, and you will shortly be hearing more about it. Our parish goal is $2,030,000. Of every dollar raised we receive back 30 cents or $609,000 if we reach our goal.
We hope to use our portion to make interior upgrades to the church. We hired an acoustician who does a lot of church work to provide us with a plan to replace, upgrade, and improve our sound system. We have also engaged a lighting consultant so that we can re-lamp our church interior to make it brighter and more welcoming. We would like to add A/C units up in the choir loft so that the choir is not broiling while the pews are freezing. We also would like to add statues of two women saints to complement the statues of Sts. Peter and Paul that we have in the front, and finally, if possible, purchase new hymnals. We will see how much we raise and how much we can do.
In addition, the Development Committee has been meeting with our broker, CBRE, and the developer we have chosen,  Greystar, to see if we can make this project work financially, physically, and in keeping with our parish’s mission. As a reminder, we are exploring whether a portion of our property could be leased for commercial purposes and provide us with a third-party revenue stream from the lease to help us replace some of our aging facilities. Part of this work includes trying to figure out where the activities of our community would go during the two years of construction. We first looked at our own properties and it looks like the retail space on the first and second floor of the garage (Subway) will meet the parish office and short term ministry needs. This  would be both convenient and cheaper than renting commercial properties. The school has some very good leads and has been actively following up on those. No work has been done yet on the rectory replacement, so I am not sure where the priests will go. As Jesus says in Mt 8:20 “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I am sure we will figure that out. In any case, we need to include these transition costs in the financial modeling we are running as we determine if this deal can work for all
By mid May we should know if this opportunity works for our community, and we will continue to communicate to you, the Parish, as we are all making a legacy decision for the future of our mission on the corner of West Campus.
There are many things going on around here right now. Please keep us all in your prayers. This is an exciting time to be part of St Austin Catholic Parish and School community!

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 17, 2019

We are now into the second semester of the school year, and while the beginning of next school year is still far off, I know that parents are beginning to think about enrollment for their children for next year.
With this in mind I would like to remind our parish parents of school age children about our wonderful parish school. 
In some places where the Paulists are located, our schools fill up quickly because the academics are so much better than the surrounding public schools.  Fortunately, we do not have that situation here.  Our public schools are very good at academics. 
But there is more to education than just learning a lot of knowledge. As important as that is, even more important is the education in character.  Recently I read about a Catholic school in India which asserts, “We nourish children in spirituality and faith.  These give the children a moral and ethical compass.” And that is true, I hope, of all Catholic schools. Certainly I find that to be true of our St. Austin School. This approach is well expressed in the school’s motto: “Non scholae, sed vitae,” or“Not school, but life.” Our students are not only well prepared academically but also with Christian Catholic virtues and ideals to assist them for life as well-rounded persons and productive members of society. 
Of course, this sort of education starts and is most fully inculcated at home. Our students in public school receive this training at home, and it is supplemented by the very good faith formation program of our parish.
Still, some parents want to make sure that this education, not only in academics, but in life skills and faith, be reinforced in school.  When I was pastor at Old Saint Mary’s in San Francisco, the enrollment of St. Mary’s Chinese school was only 10% Christian.  Not Catholic, but Christian! 90% were not Christian, but their parents wanted good academics for their children and were also very concerned that the children learn in an atmosphere that stressed and reinforced strong family values. And so they valued Catholic education. And I think so should we.
I invite all the families of our parish to consider St. Austin Catholic School. You can check out our parish school’s website at www.staustinschool.org. 

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 3, 2019

First, on behalf of all the Paulists who have served here in the past, who are here now, and who will come and serve here in the future, I sincerely want to thank all of you for your prayerful and financial support of the Paulist Fathers. THANK YOU!!! We Paulists value your collaboration with us in ministry through your gifts, your participation, and your prayers. 
If you missed the Annual Paulist Appeal last weekend, there are still lots of flyers and envelopes in the pews. I encourage EVERYONE to participate, no matter how small or large your gift.  
As you know, St. Austin Parish has a garage. In this garage there are elevators, but for months now the elevators have not been working. They were vandalized around Oct. 20, 2018. Someone forcibly ripped out the control panels and the electronic guts of the elevators. AAARGH!!! Such vandalism is hard to comprehend.
Our elevators are special. They are not standard-sized elevators.  They were built specifically for that space and do not take any standard parts. The elevator company, KONE, technically owns the elevators, and we rent them. Because they are non-standard, any replacement parts cannot be taken off the shelf but must be custom-made. This is both very time consuming and expensive. We the parish have paid for half of the repair already, which was $7,400. When the repairs are complete, if that ever occurs, we will pay the other half. So the vandalism cost approximately $15,000.
In addition, every quarter we pay a MAINTENANCE contract to Kone Elevator of $2,579.00. We have had to pay that even during the time the elevators are not working. Obviously, this is a less than satisfactory situation. Unfortunately, our contract with KONE does not allow us to go to another elevator company to get service, since they own the elevators. 
We have emailed and called them repeatedly, and we still await the repair of our elevators. If we do go ahead with the development of our properties, I can assure you that none of the elevators in the school or parish facilities will be custom-made, and we will look at other elevator companies. 
I am sorry for the great inconvenience that the lack of functioning elevators in our garage is causing, especially for our elderly and handicapped parishioners and guests. If there is any movement from the elevator company, I will be sure to inform you. It is all very FRUSTRATING! If and when the elevators are repaired and operating again, we will look at shutting down the elevators at night in the hopes of reducing the amount of vandalism they receive. Meanwhile, get your exercise climbing the steps at the garage.