Loans help churches continue ministry

Father Minh Vu, associate pastor of the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., raised a monstrance outside the home of parishioners during Holy Week. He and Father Terry Bradshaw, pastor, provided eucharistic adoration for all parishioners that requested it on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. (Photo Special to The Record by Theresa Heuser)

While unemployment claims around the nation have risen to 30 million in the last six weeks, the federal Paycheck Protection Program is helping small businesses, including the Archdiocese of Louisville, avoid furloughs and layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every archdiocesan agency, parish and school that applied received a forgivable PPP loan over the last several weeks. In all, archdiocesan entities received 84 loans totalling more than $20 million. Several other independent Catholic entities have also received PPP loans.

“From the minute this began, Archbishop (Joseph) Kurtz had the utmost concern for

our parishioners. That was closely followed by concern for our more than 3,200 employees,” said Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese. “The archbishop initially instructed pastors not to lay people off, and the federal government has helped us do that. It’s all about the people who are benefitting.”

The federal loans will benefit both the workers and the people they serve, Reynolds said.

Father Martin Linebach, pastor of St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky., said the loans to his parish and school came through late last week and have taken the pressure off of his staff.

“To work for the church, already requires many sacrifices. So to be able to guarantee at least financial security, I think that’s a blessing,” he said during a phone interview May 1. “It really takes a lot of pressure off — we don’t have to focus our attention on, ‘How are we going to pay the bills?’ We can focus on our ministries: caring for people, teaching people, helping people.”

St. James parish and school, which employ 75 people, received loans totalling $439,800.

PPP loans are forgivable, meaning they don’t have to be repaid, as long as the loans are used for certain things during the first eight weeks of receipt. The majority of the loan, 75 percent, must be used for payroll — salaries or wages, benefits and taxes. The remaining portion may be used for utilities, mortgage interest and rent. If all or part of the loan must be repaid, it has a repayment plan of two years at a fixed interest rate of 1 percent.

Father Dale Cieslik, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Mount Washington, Ky., said the loan to his parish, “helps us with the salaries, but that in turn enables us to turn what budget we have to the ministry.” 

He noted that his parish collection is down about 25 percent and its annual fund-raiser has been postponed. Meanwhile, he’s looking into what it will cost to sanitize the church regularly when Masses resume.

His parish, which employs nine people, received a $75,000 loan.

Father Peter Do, pastor of St. John Paul II Church, has 12 people on staff and received a loan of $78,000.

The loan will help the parish respond to the needs of people, Father Do said, noting that the collection has been down and the parish picnic will likely be cancelled.

“Our office is closed to the public, but we still have people who ring the bell and ask for help,” he said. “For now we are helping people who knock on the doors and who reach out to parishioners for help.

“We have a team of people who reach out to the elderly parishioners and help get them food,” he said.

Catholic Charities of Louisville received a loan of $800,000. The agency employs about 85 people in multiple buildings around Jefferson County.

Its fee-based services having taken a hit during the pandemic, meaning the agency has lost income that normally offsets some expenses, said Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, CEO. Language services, which provides interpreters for a fee, has had a 50 percent drop in activity, she said, noting that’s the one program operated at a profit to support other agency programs.

“We still have those costs,  but we don’t have the revenue that offsets those things,” she said.

The loan “gives me a tremendous peace of mind — I don’t need to worry about whether the dip in language services means I have to furlough employees,” she said. “Having this loan means I don’t have to worry about where the money is coming from to keep my staff paid.”

That frees up the budget, she added, so that donations can be used for direct services. For example, Catholic Charities received a $50,000 grant from the Metro Louisville One Louisville Fund. That money provided direct aid rather than salaries, she said.

The loans were acquired — with the assistance of about 20 banks in the archdiocese — through teamwork, Reynolds added, noting that 109 parishes benefitted.

“We were successful in obtaining these loans because of mutual cooperative efforts of our pastors, their business office staff and archdiocesan agencies. Everybody had to do a lot of work,” he said.

Father Linebach offered his gratitude for the archdiocesan staff that helped, adding, “To the finance team and the others at the pastoral center who I know worked day and night on this, the parishes and the pastors owe a huge thank you to them.”

“This will help us in the months moving forward,” he added. “No one has a crystal ball to predict what the fall and late summer will look like. This is kind of an insurance policy for us.”

Father Cieslik had thanks for another group of people — the taxpayers who are funding the loans.

“My personal gratitude for being able to get this money is to the people of the United States,” he said.

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