Impact of the Economic Recession on Jesuit Urban Ministries: Changes from 2009 to 2010
When comparing 2010 to 2009, some interviewees now report that an up-tick in stock market earnings has improved investment income and foundation grants for some of the ministries. Also in 2010, some of the ministries report that there have been increases in individual donations compared to 2009. Some ministries in the Maryland Province (Washington, DC and Philadelphia) were actually growing their budgets and programs (due to lower levels of unemployment for the donor pool in the region).
For other ministries, in cities like Los Angeles and Detroit — where unemployment is much higher than other parts of the country — 2010 has presented a much bleaker picture than even 2009. For example, Homeboy Industries, Dolores Mission and Proyecto Pastoral in Los Angeles and Centro Altagracia in New York have had to lay off staff members. The Heartland Center in Gary Indiana is waiting to see if its 2010 funding will come through. Loyola High School in Detroit had to dip into its endowment this past year to cover expenses.
Having Jesuit Volunteer Corp (JVC) members on staff has been cost effective and impactful for many ministries. However, in the case of Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso, their 2010 budget could no longer support two JV’s on staff and they are reverting to one JV in the new budget. Ignatian Volunteer Corp (IVC) members have also helped ministries take on new important services, such as running employment counseling and job referral services at St. Matthew’s Parish in St. Louis.
Many of the ministries have become very professionalized in their development work: hiring professional development staff, courting a loyal donor base, developing creative fundraising programs, and developing long-term outreach and development plans. For example, Washington Jesuit Academy and the McKenna Center are both in the midst of a multi-year strategic development plan and the Harry Tompson Center in New Orleans has collaborated with several other organizations and the New Orleans province to hire a grant-writer.
Despite more advancement in development practices, ministries reported having to dip into emergency funds and endowments to assist the people served by the ministries: increasing their assistance programs; enlarging their “free tuition roles;” and expanding assistance services such as food pantries and rental and utility assistance programs.
Because other social agencies have closed in the past year, some ministries are completely inundated, taking on a greater percentage of the burden for caring for the poor in their city (for example, ministries working with homeless population in DC and New Orleans).
Nearly all ministries commented that they are interested in more collaboration and training in the area of fund-raising, grants and development.
General Ministry Concerns (Non-Recession related)
Ministry directors “wear many hats” and increasingly have to spend time on administrative, logistical, development and legal concerns; (one interviewee commented that he perceives there is there is an increase in “bureaucratization” due to fear of lawsuits). Some ministry leaders commented that they’d like to put more time into strategic visioning and planning to address unmet community needs, but daily pressing needs of their work often make this hard.
In some cases, there is a sense that social ministries are not seen as place to send Jesuits in formation; the concern is that there will not be Jesuits well formed in social ministries to continue the work started by Jesuit founders; fear that “sponsorship” process in some Provinces is excluding social ministries.
Many ministries need to be assigned Jesuits or volunteers (JVC) who are able to communicate in Spanish. There is a concern about the lack of capacity in this area now and for the future.
There is concern about the closing of diocesan-run Catholic schools in the inner-city. As a result, low-income urban communities have less access to high-quality faith-based education. This is particularly acute at the elementary school level as many of the school closings have been parish-based primary schools (schools that have prepared many of the students who then went on to Jesuit Cristo Rey and Nativity Schools). There is acknowledgment that the University of Notre Dame is taking a lead in bringing urban Catholic schools together to deal with the crisis and that the leadership of the Cristo Rey and Nativity networks is actively engaged with the issue, but immediate solutions are not forthcoming. The dioceses are turning to the Cristo Rey and Nativity Schools for help, but many of the interviewees struggle with how to help. This is a trend that began even before the recession and is continuing.