frmark_headshot_150x150STM tithes for social justice, that is, STM allocates at least 10% of ordinary parish revenue to programs designed to benefit the poor and other needy. By tithing, we intend to comply with the Gospel’s undeniable call to share what we have received as gift with those who are in need. Indeed, the Gospels make clear that we will be judged by God on the basis of how well we have cared for our brothers and sisters in need. See Mt. 25:31-46.

In addition to this tithe, we take up several special collections each year for specific organizations, e.g., the monthly second collections for the benefit of the STM chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the Thanksgiving Day, Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday collections. Over the past four years, the money from the social justice tithe and these special collections has totaled a bit more than $800,000. We have directed all of this reve-nue to fund our parish’s social justice program. This program includes our social justice education and advocacy effort, our direct service projects, and our monetary gifts to various local, national, and international organizations that care for the poor.

Over those four years, we have given more than $50,000 in the form of relatively small, sometime recurring gifts to several local organizations that care for the poor, including the Decatur Emergency Assistance Ministry (DEAM); Habitat for Humanity; the Central Night Shelter; the Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston, Jamaica; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home; ServeHaiti’s medical clinic in Grand-Bois, Haiti; the Missionaries of Charity home for women with HIV/AIDS; and Birthright of Atlanta. In those same four years, we also sent more than $200,000 to STM St. Vincent de Paul to provide emergency financial assistance to the poor who live in the Decatur area.

We have distributed the bulk of our parish’s social justice allocation for social justice over the past four years—nearly $600,000—in the form of large grants to local, national, and international organizations that are undertaking major projects that promise to substantially improve the organizations’ ability to serve the poor and other needy. These large grants enable organizations to undertake projects that would not be possible if not for our gift.

Large grants made just this year include: $40,000 to the Atlanta Mission to finance the renovation of several apartments for women and children who are transitioning out of homelessness; $20,000 to Jesuit Refugee Service of South Sudan to improve sanitation and safety in the refugee camp in Maban, South Sudan; $17,000 to the New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta to build shower facilities for the homeless in the Decatur area; $14,000 to the Little Sisters of St. Francis in Kenya to purchase sewing machines for use by refugee women so that they can become economically self-sufficient; $10,000 to MercyCare to expand its medical facility in Atlanta; $10,000 for need-based financial aid for kids at STM School; and $15,000 to St. Vincent de Paul to help finance the expansion of its facility on Chamblee-Tucker Road in Atlanta. STM also continues to support the education of four students at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, including two students who graduated from STM parish school last spring, with a gift this year of $20,000.

A listing of the grants that STM has made from the social justice tithe since the program began can be found here.

Parishioners can be confident that decisions regarding how the social justice funds are distributed each year are made responsibly. The process is transparent and managed entirely by the parishioners who serve on the STM Social Justice Committee. Each year, the Committee solicits proposals from organizations that need our help. The Committee reviews these proposals according to a set of published criteria. Typically, the Committee interviews representatives of the organizations requesting financial assistance. In meetings that are open to the public, Committee members debate the merits of each proposal and, in time, arrive at a consensus regarding the tithe distribution. The Committee forwards its recommendations to me, and I make the final decision regarding the distribution. This year, I accepted the recommendation of the Committee without change.

A description of the process that the Committee follows in preparing its funding recommendations is here.

Parishioners can be rightly proud of our commitment to social justice, including the programs through which STM shares its gifts with the poor and other needy. For myself, I am pleased to be part of a community that is so generous with what it has received as gift. I thank the members of the Social Justice Committee for their good work on behalf of the parish, and I thank all of you for your contributions to the parish that make all this possible.

Fr. Mark