Archbishop Jason Gordon and priests are giving up a percentage of their stipends to offset the Archdiocese’s unexpected debts because of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. He will also take a “significant” cut in living expenses.
Many sectors and individuals are struggling as significant business activity ground to a halt over the past six weeks. On March 25, the country recorded its first COVID-19 death and the next day Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley asked all non-essential workers to remain at home starting March 30. The stay-at-home order was extended from April 30 to May 10 with plans to re-open the nation’s borders on May 15.
Archbishop Gordon on May 1 addressed staff of the Chancery, Archdiocesan commissions and departments, including Catholic Media Services Ltd via Zoom.
Pointing to the workers, tradesmen and others now deprived of incomes, he said, “as Church we have had to do a huge movement and repurpose lots of what we had before towards caring for those most in need”. He mentioned the network set up to ensure the most vulnerable communities received what they need.
Church workers were presented with the budget figures; there is an income deficit of $1.1 million/month going forward. There is more than $700,000 deficit in expenditure after cuts in some allocations and operational expenses. Commissions and departments were asked to look for ways further cuts could be made.
It was hoped when churches reopened things could return to normal and the deficit managed over some months or one to three years. This is unlikely. Archbishop Gordon told staff the Caribbean and world is facing a depression.
He stated the “principle” being used by the Archdiocese is that “staff is family” and they were going to work and sacrifice together. He told staff they too must consider voluntary salary cuts as all worked together to find a solution.
While he did not know the circumstances of each individual, he understood decisions would be based on their realities. The Human Resource department will contact staff via letters.
Archbishop Gordon likened the giving to the giving of the loaves and fishes in the gospels, telling staff that somehow God would feed the multitude. He asked for “extreme generosity” even as there are no immediate answers as to how long the situation will last.
He informed staff that he could not answer how much is “adequate”; they will have to find their answers in prayer. He reminded that just as the Archdiocese has been helping the persons in society reaching out for help, they had to care for each other.
The Archdiocese will be in a “much depreciated” position financially after COVID-19 but not morally, having chosen to journey with persons during their time of need, the Archbishop said.