Greetings St. Mary Parish Family,

Many of us watched Punxsatawney Phil last week predict six more weeks of winter. In the age of sophisticated technology used to predict forecasts and weather patterns, tradition still has us turning each February 2nd to a rodent from western Pennsylvania for a glimmer of relief from as harsh winter. As the Operations Manger responsible for the six building on our campus (yes, there are six!), I, too, was hoping for a break from the cold temperatures and snow. While most see the winter for the idyllic image of snow covered trees, crackling fireplaces and skiing on the slopes, church operations managers envision boilers malfunctioning, frozen pipes and plowable snow.

Maintaining the cluster of building at St. Mary Parish can certainly be challenging! The age of our facilities, the amount of foot traffic each building receives on a daily and weekly basis, and budget constraints are all factors that we face as a parish family. We attempt to mitigate our maintenance needs by as much preventative planning as possible. Each year the Administrator, Parish Finance Council and Staff sit down to budget for capital improvements and general maintenance costs. Unfortunately, even the sharpest fine tuning of the budget does not anticipate some of the real challenges that may arise from buildings with a 143-year history. During the October Nor’easter, several trees fell from the hill behind the Rectory, crashing onto the fence that surrounds our school field. These trees now needed to be removed, the fence repaired and structural shoring of the land needed to be evaluated. The cold stretch at the beginning of January led to a burst radiator, frozen pipes and damages to a toilet and sink in the Parish Center. The bathroom was so badly damaged, that we winterized it and it has been taken offline until spring. Lighting on the outside of our buildings, parking lot and driveways were recently upgraded to provide improved safety. Just last week, in preparation for Fr. Erikson’s arrival, we painted his living quarters and upgraded some of the furniture. These unplanned projects were extremely costly, and they represent just some of the reactionary costs that were not part of the planned budget. In the near future, we will work together as a Parish Family to discuss some of our anticipated capital improvements that will need to be addressed.

The second collection this weekend is the Snow and Fuel collection, and it is extremely important to our budget. This helps us to remediate some of the tremendous costs associated with heating our buildings, plowing the property, shoveling the sidewalks and stairs, and treating the grounds with sand and salt. Your generosity helps to offset these costs, which are necessary to ensure the safety of our parishioners, students, neighbors, clergy and staff members. Last year we spent tens of thousands of dollars on energy and snow removal costs. This year with a more traditional New England winter, the fuel costs are mounting, and I am concerned that we will greatly exceed our budgeted spend. Please give as generously as you can, as this collection has a tremendous impact on our facilities costs associated with the winter season. As we enter the Lenten season on Wednesday, please take a moment to pray for God’s watch and protection over our beautiful campus. Also it wouldn’t hurt to offer another prayer for early spring!

With gratitude and blessings,

Michael Fitzmaurice Interim Operations Manager