Diocesan financial report shows mixed results for 2020 fiscal year

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PROVIDENCE — Despite closing out the 2020 fiscal year with a $1.7 million operational loss for the Catholic Charity Appeal Corporation, in its separate General Fund Corporation for administration the Diocese of Providence managed to finish the fiscal year with a surplus of $318,013, according to an annual audit report of the diocese’s finances.
With the closing of diocesan offices, parishes, schools and agencies in March 2020 in response to the pandemic, all Catholic Charity fundraising activities ground to a halt, including the planned in-pew solicitations at Masses. Numerous diocesan agencies and community outreach programs rely heavily on financial support from the Appeal to operate their ministries.
While the Appeal still managed to raise $4,246,812 by June 30, 2020, the total fell $2.9 million short of its $7.2 million goal, mainly because the endeavor had to be put on hold. The final tally, which includes a “make-up” special in-pew weekend held in this fiscal year, raised an additional $1 million which will be reported in the totals for the 2021 fiscal year.
“However, through unavoidable employee furloughs during the spring of 2020 and our participation in the Payroll Protection Program under the CARES Act, we were able to significantly reduce the net operational loss to the Appeal,” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said in a letter to the diocesan faithful.
The bishop acknowledged the unique set of challenges faced during the 2020 fiscal year brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the tremendous effort in response from parishes to remain current with their payables, including the annual Parish Assessment that provides the major source of revenue for our Diocesan General Fund operations.
And he credited PPP loans with allowing the diocese to keep many of its central operations staff working in their ministries during the summer and fall of 2020.
Msgr. Raymond B. Bastia, Vicar of Finance, said the pandemic was the catalyst for a reduction in contributions to parishes, which at one point were observed as down by 10-15 percent.
He noted that closing the chancery from late March until mid-May, with some employees continuing to manage their areas of ministry from home, helped the diocese to achieve a significant savings on heat, utilities and other operating expenditures that contributed to the modest surplus realized at the end of the fiscal year.
“We did try to reposition as best we could to cope with what was happening in a financial crisis and we were also helped a great deal, as were many other organizations as well, by our participation in the Payroll Protection Program. That was a big help to us as we tried to maintain our workforce as much as we could,” Msgr. Bastia said.
“The good news is that these emergency measures, along with the assistance of the Payroll Protection Program, allowed us to pivot to the point where we have, at least in regard to the General Fund, a modest surplus.”
Michael F. Sabatino, diocesan CFO, said the government program helped not just the central administration, but also Catholic Charity Fund outreach and other diocesan agencies and corporations to continue to operate in a crisis.
“The Payroll Protection program assisted not only us, but many of our parishes, schools and agencies were able to participate in the program, which allowed us to maintain our workforce, for the most part, for the summer and fall months,” he said.
The report shows that diocesan total net assets decreased by $18 million, from $188,932,572 in FY 2019 to $170,753,915 in FY 2020.
Officials attribute this reduction in large measure to the diocese’s offer to eligible staff of a voluntary lay pension buyout program.
The report notes that a one-time expenditure of $809,000, incurred during the 2020 fiscal year, for the Central Administration Funds and Diocesan Cemetery Operations, helped to fund the buyout program, in which 60 percent of eligible participants who were offered a buyout chose to accept it.
“There was an extraordinary outlay of resources to fund that program, which was a very successful pension buyout,” diocesan Chief Financial Officer Michael F. Sabatino said.
Sabatino noted that prior to the buyout, the diocese’s lay pension program was 62 percent funded, while subsequent to the buyout, the lay pension plan is now smaller and funded at more than 80 percent as of June 30, 2020.
“This shows that the program was successful,” he said.
For the fiscal year ending June 30, the diocese reported an overall one percent gain on its investment assets, although for the first quarter of the 2021 fiscal year, investments were up about seven percent.
The report also shows that Catholic Cemetery Operations had a surplus of $188,508 as the department works on the final stages of a $12 million new mausoleum project at St. Ann Cemetery, scheduled to open this spring, with pre-sales of nearly $4 million, according to Sabatino.
“Anthony Carpinello, director of Diocesan Cemeteries, has done an exceptional job overseeing the project,” Sabatino said. “The mausoleum project is a wonderful addition to our diocese and is expected to be completed in Spring 2021.”
The Grateful for God’s Providence capital campaign, which is in the final stages of fundraising in about eight parishes, has collected gifts and pledges totaling about $53 million.
“We thank our pastors and our administrators, who through very difficult times continue, for the most part, to stay current with their diocesan bills,” Sabatino said.

The full report, produced by the firm Mayer, Hoffman, McCann, P.C., is available for viewing on the diocesan website at http://www.dioceseofprovidence.org, while a “user friendly” version is included in this edition. The user friendly report offers a summary of the full audited report and focuses on the ministerial activities supported by either the General Fund or the Catholic Charity Appeal.