August 24, 2011
"My name is Gary Dippel and I have been an active donor to the Fund for Assistance to ROCOR (FFA) for the last 10 years. I was born Romanian Orthodox but switched to ROCOR believing it to have the fullness of the Truth. Recently the FFA took up a cause that means a lot to me: helping our priests in need.
I thought you should know why you should care about this, too.
One Holy Friday night a few years ago, I came out of confession feeling exhausted but elated and comforted by the wise words of my spiritual father. It was after 10 pm, and the line of confessors was still long. I couldn’t wait to go home, drink some tea, put my feet up and think about my priest’s advice. As I was hurrying to the door, the parish starosta came up to me with a basket asking if I’d like to contribute to a Pascha gift for my priest. Reaching for my wallet, I glanced at the basket – I saw $10, $20 and several $1 bills.
- “How much have you collected so far?” I asked.
- “$200,” he said proudly. “That’s better than last year – we only managed $150 for Christmas.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The man who just completed a long service, listened to and helped scores of people with their problems, who still had dozens of confessions to hear and who did this every week, could not go home and relax after a long day at work and a long service in Church. He had hours of confessions to hear, gave loads wise advice, and listened to our petty problems. While his matushka went home to put their three kids to bed, he was missing time with his family to talk to someone like me and scores of others parishioners. And what have most of us done for him? A murmured “Thank you” after confession and gift of $20 for Christmas.
While this man strained his last strength to help me, I, an active parishioner for several years, never bothered to ask: “how is he getting compensated?” I figured with so many people in church and no special appeals at the candle desk, everything was okay!
The majority of ROCOR parishes cannot afford to give their priests livable salaries or health insurance.
The fact is, he was not properly compensated! And no, of course priests are not doing this for money. But it’s no reason for us to take their magnanimity for granted. The majority of ROCOR parishes cannot afford to give their priests livable salaries or health insurance. Putting “priest” and “money” in the same sentence often seems to be in bad taste. Yet, the priest has to live on earth and in the present economy. The Apostolic Canons forbid a priest to have a lay job. Why? Because the Holy Apostles knew that it is the responsibility of the community of believers to support the priest in order for him to care for their spiritual needs. This has been the norm since the beginning of the priesthood in the Old Testament and is no different today. Holy Scripture also has several clear instructions on this.
We pride ourselves on having the fullness of the Truth. But the truth is, we need to change this terrible situation and not just in our own parish.
A lot of ROCOR priests are poor. Poverty is a huge cross to bear. You have to make choices between paying for shoes or a medical treatment. You have to cut back on food to try to afford medications. You end up not going anywhere because you cannot afford the gas to drive a radius over 10 miles. If you have dependents, this worsens the pressure. I bet you haven’t often heard a priest complain of his financial situation. That’s because he’s fulfilling his pastoral commission to talk to you about God and about your soul, not his own problems.
We must all try to alleviate this situation for our clergy or face a life without them and without a church!
This is why I ask you to donate to the FFA today. The FFA is the only organization in America that includes in its mission assistance to our clergy in need. I ask you to donate today to the FFA, because they provide a centralized effort to prevent these kinds of situations in all of ROCOR. No other organization in America does that. Every penny of every dollar you give for clergy support goes to assist needy clergy. Although every little bit helps, I urge you to give more than a dollar. Our priests deserve it.
I’m not a millionaire, in fact far from it! I have been severely impacted by the current economic crisis in this country, but God has always allowed me to find a way to support our Holy Church and its institutions.
Please join me in supporting the Fund for Assistance to ROCOR - I rely on FFA’s excellent work to further OUR ability in this effort!