For me this is a difficult column to write. Over the last six years I have tried to be transparent and in that spirit I want to share with you some unpleasant news. Our pipe organ is in serious trouble and we have to replace it. This news was a total surprise to me. Around last Christmas our organist, Andrea, alerted me that the organ was not working properly. It has had problems in the past, and I thought that we would be able to fix it. When our music ministry called in Mr Jeff Weiler of the Weiler Organ Company, to look at our organ, he discovered that the problems were rather serious. We commissioned him to carry out a thorough examination of the organ and to produce a report of his professional opinion.
Two weeks ago, he presented the highlights of the report to me and to the parish pastoral council which was summoned for an emergency meeting. According to him our Casavant organ is in such a state of disrepair that it is not worth putting any more money into it. He explained that if the organ were a car, the check engine light came on some years ago. We cannot predict when it will completely give out. He urged us to look into getting a different organ. I will leave it to Edward Eicker, the director of our music ministry, and the assistant director, Andrea Bartolomeo, to update you on the exact details of the problems.
After a lengthy discussion with the Parish Council, we are all in agreement that our parish does need a pipe organ. Our parish has a long tradition of glorious choral music and I do not want to be the pastor who disrupted that tradition. Besides, a beautiful church such as ours requires a great organ. We do over 120 funerals and almost 50 weddings, and a piano will not suffice for those celebrations. If our boiler went out or if our HVAC system were on the fritz, we will have to fix it. In the same way, we need to find a way to replace the organ.
At the outset, I want to tell you emphatically that we are not asking you for money for the organ. We have just completed our capital campaign and you have been extremely generous. When we were planning our campaign, the problem with the organ was not even on our radar. If we had known then what we know now, the organ would have been one of our primary capital projects. Unfortunately this has come to our attention too late. How then are we going to pay for a new organ?
I want to assure the entire parish that the projects promised in our brochure – painting the upper church, renovating the Holy Family Chapel, a new bathroom in the upper church, children’s playground, elevator in the Kinane Center and updating the rectory kitchen – will all be completed as planned.
In addition, we were hoping to be able to do other projects, namely, restructuring the kitchen and creating a great conference room in the Kinane Center, and refurbishing the church bathrooms. Now that the organ has become a priority, we will revisit these projects. Perhaps we can utilize some funds from the capital campaign without sacrificing the quality and purpose of each of our projects.
The main source of funding for the organ will be our reserves. Over the years we have built up hefty reserves that can be used for emergencies. This certainly qualifies as an emergency. Both our parish council and our finance council have approved the use of some of our reserves for this purpose. We have built up our reserves thanks to bequests that we have received from the estates of our parishioners. Those generous individuals give us those large gifts so that the parish can continue to be vibrant. We have also increased our reserves by watching our expenses closely. Paying for the organ is a commendable way of using a portion of these reserves.
We are not going to replace the organ within the next couple of months. Much research needs to be done. Since it takes anywhere from 18 months to 2 years to get an organ in place, we have to start the process now. We hope to keep our present organ working for as long as we can. In the meantime our music director and the assistant director will look into various options. I want to make sure that the entire parish community is kept informed. This affects us all. Our music ministry will keep you updated on how the project is progressing.
Over the years I have seen the generosity of Divine Providence and I am sure the Lord will take care of us. My life as pastor is never dull. I don’t know where my next surprise is going to turn up. Please keep me and the parish in your prayers.
Let us thank God for the gift of music. May the heavenly angelic choirs help us find a new organ for our church!