| G. Michael Dobbs
INDIAN ORCHARD – The new business manager for the Immaculate Conception Church sent the members of the parish a letter dated Oct. 4 to “begin rebuilding the trust and transparency, which some may perceived as lacking.”
In 2014, members of the parish contacted Reminder Publications with concerns that Father Stanislaus Sokol was not spending the parish’s funds correctly and causing potential financial problems.
When asked for a comment about the appointment of a business manager, Mark Dupont, spokesperson for the Diocese of Springfield, wrote, “The concept of appointing business managers to assist pastors is not a new one for the Catholic Church in the U.S., although in the past it was not as common here. As in this case, where Fr. Sokol has two parishes and numerous properties to keep track of, the business manager by taking on the day-to-day financial and administrative duties frees up the priests’ time for their more important spiritual duties. We were fortunate to have in the person of Deacon [Don] Philip someone who bridges pastoral and temporal experiences.”
The diocese had intended to close the church as one of the many that were either shuttered or merged with other parishes. In 2014, Sokol was seen as some as the agent of Bishop Timothy McDonnell charged with closing the church.
The parish had managed to keep the church open despite the diocese’s intentions.
The diocese strongly objected to that characterization of Sokol in 2014 and Sokol said in an interview with Reminder Publications, “My main task, after spiritual and pastoral concerns, is to put the fiscal house in order ... we’ve made great progress.”
He added cited the repair to the church’s chimney and a leak over the sacristy and asked, “Is this spending money lavishly?”
In his letter, Philip wrote of several structural and repair issues with the church and its school building.
“Bishop [Mitchell] Rozanski has asked me to serve as your business manager for the present, with full responsibility for the financial affairs of the parish. I am not a surrogate to close the parish or in any way designated to replace the spiritual leadership of Father Sokol and Father [Daniel] Cymer. My task is to put our financial house in clear and transparent order. I bring 19 years of ordained pastoral ministry, an MBA, and more than 30 years in the administration of medical practices and hospitals to the enterprise.
He continued in his letter to note that attendance at Mass and the number of children in religious education should be double than the current numbers.
Philip said, “We are behind in our payments to the diocese for poverty and liability insurance, health insurance and employee retirement and will work on a plan to gradually become current.”
He added, “I have learned quickly that feelings of wounding, anger and mistrust run dep. Feelings are what they are. I ask for your trust to help set Immaculate Conception parish on a firm foundation for the future. I ask you to work with your pastor and parochial vicar, the parish staff and pastoral council to build up the spiritual side – the primary side – of the parish by inviting and welcoming friends, brothers and sisters to return worshipping here.”