St. Patrick’s Cathedral happens to be one of the highly famous churches in the United States. The Cathedral has long relied on tourists and office workers to occupy its pews as well as its collection plates. The current lingering coronavirus has left Midtown Manhattan largely scantly, as such, the Cathedral is encountering a $4 million budget shortfall that may hamper its ability to pay its bills.
The cathedral is located in one of the least residential parts of Manhattan and its rector reveals that 90 percent of those who normally worship at the cathedral do not live close by. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept visitors away for months and deprived the cathedral of revenue and leaving it helpless in a sea of empty office buildings, vacant hotels and almost grounded luxury retailers.
The powerful cathedral is finding it difficult to pay operating costs like utilities and salaries of dozens of employees which range from musicians who play at Mass to maintenance workers who clean and disinfect the pews.
While talking about the budget shortfall, which equals about 25 percent of the annual income of the cathedral, the rector of the cathedral, Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie said: “We have never had anything like this before.”
He said the problem had been worsened by the unavailability of fund-raising options at a time when social gatherings are affected by public health restrictions.
He said: “All the traditional things we have had in the past, dinners and things like that, we can’t do. The options are to beg, which is what I have been doing since March 15.”
The Archdiocese of New York where St. Patricks Cathedral is situated extends from Staten Island to Hudson Valley, excluding Brooklyn and Queens. Its population is over half Catholic and it is one of the most famous and influential districts of the church in the United States.
But St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s area has been largely hit by the pandemic.
The archdiocese is not responsible for the upkeep of the cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral is ran as a parish, similar to how a neighborhood church in a more residential area is ran and it pays 8 percent tax to the archdiocese.
The cathedral depends heavily on donations received duringt Mass to make ends meet. On a normal Sunday, the mass is attended by 12,000 to 15,000 people and income from different sources before the pandemic amounted to roughly $1 million a month, according to Monsignor Ritchie.
Ritchie said: “We rely on the goodness and generosity of people to support us because we don’t get any money from any other source beside what comes in through our doors.”
Federal data reveals that the cathedral received between $350,000 and $1 million through the Paycheck Protection Program, a $659 billion fund launched by Congress to support companies and nonprofit organizations in avoiding layoffs during the economic crisis induced by the coronavirus outbreak.
Monsignor Ritchie said the loan obtained was far less than $1 million but he refused to declare the exact amount and said he felt the archdiocese did not want the amount to be publicized.
The monsignor revealed the federal loan supported the cathedral to avoid furloughs or layoffs for any of its 50 to 80 employees. He said: “We got the loan so we wouldn’t have to let anybody go, and we haven’t let anybody go.”
Another loan of between $1 million to $2 million was availed to the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Monsignor Ritchie described the Trustees as a separate entity charged with maintenance of the cathedral’s exterior and administration of several cemeteries it owns in the region.
The monsignor said over five million of those who worship in St. Patrick Cathedral every year are visiting tourists with the largest number of crowd coming during Christmas when a towering tree is mounted across Rockefeller Center street.
A lot of visitors buy souvenirs at the cathedral’s gift shop, drop a suggested $2 into a donation box to light a candle or download self-guided audio tours which cost $25.
The monsignor said gift shop revenue, which is equal to 10 percent of the cathedral’s monthly income had dropped by 80 percent since the pandemic commenced.
The cathedral usually rakes in between $2 million and $4 million annually from the money people give when lighting candles and offering prayers. Also, that revenue stream has dried up.
The monsignor said: “The Easter season had literally no visitors because the church was closed until June. I suspect that the summer season will be drastically reduced in visitor volume, so we will continue to urge our friends to continue helping us to keep going.”
When Sunday Mass resumed at the cathedral after the city entered Phase 2 of the coronavirus lockdown relaxation plan, the number of services at the cathedral was reduced to three from eight and attendance at each service was capped at 25 percent capacity.
The number of worshipers dropped from 15,000 to 1,800, as such, the limited resumption of Sunday Masses has eased the cathedral’s financial crisis. The monsignor said the cathedral received $15,000 in the first two weeks which is far from $150,000 weekly income in normal times.