What is it like to be an ACS Parish Representative? These are the thoughts of Mary Speight, our representative at St Chads, Toller Lane.
While 2020 was a challenging year for all charities, ACS has suffered particularly because of the decision in March to close churches. In many cases this meant that self-denial boxes were not returned at Easter and opportunities to promote ACS, such as through parish visits by the General Secretary, were lost.
The role of the representative is to raise the profile of ACS in the parish and congregation. Never has this been more necessary. ACS encourages and supports vocations of men to the priesthood and assists the placement of priests in poor and populous parishes. This is achieved by giving grants towards expenses and, increasingly, by helping to fund stipends where dioceses are unable, or reluctant, to pay the full amount.
Ways to raise the profile of ACS
The representative can speak to the PCC about giving an annual donation from church funds to ACS. Your parish may already do this, in which case you can ensure an annual review of the amount. It is good when commitment to the traditional ministry of the Church is seen to come from a lay person.
The ACS magazine ‘Good News’ is published twice a year. It contains vocation stories and news of parishes which may help to generate interest. Decide how many copies you might be able to hand out and add two or three extra for visitors. Avoid leaving a large number on display to gather dust; the magazine is better given into people’s hands. In all my years as a representative I have only had one person who refused to take a copy. ‘Good News’ is free but some of our people offer a pound for theirs. Any money collected is entered on the paying-in form and sent in the usual way.
Fundraising through Lent Boxes
Use ACS self-denial boxes during Lent. These may be sent to your parish already. If not, you can contact ACS and ask for the number you need. Your ACS boxes will arrive with a promotional poster, a selection of free prayer cards and a sheet for recording ‘gift aid’ when you empty the boxes.
I suggest making a separate display with the materials rather than leaving them on a table with other items. At our church we use the open sides of the pulpit to display the prayer cards and put a table for the boxes in front. This spacious area is one through which people pass and is in line with one of the doors. Think of an area in your church which is conspicuous. Put the poster somewhere nearby. Publicise the boxes in advance in your parish magazine or newsletter and see that an announcement is made, encouraging people to take them. I leave the boxes out until Holy Week. It is not uncommon for people to pick up one three or four weeks into Lent. For Good Friday we set up a simple wooden cross in the same area and ask people to return their box to the foot of that cross when they come to church for the One Hour Devotion or for the Liturgy. This is something that happened in the parish church where I grew up and seems to me symbolic. It usually takes a couple of weeks for the boxes to be returned. Remember those who may be on holiday and, If you know of any illness or infirmity, offer to collect boxes. Complete one of the ACS paying-in forms, plus the gift aid sheet, and hand everything to your treasurer.
Other ways to raise funds
Under normal circumstances, you could consider inviting Fr Darren to come and preach at your church. Think of a one-off fundraising event for ACS, either virtual or actual. In normal times a cake stall or silent auction might fit the bill. This could coincide with the week of Vocations Sunday. Again, you will receive materials which promote this. You could encourage donors to set up a banker’s order in favour of ACS or to donate online. Another good way to keep the cash flowing into ACS at different times of the church’s year is to give whole or part of a collection from a special service or celebration. We have always earmarked the Feast of Corpus Christi for this.
I have said often that my job as ACS representative at S. Chad’s is one of the pleasantest roles I have undertaken and the least onerous. I hope that what I’ve written may encourage others to sign up.