My Sisters and Brothers of St. Michael Parish,
I want to bring you up-to-date on the issue concerning St. Michael Parish and Catholic Community Services’ announced closure of St. Mike’s Tikes. The Pastor’s Notebook in this Sunday’s bulletin gives some background to this decision. The ramifications of such a decision have been huge. The Olympian ran a long, front page article on Thursday, April 14th and posted the story on their website which garnered many angry, accusatory, defaming and incorrect comments. Such is life in our digital age.
Together with Denny Hunthausen, the Director for Catholic Community Services Southwest, I met with the Tikes parents late Thursday afternoon, April 14. It was a very difficult meeting with many deep emotions expressed and some accusations leveled. Yet there was also respect shown and a desire to seek some solution rather than closure.
I am ever grateful to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who awakened me early Friday morning to begin to craft the statement below. Working closely with Denny Hunthausen of CCS, we came to an agreement of how to keep St. Mike’s Tikes open, viable and more connected to the parish and school. This will rest on close cooperation between the parish, CCS and most especially the parents with children in Tikes. Sacrifices on both sides will be essential to the future of Tikes and their relationship with the parish.
We will begin further work on the “Way Forward” this coming Thursday. I will keep you informed. I will also offer some more background as to our parish’s future needs as seen by the Building Committee and the Strategic Plan that the Pastoral Council is presently developing. Please keep us in your prayer.
St. Michael Parish, Catholic Community Services and St. Mike’s Tikes: A Way Forward, April 15, 2016
Wind and rain storms are notorious in the Northwest winter months for causing downed trees, power outages, damage to homes and property, flooding and even tragic human suffering. Yet they also serve as nature’s ways of pruning, providing new growth; replenishing a thirsty landscape and rebuilding a life sustaining snowpack for the summer.
A crisis can produce unexpected fruit. New growth, insight, initiative and collaboration can result from what could have been a painful tragedy. Fr. Jim Lee, Pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church and Denny Hunthausen, Director of Catholic Community Services, Southwest met with a group of St. Mikes Tikes parents on April 14th in response to the news of the closure of the Tikes program. Respectfully listening to the expression of deep feelings, concerns for their own children and the ramifications for the needs of the wider community, Fr. Lee and Denny Hunthausen sought to respond to questions with compassion and with the difficult financial reality of operating a non-profit child care center while providing adequate wages and health care benefits for its employees as well as meeting the growing needs of St. Michael Parish ministries.
What also began to emerge was a not only a deep desire to keep Tikes operating but also the possibility of doing so in a new way. After prayerful consideration and discussion, St. Michael Parish (SMP) and Catholic Community Services (CCS) present an initiative to restructure and redefine the partnership between SMP and CCS’s St. Mikes Tikes (SMT) program in order to grow greater inter-connectedness and cooperation between the parties, the parents and the wider community.
This partnership must include the following elements to succeed:
- Tikes remaining open and operating at full capacity for the next three years. This will demand sacrifice on the part SMP and its ministry plans as well as from all parents at SMT.
- An immediate communication plan to the parish and the wider community of Thurston County as to the crucial role SMP and SMT plays in the lives of families and some of the community’s most needy people.
- Establishment of an Advisory Commission composed of representatives from SMP, CCS/Tikes and parent community.
- Effectively communicate the financial realities and responsibilities of SMP and SMT to parents and parishioners.
- Financial commitment of parents to keep SMT viable
- Develop a viable and stable financial plan to address the critical challenges of running SMT at SMP.
- This would include a sliding scale according to income
- Higher rates to offset true costs of programs
- Stewardship Development efforts as prerequisites for all families seeking childcare at SMT
- Cooperative development of a master plan to provide and fund needed space for growing SMP ministries in conjunction with SMP Building Committee
- Discern and align the resources of SMT in a way that assists and benefits those most in need in the community
- Develop a comprehensive plan with SMS, Office of Catholic Schools and SMT that optimizes SMT as a resource and feeder for SMS.
- SMT to develop an internal culture that understands itself as a natural conduit for SMS
- Develop a greater sense of partnership and collaboration between SMP, CCS/Tikes and parents through regular communication and joint events.
Fr. Jim Lee, Pastor
Denny Hunthausen, CCS SW Director