Almost everyone who volunteers to help at parish functions are totally honest, and though they go unnoticed are vital to the goals and objectives of the Church. Much of what they do receive little notice and praise but without their dedication and help much of what gets done would come to a screeching halt. Unfortunately there are always a couple of outliers who see the church as an opportunity for easy financial gain.
Jack and I were always fascinated by an usher who consistently volunteered for the first mass every Sunday. He was impeccably dressed and no matter the weather always had a large English style umbrella. Neither of us at the time thought it was weird, and to protect the guilty I will refer to him here as the “Umbrella man”.
One Sunday morning we were notified by the police that there had been a serious accident on route 22 and a police car would be in the front of the Church to pick up one of the priests. Jack was saying the mass, and I had just helped with communion when we were notified of the accident. I raced to the front of the church ,and when I opened the door it was pouring outside. I saw the usher’s umbrella ,and was certain that he would not mind my borrowing it considering the circumstances. I left the church opened the umbrella, and dozens of bills flew out . He was stealing from the collection and placing the money in the umbrella. When I returned he was nowhere to be found and that was the last time any of us saw the “Umbrella man.”
I made it a habit after the last mass on Sunday to drop in and thank the ushers and those that tabulated the offerings. Many times these people were unknown to many, but they performed necessary functions week in and week out. On one occasion one of the counters “said oh my I forgot to go to the bank again” He wrote a check to Holy Trinity and took out fifty dollars in cash from the collection. A couple of weeks later he repeated the same story, and once again wrote a check and took out fifty dollars. The light bulb went off in my head ,and I realized what he was doing. The checks would be proof of how much he had donated during the year, and it was a clever way to stiff the IRS. I asked if I could see him outside and told him that I knew what he was doing. He was so shocked that I recognized the scam that he did not even attempt to deny it. Like the Umbrella man he never darkened the Church’s doorstep again.