THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING RECORDS IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH

PREAMBLE:
The Church (Greek ekklesia (ecclesia) is “the people of God”, members of “Christ’s Faithful” (Canon 204 CIC – 83); “a perfect and imperfect institution”. Thus St. Gregory (Book V. Epistle 18) writes: “Sancti ante legam, sancti sub lege, sub gratia, omnes … in memberis Ecclesive sunt constitute” (The saints before the Law, the saints under the Law, and the saints under grace – all these are constituted members of the Church)2.

Theologically, it signifies the whole body of Christ’s faithful, including not merely the members of the Church who are alive on earth but those, too, whether in heaven or in purgatory, who form part of the of the one communion of saints. Considered thus, the Church is divided into the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant.
The definition of the Church given by Bellarmine is that usually adopted by Catholic theologians: “A body of men united together by the profession of the same Christian Faith, more especially of the Roman Pontiff, the sole vicar of Christ on earth” (Coetus hominum ejusdem Christiana fidei professione, et eorumdem sacramentorum communione colligatus, sub regimine legitimorum pastorum et pracipue unius Christi in Terris vicarii Romani Pontficis.3 (Cf. Bellarmine, De Eccl., III, ii, 9)
“A perfect church because it is the “sacrament of Christ, who is the sacrament of God”, “Summum Bonum” and has the divine means of salvation. It is “imperfect because of its constitution, of “imperfect being”, the Pilgrim church”, “the church militants”. Precisely because of this (its imperfect nature) that we can talk about keeping records.

THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING RECORDS IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH

KEEPING RECORDS:
“Keeping Records” or keeping track of important files and documents has been a long – standing tradition in human history4. It is an essential part of our history and our culture. It is a process of scientific documentation. It is a process of safeguarding information. Documentation or keeping records can be done on “a paper”, on line, digital or analog media, software documentation5, et cetera.
The science of keeping records in today referred to as “information science” 6. In the ecclesiastical context, we shall be using interchangeably these terms: “keeping record” and documentation”.
Documentation may include
·        Written information for any read, projection or technical performing,
·        Data media of any format and for any reproduction,
·        Other content.
Common types of documentation include “… user guides, white papers, on – line help, quick – reference guides”7. It is less common to see hard – copy (paper) documentation. Documentation (modern) is distributed via websites, software products, and other on – line applications.
Historically, the earliest forms of written languages that we know of like “stone tablets and papyrus scroll”; seem to have been driven by our need to record our society’s laws, governing entities, births and deaths, medical records and other important information. As our cultures became more sophisticated, so did our records of those societies: from the scrolls and clerks of Rome to the centers of learning in monasteries in the Middle Ages8, we have always tried to keep track of our ever – changing communities and regions. In the 21st century, our record keeping has evolved to include mechanically typed and electronic data filing systems, made simpler by advances in the computer industry allowing for data storage and electronic documents.
FORMS OF KEEPING RECORDS IN THE CHURCH
Canon 535 of the 1983 code of Canon Law is the principal canon dealing with sacramental registers. It states:
"In each parish there are to be parochial registers, that is, of baptismal, of marriage and of deaths, and any other registers prescribed by the Bishops' Conference or by the Diocesan Bishop. The parish priest is to ensure that entries are accurately made and that the registers are carefully preserved.' (Par. 1)
"In the register of baptism, a note is to be made of confirmation and of matter pertaining to the canonical status of Christ's faithful by reason of marriage, without prejudice to the provision of canon 1133, and by reason of adoption, By reception of sacred order, the making of perpetual profession in a religious institute or a change of rite. These annotations are always to be reproduced on a baptismal certificate." (Par. 2)
"Each parish is to have its own seal, certificates concerning the canonical status of Christ's Faithful, and all acts which can have juridical significance, are to be signed by the parish priest or his delegate and secured with the parochial seal." (Par. 3)
"In each parish there is to be an achieve, in which the parochial books are to be kept, together with Episcopal letters and other documents which it may be necessary or useful to preserve. On the occasion of visitation or at some other opportune time, the diocesan Bishop or his delegate is to inspect all of these matters. The parish priest is to take care that they do not fall into unauthorized hands." (Par. 4)
"Older parochial registers are also to be carefully safeguarded, in accordance with the provision of particular law."[1] (Par. 5)
Its parallel in the 1917 code is canon 470:
"The pastor shall have parochial books, namely, a book of baptisms, confirmations, marriages and deaths; he shall also take care as far as possible to produce a book on the status of souls, and all of these books, according to the approved use of Church and the prescriptions of his own ordinary, he shall complete and diligently preserve…” (Par.1).10
This canon contains substantially the same provisions. Canon 535 of 1983 Code mandates that every parish must maintain records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, as well as any register prescribed by the conference of Bishop or the local ordinary/diocesan bishop. It further describes the type of information which must be noted in the baptismal registers be kept in a parish achieve, and also requires that older parish books be carefully preserved in accord with the norms of particulars law.
Canon 895 stipulates that the record of confirmation is to kept in a diocesan register, unless the conference of bishops of the diocesan bishop had provisions for confirmations to be recorded in parish registers. Other canons of the 1983 code also refer to various sacramental registers. (cc. 877, 897, 1053, 1081, 1121, 1122, 1122, 1123, 1133, 1182, 1185.1706).
The canons on this subject matter allow some other person, other than the pastor to make the entries in a way that is more legible. The obligation in law of the pastor is to oversee this work and to provide for the preservation of the registers. 11
Clearly, church law values sacramental records and expects that information be accurately and carefully entered. There is an urgent pastoral call to check against the carelessness with some sacramental registers are kept.
CAUTION: Some parishes might already be using COMPUTER DATABASES12 for their sacramental records. However, there are legitimate concerns about the safety and longevity of storing information solely in computer memories. The law presently envisions WRITTEN REGISTERS, and for the time being modern information retrieval formats would best be used supplements for permanent written records.  
It is worth noting that to ensure the integrity of any vital record within a particular system of law, and to ensure as closely as possible against contradiction of records across legal systems, changes must be made only in the form of addendum, (where possible, and only after the changes has first been ruled for a civil record by a civil court or administrative tribunal within that same legal system- in other words, legal confirmation via affidavits.
Functionally, a record keeping system allows a person or organization to file, track and manage documents and records. These can include financial information, legal documents records of payments and credits, and other important business or personal records. Most systems follow a set of rules input and output of documents and provide specific requirements for anyone using, transmitting, copying, or moving data13.
Most record keeping system can be classified in one of two ways:
1.                  PERSONAL: Everyone’s record-keeping system is a little different, and there’s no stand method to follow when creating your own. Most people use a filing system for bills, legal documents and other important records, and many also have a system for incoming and outgoing mails. Some people create household budgets, to-do lists and other tasks to keep their records in order and provide stability to their everyday activities. However, you can create a system with only the elements that feel comfortable to you; it’s important to have a system that you will actually use rather than one you dread working in. Generally, if you’re considering creating your own filing system for personal or home use, experiment with a few different ways before settling on one that’s most comfortable for you.
2.                  PROFESSIONAL: Outside the home and at the professional level, you’ll find that many organizations have specific filing requirements that are used across a discipline or specialty. Accountants, auditors and tax advisers all have a set system of rules to follow in their record-keeping; many grant and loan agencies require recipients to keep their records in a particular system. Governments are required to keep certain formats of records for a specific number of years to comply with open records laws. Ecclesiastical institutes in their merits juridic persons, enjoy this idea of professional method of record keeping.
From the ecclesiastical perspective, we can present the church’s forms of keeping sacramental records to include:
1.         RECORDS OF SACRAMENTS/SACRAMENTAL REGISTERS SKETCH OF THE REGISTERS
(i)        BAPTISMAL REGISTER: Its sketchy content:
No & Place  & Date of Bap.
Bapt. Name
Other Name
Surname
Date & Place if Birth
Home Town
Name of Parents
Name of Godparent
Name of Minister
1st Holy Com.
Conf.
Re-mark












  
(ii)       CONFIRMATION REGISTER
S/N
Conf. Name
Bapt. Name
Surname
Date of Conf
Place of Conf
Sponsor
Minister
Reg. of Bapt.
Date of Bapt.
Home town
Remark













(iii)     MARRIAGE REGISTER
S/N
Date & Place
Names of parties
Age
Bapt. place
Bapt. Date
Bapt. No
Bapt. Minister
Dispen-sation
Parent
Witnesses
Remarks












(iv)      DEATH
S/N
Name
Surname
Home town
Bapt. Date
Conf. date
Marriage date
Death date
Remark

2.         GREEN ANALYSIS BOOK
This principally forms the sacred and financial returns
2(a)     SACRED RETURNS
Year
Parish
Last Return
Members
Spirituals/ Sacraments
Catechists
Catholic Actions
Medical
Priesthood/ Sisterhood
Edu.
Members (4) would include returns of:
-           Adult & Infant baptisms.
-           Catechumens
-           Church goes
-           Christian families
Spiritual – Sacraments (5) include:
-           Paschal communion
-           Devotional Communion
-           Bapt. In danger of death
-           Confirmations
-           Marriages
-           Anointing of the sick
Catechists:   
-           Full time, Part time and voluntary ones.
Catholic Actions – refers to the various religious/pious Associations.
Lastly, we have the reports of the number of medical institutes, the number of Priests, seminarians, religious in the parish and educational institutes.
2(b)     FINANCIAL RETURNS
Canon 537 highlights the importance of finance committee thus:
“In each parish, there is to be a finance committee to help the parish priest in the administration of the goods of the parish. Without prejudice to canon 532; it is ruled by the universal law and by the norms laid down by the diocesan Bishop and it is comprised of members of Christ’s faithful selected according to these norms.” 14
Some dioceses have provisions for annual reports of parish accounts. An example of the format reads thus:
a.         ORDINARY INCOME:
S/N 1
AMC
AMOUNT
2.
STOLE FEE

3.
MASS STIPEND

4.
Daily/SUNDAY COLLECTIONS

5.
DONATIONS/LAUNCHINGS

6.
PROJECT SUNDAY/SPECIAL COLLECTIONS

7.
HARVEST/BAZAAR

8.
SALES

9.
SALARIES/WAGES

10.
BANK INTERESTS

11.
MISCELLANEOUS (SPECIFIED)


b.         ORDINARY EXPENDITURE
S/N 1
CULT/CHURCH REPAIRS/CHARITY
AMOUNT
2
FOOD/DRINKS/CLOTHING

3.
DIOCESAN LEVIES/ COMMON FUND, PROJECT SUNDAY COLLECTIONS

4.
HOUSE MAINTENANCE

5.
FUEL

6.
CAR MAINTENANCE

7.
BUILDINGS

8.
VOCATIONS

9.
OFFICE/DRUG/HOSPITAL BILLS

10.
SALARIES/WAGES

11.
MISCELLANEOUS (SPECIFIED)

In some dioceses too, there is provision for monthly financial reports in this format:
END-OF-MONTH – SUMMARY ACCOUNT (PARISH/MISSION)
Month ………………………
1
Total Monthly Income
N         k
2.
Total Monthly Expenditure

3.
Credit Balance

4.
Cash in the Bank

5.
Cash at Hand

6.
Total Cash

7.
Creditors/Debtors

8.
Grand Total

            OTHER “SACRAMENTAL DOCUMENTS INCLUDE”
(I)        CATECHUMEN CARD:
Diocese
Parish
Station
Name
Other name
Surname
Father
Mother
Sponsor
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3














(II)       BAPTISMAL CARD:
No
Place
Name
Other name
Surname
Birth
Address
Home Town
Father
Mother
Sponsor
Minister












(III)     A.M.C (Annual Mission Collection)
AMC
Name
Station
Society
Status
Occup.
Date
Parish Priest
Confess
Remark










(IV)     MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES, etc
This is to certify that
Mr. ………………………………………………….
Miss. ………………………………………………..
In the Catholic Parish of ………………………………………
On the ………………. Day of ……………….. 20 ………….
In the presence of ………………… and …………………….
The Rev. Fr. ………………………………………………….
Presiding over the ceremony
    ……………………                            …………………..
    Bride                                                  Groom
    …………………...                             ……………………
    Witness                                              Witness
            …………………………………………….
                                Parish Priest
Given at ……………………….. this ………………….
Day of …………………….. 20 ………………………..
THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING RECORDS IN LIFE OF THE CHURCH 
The benefits of staying organized extend beyond simply being able to find something when needed. Studies have shown that people who feel organized often also feel more in control of their lives and are often healthier than those who feel overwhelmed or chaotic. Additionally, having a working system of record keeping—and sticking to it—can open more opportunities for the you in your career and home life, by allowing you the access to records and background that you need for nearly any business transaction, large purchase, of life change.15 At the business or government level, successful record keeping can mean the difference between running a business efficiently and losing valuable time and resources in trying to sort through the hundreds of documents created each month. What more in the church that is historically identified with files preservations – the importance of keeping records can never be overemphasized.
Saints Jose Maria Escriva, in his presentation of the importance of keeping record in the life of the church, re-titles it, “plan of life”, which in his explanation, is a daily affair. It plans our life daily; it is life companion, a guide and a close “neighbour”16
In conclusion, given the significance of sacramental records, whatever format chosen should maximize as much as possible the dangers of having records lost or destroyed because of our all too human tendencies to carelessness. Given new possibilities for record keeping that exist today, particular legislation drafted after approximate research into the various possibilities could do an important service.
The import of keeping records in the life of the church extends to her spiritual life, the welfare of the ministers, social services and her upkeep. Examples:
-           Keeping records assists in the preservation and maintenance of the sacramental documents or registers.
-           It assists in the organization and orderliness of the pastors (both personally and spiritually)- Josemaria Escriva- the place of “plan of life”.
-           It assists the Church to care and sustain her Ministers.
-           It assists the Church in her mission/evangelization.
-           It assists the Church in the provision of social services to the faithful, to mention but a few.
NOTES/REFERENCES:
1.         1983 CODE OF CANON LAW, Canon 204.
2.         Confer: St. Gregory (Book V, Epistle 18)
3.         Cf. Bellarmine, De Eccl., III, ii, 9.
4.         About Record Keeping/eHow.com
http:www.ehow.com/about_4610476_record-keeping.html#ixzzltkpFSheD
5.         N/A. “A Guide to Documentation Styles”. http://www.somers.k12.ct.us/common/guide_to_doc.pdf. Retrieved 12 June 2009.(dead link)
6.         CGRP. “A Guide to Documentation Styles”.
http://www.sfsu.edu/~carpl/pdf/A%20to%20Document%29Styles.pdf. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
7.         N/A. “A guide to MLA documentation”. http://www.sunjcc.edu/jamestown/library/pdf/mla.pdf. Retrieved 12 June 2009. (Dead link)
8.         Berger, David. “Procedures and Documentation”. http://www.maintenanceonline/content_images/pll%20Trans%20View-20080410-222135.pdf. Retrieved 15 June 200.
9.         Canon 535 (CIC’ 83)
10.       Canon 470 (CIC’17)
11.       Cf. Code of Canon Law Annotated, Montreal, 1993, Canon 535.
12.       Springhouse. Complete Guide to Documentation.
            http://books.google.com/books?id=mlfPFVJIi6gC&pg=PA87&dq=initle:documentation&lr=&as_drrbis=b&as_minm_is=las_miny_is2005&as_maxm_is=6&as_maxy_is=2009&as_brr=0#PPPl,Ml. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
13.       Cf. Tampere University of Technology. “thesis Writing at the Tampere University of Technology”. http://www.tut.fi/public/english/Guide/thesisguide.pdf. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
14.       Canon 537 (CIC’ 83)
15.       Cf. Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Prince Edward Island. “A Guide for the writing of Graduate These”. http:www.upei.ca/avc/files/avc/guidetowritingthesis.pdf. Retrieved 12 June 2009.

OTHER REFERENCES FOR CONSULTATION
16.       Cf. University of Waikato “Writing and Submitting a Dissertation or Thesis at the University of Waikato”. http://www.waikato.ac.nz/library/learning/g_thesis.pdf. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
17.       Cf. Journal of Food Science. “Manuscript submission”. http://members.ift.org/IFT/Pubs/JournalofFoodSci/jfsmanuscripts/. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
18.       Cf. Analytical Chemistry. “Information for Authors”. http://pubs.acs.org/page/ancham/submission/authors.html. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
19.       Cf. Cropper, Mark; Tony Dibbens (2002). “GAIA-RVS Documentation procedures”. http://www.mssl.ucl.ac.uk/gaia-ru/document_repository/MSSL_GAIA-RVS_AD_00l.0l.pdf. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
20.       Cf. N/A. “GLNPO’s Quality System Document Review Procedures and Tracking”. http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/qmp/Appendix%20S/Quality_Doc_Review_Procedures.pdf. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
21.       Cf. UK Data Archive (2009). “Data Services Process Guides: Documentation Processing Procedures”. http://www.esds.ac.uk/news/publications/UKDA_DSS_DocumentationProcessngprocedures.pdf. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
22.       Cf. UK Data Archive (2007). “Data Services Process Guides: Documentation Processing Techniques”. http://www.esds.ac.uk/news/publication/UKDADocuProcessingTechniques.pdf. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
23.       Cf. Rader Brown, Rebecca (2009). “The Gang’s All Here: Evaluating the Need for a National Gang Database”. Columbia journal of Law and Social Problems 42: 293 – 333.

PROTOCOL:
From the Author - My Lord Bishop, my brother Priests, beloved members of Christ’s Faithful, it is a great honour for me, to stand before you and to share with you this day, my reflection of the place of documentation in the life of the church, especially for us pastors and Christ’s faithful. Thank you for inviting me. On a special note, I accept the short comings of this paper. They are purely mine, especially stenographic and grammatical misrepresentations. Considering the oral terms of reference and postulated audience (Clergy and Lay faithful), I am not expected to present purely scholastic work – but more of praxis, of pastoral exigencies.
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