Parishes offer a collection e-basket

Martine Powers / New York Times News Service /

It’s a question of not-quite-Biblical proportions: Who carries cash anymore?

In anticipation of the day when cash no longer reigns king at Sunday morning Mass, parish leaders at the South End’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross have installed a credit card kiosk so parishioners can make donations the way they pay for most other things: with a swipe of plastic.

The debut of the electronic payment terminal is meant to bring the benefaction process into the technological age.

“It’s something we thought would be helpful,” said the Rev. Kevin O’Leary. “Cash is becoming less and less of our reality.”

O’Leary is right: According to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, a financial consulting firm, a little more than one-quarter of domestic in-person business transactions in 2011 were made with cash.

Though parishioners have been able to make credit card donations online for years using the website ParishPay, the credit card terminal near the entrance to the church more closely reflects the collection basket tradition that many parishioners hold dear: providing an offering each time they attend Mass.

Those donations help fund community programs and cultural events sponsored by the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, O’Leary said.

The computer kiosk was installed for free by the e-donation company SecureGive, which deducts a fee from each donation.

Since its debut five weeks ago, the credit card kiosk has been far from popular. Only two donations, one of them of $1,000, have been made so far, O’Leary said.

But St. Anthony Shrine downtown has had a similar machine since 2007, when it became one of the first Catholic churches in the world to install an e-donation kiosk, and it has been a hit with parishioners, said Nicole Aucoin, executive assistant at the parish.

Dozens of churchgoers and visitors donate via the kiosk there every week, and parish leaders are planning to expand from one machine to four, switching from the upright ATM-style kiosk to simpler, more elegant wall-mounted iPads.

“It has been very successful for us,” Aucoin said. “It’s becoming more and more popular as people deal less and less with cash.”

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