It’s taken for granted that even among church-going believers, only around 30% attend church several times a month.
However, many Catholic churches are overflowing with parishioners on Sundays. How can we think that the Catholic faith is not relevant and influential in our country? Things look good, right? Or, maybe not so much.
The fact is that we aren’t building many churches anymore so the ones we do have are filled. Yes, the number of Catholics has increased significantly as our population grows. Lots of senior Baby Boomers are showing up while their children and their children’s children slip away. Hispanics have helped us grow but they seem to move easily to other Christian Churches when those churches attempt to incorporate their cultures and language into their worship services.
Since less than a third of our parishioners are present on any given Sunday,
we can easily accomodate them. However, on the feasts of Christmas and Easter we see a better picture of what would happen if they all came with any kind of regularity.
Meanwhile as church attendance diminishes in importance in the lives of our people, dioceses establish elaborate fund raising programs and the bishop’s conference installs baroque changes to the wording of the Mass, thereby attempting a renewal which is having about as much effect as rearranging deck chairs would have had on the sinking Titanic.
We must take the New Evangelization much more seriously. We should stop spending outrageous amounts of time and money trying to save enormous church structures of dubious architectural worth. Instead, we need to get back to working with neighborhood groups and clusters of households in an attempt to develop vibrant Catholic communities. We should build churches where our people live and let the old churches fade away.
Our Sunday liturgies need priests and deacons who can deliver well-developed homilies that speak to the needs and hopes of their parishioners. People who come to church need to feel welcomed and part of what is happening, and not just observers of a liturgical action.
Forget about trying to save dying Catholic schools, many of which are no longer part of the mission of their parishes anyway. There are many schools that have drifted so far away that they are no longer so much Catholic as elitist and separatist schools. Let them die so that new ways of Catholic formation can emerge.
We need a new vision for our Catholic Church in America. So far, our episcopal leadership has been unable to provide heart and soul to Benedict XVI’s new vision of Evangelization.