31 August 2014 + Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Last week I wrote about the fact that about one-third of our parish membership participates in Sunday Mass and regular involvement in parish life. This is not unique to our parish. Statistics show this to be the case throughout our diocese and in Catholic parishes in the entire United States. While this is a number that concerns us, protestant churches report a more drastic decrease. Recently, a friend of mine who is a Methodist minister left his "charge" of three churches because they could no longer afford a single salary. He told me that at times as little as ten people would show up for Sunday services.
While we look to see what we can do to increase the involvement of our parishioners into parish life, there are some fundamental factors that have change the landscape of religious life in America of which we have no control. One of the fundamental changes that have taken place is the American family. With the divorce rate remaining at fifty percent for nearly two generations now, many parents have opted to distance themselves from church life. Often times parents are at odds with each other regarding the religious upbringing of their children. A common religious tradition is no longer a central part of family life. Children are being left to fend for themselves when it comes to the practice of their faith.
Because of the fact that this has happened over two generations or more, young couples preparing for marriage do not look to the church as they used to for marriage preparation and the celebration of their wedding in the church. And when they do come to us for preparation, it is often the case that they have been away from the church for a long period of time. The "Community of the Faithful" is no longer rooted in the family like it used to be. This has a tremendous impact on parish life. And yet, marriage preparation is often the place where we have the opportunity to reach out to young adults and help them return to the practice of their faith.
Why is it that our churches are packed at Christmas and Easter time? The simple reason is that it still remains the time for families to get together and find some connection with their religious roots. These can also be tense times because of the divisions and conflicts that are present in family life. This is why the strengthening of family life is so important, not only for society, but for the parish itself.
Blessings and best wishes,