Parish­ioners miss­ing from church

The Avenue News - - Editorial / On Health -

On Septem­ber 11, 2001, Amer­i­cans ex­pe­ri­enced an un­be­liev­able tragedy. Thou­sands of peo­ple lost their life; many more were in­jured. I am sure many of you can dis­tinctly re­mem­ber hear­ing the news and know ex­actly what you were do­ing at that pre­cise mo­ment.

Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans flocked to churches ask­ing for God to help us. Many Amer­i­cans also said one of the fol­low­ing com­ments: “Oh my God!” or “God Almighty, why?” or “How could God let this hap­pen?” Churches were over­flow­ing as peo­ple prayed that we were not on the brink of a world war.

Over time churches were no longer full. Peo­ple went back to their old habits of for­get­ting to in­clude church in their lives. Yet, in the time of other emer­gen­cies, peo­ple also call on God. It’s the only time peo­ple feel it’s im­por­tant to rec­og­nize that God ex­ists.

Some­times peo­ple re­mem­ber their churches… in times of need, when ill­ness or death oc­curs, or per­haps when they get mar­ried – but even mar­riages are of­ten not per­formed in churches now. Quite of­ten young cou­ples want some­thing ex­cit­ing (and ex­pen­sive) like a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding or an un­usual and fancy venue… some­times with a priest or min­is­ter but just as of­ten with a wed­ding of­fi­ci­ate not af­fil­i­ated with God and church.

All churches are feel­ing the pinch re­gard­ing the lack of loyal parish­ioners. Yes, all churches ask for and ex­pect do­na­tions from those who at­tend. In many churches, the min­is­ters/priests rely on col­lec­tions to pay the bills. Yes, money is re­quired to pay for build­ing main­te­nance, elec­tric bills as well as hav­ing a bud­get to as­sist peo­ple in need. Parish­ioners of­ten ig­nore the fact that churches must pay for the heat, air con­di­tion­ing, elec­tric and wa­ter bills… not even con­sid­er­ing a salary for the staff work­ing in the church of­fice, the cost of print­ing a bul­letin or pro­vid­ing any type of pro­gram for hol­i­days and special holy days.

Over the past year, the Arch­dio­cese of Bal­ti­more – the old­est dio­cese in America – has been eval­u­at­ing how many churches there are, how many priests they have and what can they af­ford to keep op­er­at­ing. A few years ago, a se­ri­ous eval­u­a­tion of Catholic schools was com­pleted and sev­eral schools closed. In an ef­fort to keep churches open and op­er­at­ing, the Arch­dio­cese is on the brink of ma­jor change.

Through­out the dio­cese, churches may be selected to part­ner with oth­ers to re­duce the num­ber of masses being said each week­end, the num­ber of pas­tors and over­all staff re­quired. In­stead of in­di­vid­ual parishes, part­ner­ing churches will form “Pas­torates.” Of­ten two or three churches will share one pas­tor, of­ten with or with­out the sup­port of other priests. Many Catholics are say­ing why?

Churches are no longer full. Parish­ioners are not at­tend­ing reg­u­larly. Many don’t do­nate money to help pay the bills. Fam­i­lies are also not en­cour­ag­ing their young men to be­come priests. The church has been through tough times be­fore. It may be a rough road be­fore it gets bet­ter. I have to ask, “Where are you?”

-Anna Re­nault, ave­newsanna@ya­hoo.com

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