Parishioners missing from church
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, firstname.lastname@example.org