Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Face of an Ever-Changing Church

Dear Parishioners,

Last month when I celebrated Mass on the memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Memorial: November 13), I read how she was responsible for establishing some sixty-seven Institutions—schools, hospitals and orphanages.  She also founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.  When Pope Francis canonized St. Junipero Serra (Memorial: July 1) during his recent visit, he mentioned how Fr. Serra was responsible for the founding of twenty-one missions along the coast of California.  St. Katherine Drexel (Memorial: March 3) established a religious community (Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament) and some forty-nine foundations including Xavier University in New Orleans.  Six separate religious congregations trace their beginnings to the Sisters of Charity founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Memorial: January 4).  I could go on with the accomplishments of these and other American saints.

My point in drawing your attention to these formidable accomplishments is to contrast how we live in very different times, especially in our part of the country.  Catholic Churches and schools are closing and merging.  Significantly more baptized Catholics don’t attend weekly Mass than those who actually do. Young people are questioning and abandoning their Catholic faith all too frequently.

As a pastor, I worry about the future.  I am concerned with the spiritual life and eternal salvation of all the parishioners—whether I encounter them or not each week.  From a practical perspective, I also try to figure out how to pay the ever-escalating bills and maintain our facilities by means of a hand to mouth method each week.  How could these past saints manage to do all that they did while I am having a difficult time with one medium-sized parish?  So much was established in the not-too-distant past (cathedrals and churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc.) with the cooperation and meager offerings of the poor immigrants who valued their faith and their Church.  It gets frustrating today, more often than not.

I asked all of you, our parishioners, to help me plan for the future by participation in the feasibility study whose deadline recently passed.  I hope that you took the time to participate.  I will let you know the results of the study once I receive them (more than likely, after I figure out how to pay the bill for the completed study.)

When I was ordained, I envisioned things would be a bit different than I am experiencing now.  Rectories with multiple priests are getting fewer and far between.  I studied philosophy and theology (concentrating in Sacred Scripture) and I wind up running a small business.  I make myself available in the confessional each week with perhaps a half dozen people, at best, seeking the forgiveness and mercy of God regularly.  Weddings and funerals are increasingly occurring with no connection to the Church.  Some people even look at priests with disdain for various reasons.

Surprising to many people, if I had to do it all over again, I would—without a doubt.  I remain interiorly happy and at peace each day as a priest.  I want more people to share this joy and happiness.  I want people to know and love the Lord Jesus.  

What will eventually turn the tide in the other direction?  I am sure God knows.

However, I am currently clueless.

Fr. Ed Namiotka

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your honesty, Fr. Ed. It is indeed sad to see how few are connected to and practicing their faith today. Where do we start to engage parishioners again?