There are many concerns that a pastor has to deal with when shepherding a parish. My primary concern is the spiritual well-being of you, my parishioners. Ultimately, I want to see all of you (and me) in heaven for all eternity. I also need to be sure I am properly caring for the other priests in the rectory. Then there are the more mundane tasks that I also have to face: paying the bills, being sure the buildings and grounds are properly maintained, supervising the employees, etc.
I can look at some measurable statistics: Mass attendance, the number of baptisms, weddings and funerals, the number of converts to the faith (R.C.I.A.), the number of people making use of the Sacrament of Penance (confession), the number of families and youth actively involved, etc.
What do the stats tell us? The number of registered households reported for 2018 in our parish was 2362 with a total of 5268 individuals. The average Mass attendance per week is approximately 1100 at the eight Masses. (This statistic must also allow for weekly visitors from other parishes/areas.) This means that about only 20% of parishioners attend Mass weekly. Unfortunately, this is pretty much the situation in many other local parishes throughout the diocese/region.
We have our fair share of funerals. Last year there were 90. However, we only had 77 children baptized. I have been told many times that we have an aging parish. I heard a recent talk in which the speaker stated: Unless there are babies in church crying, the parish is dying. Certainly, this is something to think about!
While we list 64 First Holy Communions and 61 Confirmations last year, sadly we see only a fraction of these at Mass weekly. Just look around you and take a count to verify what I am saying. Remember, if a similar number of children receive their sacraments each year, the total number of children should be multiplied per academic year. This makes the mere handful of young children at Mass weekly even more discouraging.
We witnessed only 13 weddings in the parish last year. I guess this should be no surprise since society is comfortable with people living with each other out of wedlock. Moreover, many, if not most, young people are not informed of Catholic Church requirements for a valid marriage (usually in church before a priest or deacon and two witnesses) or else they simply ignore them.
In addition, at the Easter Vigil we saw 6 people receiving their sacraments or being received into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.). We average a half-dozen or so daily confessions (after the 9 AM Mass) and maybe a dozen confessions over the weekend. Fortunately, during the holidays there is more frequent use of this sacrament.
They say that the numbers don’t lie. Actually, all stats must be examined and interpreted. So far, I have placed them in front of you for your consideration. I plan to follow-up in subsequent weeks with other dimensions (financial, future planning) of our parish situation.
Fr. Ed Namiotka