Tuesday, September 12, 2023

It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

Recently, the Archdiocese of Hartford announced sweeping changes to the parishes in the city of Waterbury, CT. Some churches will be closed, and others will be merged with larger parishes. Not surprisingly, many people are quite upset at this news. A common lament goes something like this: “My grandparents built this church! How dare you shut it down!”

There’s no doubt the closing of a parish is a painful experience. Especially for people who have been loyal and faithful parishioners for decades, along with those whose ancestors literally constructed the church building a century or more ago. Whenever this occurs, it surely feels like a death in the family. A multitude of powerful memories are created inside parish churches: baptisms, first Communions, weddings, Christmas pageants, and yes, even funerals. 
The local parish church used to be the center of community life for many generations of Americans. There are still some folks who feel this way about their neighborhood congregation.
However, as we all know, times have changed – and quite drastically. In the wake of the big announcement about the churches in Waterbury, the local daily newspaper ran a survey. Now, this particular survey was not scientific in nature; it was simply a multiple-choice questionnaire. The respondents were people who visit the newspaper’s website. But the replies were telling.

The single, simple question was: “Do you go to church?”

Thirty-one percent replied, “Yes, regularly,” and 12-percent said, “No, never.” Another 12-percent answered, “Only on special occasions like holidays or weddings.” 

Finally, 45-percent of respondents answered that survey question, “Do you go to church?” by saying, “No, but I used to go.”

Well, if you want to know why many city parishes have to be closed or merged, look no further. If close to half of survey respondents say that they used to attend church but no longer do, you know exactly why the good ol’ days are a distant memory.

For discussion purposes, let’s say a small parish needs a minimum of $300,000 income per year to break even with its expenses: heat, lights, insurance, salaries, maintenance, etc. But if the pews are mostly empty during Masses and that particular parish brings in less than $100,000 per year in donations, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in mathematics to understand that there’s a big problem here.

If the worldwide Church was merely a man-made institution, then I’d say it looks like it might be on the verge of going the Blockbuster Video and Radio Shack route; that is, it will continue to shrink until it eventually ceases to exist.

But the Church is not a man-made institution. The Church was founded by Jesus Himself, and therefore it has a Divine guarantee of being victorious. So, instead of lamenting the fact that Mass attendance is currently shrinking and parishes are closing, let’s be excited and joyful. Why? Because we know that God is about to do an amazing miracle. He is going to revitalize His Church and make it once again a beacon of hope and peace in a troubled world.

Just look around. Are people happy and content these days? Has abandoning the worship of God made folks more peaceful and serene? Hardly. 

I truly believe we are on the verge of a new and wonderful revival. Ignoring our Divine Creator just doesn’t work. And since Jesus is the one who offers the world “peace that passes all understanding,” it’s just a matter of time before people finally become so desperate they give the “faith of our fathers” another look. 
So, please don’t despair. The situation does look bleak right now. But don’t forget: things looked REALLY bleak when Jesus hung on that cross. Three days later, however, Sunday finally came and everyone’s sorrow turned to joy.

A new Sunday is coming for our Church. Lost sheep are going to find their way back to the Shepherd. And when they do, it will be glorious. 

No comments:

Post a Comment