The Boston Globe looks at the dwindling number of young people engaged in the Catholic Church, but finds hope in at least one parish in suburban Boston:
The pastor credits its growth to the philosophy of living Catholic values. St. Patrick Parish of Lawrence offers services in three languages (English, Spanish, and Vietnamese) and is growing “every year in every metric,” said the Rev. Paul O’Brien.
Parishioners crowd vibrant and busy Masses on the weekends, he said, and the church has expanded its place in the community through its work beyond its walls.
With 75 percent of Lawrence children “at risk for hunger,” St. Patrick 12 years ago opened the Cor Unum Meal Center, a restaurant that serves free breakfast and dinner every day — 250,000 meals a year, he said.
“This parish has eliminated the reality of hunger for an entire city, for anyone who wants to be relieved,” O’Brien said. “This is how God tells us we should live. This attracts [volunteers], particularly teenagers and college-aged people.”The church also runs a Catholic school and a basketball program that provides plenty of free food. Thousands of children have been involved, and even if they never enter the church in their youth, they may someday, O’Brien said.
“Kids don’t analyze this, but they realize that they’re loved,” he said. “And it might be that the 14-year-old doesn’t set foot into the church until he’s 24 or 34, but when he falls in love, or gets into trouble, or when he has some thought about, ‘Maybe there is something beyond just this material world, maybe there is a God?’ it is very, very likely that kid is going to walk into our church, because that kid already thinks this is his home.
“Secularism, materialism, the ridiculousness that is pulsing through social media — I don’t have some answer for how you turn around those ginormous social currents. They may never turn around. But I can tell you that if we live our faith, people come.”