After reading the diocesan report of slumping Mass attendance, what is a priest to do?
Check out this excerpt from a homily delivered a few weeks back, by the Rev. Edwin C. Dwyer of the Diocese of Saginaw:
If we are going to keep this parish afloat into the next generation, the major focus must be on what emboldens younger Catholics, and what attracts younger non-Catholics to the Church.. . . . . So what works?
Believe it or not, tradition works. So-called “old ways” are quite popular among younger Catholics. Smells, bells, classic hymns, chant, prolonged silence, and, hold on for this one, LATIN are all largely embraced by the younger generations of the Church. Furthermore, when younger non-Catholics experience these traditions they are struck by how different they are from everything else they experience in a noisy, secular culture. These “old ways” are beautiful to them, and beauty is a great place to introduce young folks to Jesus Christ.
Thus, we are going to make Sunday beautiful at Our Lady of Peace. That’s not to say it isn’t now. I have nothing but respect for all who help with our worship, but we are going to make it more beautiful with tradition. We are going to look, and sound, and smell vastly different from the rest of the world on Sundays. It will be a religious experience that, at the very least, will be memorable to the young who encounter it. We’ve already taken a few steps with Communion distribution, and the altar server attire. I have not been here long, but folks tell me they’re noticing more young families, and crying babies. And if the church ain’t cryin’, the church is dyin’. My goal is to hear a chorus of crying babies before my time here ends. To do that, however, we need to embrace what works with the young. We need to more greatly embrace timeless traditions. We cannot keep the status quo.
If you want to see a bit of what I mean by tradition, come to the 6 pm Mass at SVSU (Saginaw Valley State University). I’ll happily give you directions. It’s not the pre-Vatican II Mass, but we have restored many lost traditions that Vatican II requires us to practice to the delight of the students.
Christ commands us to watch the signs of the times. The sobering numbers of our October count, and the response of the young to restored traditions are some of those signs. If we are going to be serious about keeping our parish alive for the next generation, and about instilling faith into the young, we must acknowledge that the status quo must change.
Hope is the desire of something with the expectation of attaining it. I have great hope in a healthy future for this parish. I desire it, and I expect to attain it. I have great hope that the young people I see in the shops, and pubs in Bay City will meet Jesus Christ. I desire it, and I expect to attain it. As your pastor, I have great hope that you will get behind me in these efforts. I desire it, and I expect to attain it. God desires every soul in Bay City and beyond to reign with him in heaven after earthly death. By his power and grace, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s get this done.
It will be interesting to revisit this situation in a year or two and see what has happened. Stay tuned.