Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An urgent recommendation for what needs to be done in our diocese (and probably yours too)

For all the talk about the Church embracing modernity, we are still often structuring our American dioceses as if people don't have automobiles


Problem: our priests are spread too thinly.  Many of our priests who have left active ministry in recent memory have left as a pretty direct result of being given multiple parishes.  There is no doubt that being a pastor of a giant parish with a huge staff presents its own challenges, and I have great admiration for our priests pastoring our mega-parishes, but there is something really problematic in having priests be pastors of multiple parishes

Related Problem: Vatican II said priests ought to live in community.

Related Problem: priests pastoring multiple parishes is not sustainable (the assignment of guys to being pastors of multiple parishes is often being done by people who have never been a pastor of two parishes.  It is not a healthy situation)

Related Problem: we have 17 seminarians

Analysis
            
            Within 7 miles of Monument Circle in Indianapolis there are 118 Masses on the weekend

I took the seating capacity of each church and added the numbers up

Our presbyterate is saying Mass for 71,210 seats within 7 miles of Monument Circle

Those parishes have 27,678 registered families

Most parishes see about the same number of people on the weekend as they have registered families

Using this as an approximation, there are a couple of amazing ways to frame the same stat:
a.       Our presbyterate is saying Mass each weekend for 44,000 empty seats within 7 miles of Monument Circle
b.      We are saying over twice as many Masses as we need within 7 miles of Monument Circle
c.       We could cut out roughly 70 of the 118 masses and still have a seat for everyone that is currently coming to Mass within 7 miles of Monument Circle
d.      Those 70 Masses we don’t need mean we have approximately 20 priests within 7 miles of Monument Circle saying a weekend’s worth of Masses we do not need

This is not just an Indianapolis thing.  The figures are even worse in the only other place I looked – Terre Haute city.  6,950 seats each weekend for 2,352 attendees.  That’s 66% of the seats unfilled each weekend (4 Masses at St. Patrick’s each weekend would cover every Catholic Mass attendee in Terre Haute with 600 seats to spare each weekend.  Terre Haute currently has 15 Masses).

As priests we are asked to demonstrate business skills – the Lilly Grant/pastor’s toolbox/the book we were all mailed by Patrick Lencioni and Amazing Parish that encourage priests to become more business savvy.

That’s Great!!!!   My classmates and I asked for this repeatedly in the seminary, and we noted it as a weakness in our class exit interview from our seminary.

But it isn’t just priests that could benefit from thinking corporately.  The diocesan leadership needs to also put some corporate principles to work as well, in my opinion

Solution: Studies show that 70 -90 percent of Catholics are walking away from the faith from 18-34.  What company would learn that it is losing 70-90 percent of 18-34 years olds and would not have alarm bells going off and having emergency board sessions?
            
    And yet we are pulling priests out of precisely the places where these kids are found.  In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis no priest is assigned just to a college.  No priest is assigned just to a high school.  I was assigned to a high school in my first few years, but the Archdiocese pulled all of its high school chaplains out of the high schools and replaced them with part time priests who are supposed to do high school ministry as a part of their slate of other jobs.               

Corporations pay attention to their key demographic, their future, and it is pretty clear we are not paying attention to that demographic.  Investing in FOCUS ministries on our college campuses has been a good start, but even FOCUS will tell you that there is no substitute on a college campus for a full time priest chaplain. 

Putting some kind of limit on the number of Masses at parishes would free up priests to be present to the generation that will provide us with our next generation of priests, nuns, and faithful lay Catholics

Doing something about the number of Masses HAS to come from the diocese and the bishop.  We would get killed as the boots on the ground pastors if we canceled Masses.  But if it came from the diocese we’d be okay. 

And here’s the thing – every parish I’ve gone to has had to cancel a Mass in order for me to only say 5 Masses each weekend.  They’ve all grumbled, but because it came from Canon Law (a priest can only say 5 Masses a weekend), they accepted it.  They’ve all reported liking it better several months later
A)     A full Church
B)      Better music
C)      Seeing people they didn’t know because they went to an earlier Mass

Addressing this issue of having about twice as many masses as we need in our Archdiocese would both

1)      alleviate the extraordinary and sometimes unsustainable burdens on our current priests

2)      Help provide more presence to our young people thus helping increase the number of priestly vocations, helping with priest numbers in the future