Once year I take a weekend to speak to you about the our parish and how things are going.
This is the Third Sunday of lent and the readings are important please take a moment to meditate on them this week.
All I have to say is that this year things look great financially.
Last year I was very concerned because our offertory collection was down for two years in a row.
When I brought it to your attention, many of you dug just a little deeper in your pockets and our income increased by 4% or $35,000. The annual family gift increased from $420.00 to $445.00 that around 2 bucks a month but it adds up.
This took a huge strain off of our parish finances and reversed the downward trend that I was so worried about.
All I can ask you from a financial perspective is to keep doing what you’re doing.
If you maintain your current rate of support and make up when you miss, we’ll be fine for a while.
The report is full of facts and figures. This year we had 89 new families but registered active families decreased by around 300.
The reason for this is that with the approval of the Pastoral Council anyone receiving envelopes, who has not participated in a parish ministry, is under 75, and has not contributed anything for the last three years, was marked inactive.
That was about 300 families, and that’s where the decrease comes from.
We just can’t afford to send people envelopes if they don’t use them? This will save us over $2,000 in postage and fees
There are people marked active in our census who haven’t been involved in our parish for 20 years. We are slowly but surely making our census reflect who is really involved.
Everything else is pretty much self-explanatory and looks really good.
This is your church we have a lot to be grateful for and proud of.
Please take a long look at the information in this report. It’s pretty impressive.
What I really need to speak to you about this week is what I see as the most significant challenge we face as a parish and a church.
There has to be a better way for us to touch the hearts of our young people and be involved in their lives.
There has to be a better way for us to bring back those families that have left us and no longer come to church.
There has to be a better way.
We can all notice families or people on our street who used to come to church, but are no longer in the pews.
Many, if not most of us, have family members who have left the regular practice of our faith. I know I do.
There are so many, who, have stopped attending Mass and receiving our Lord in the Eucharist.
Many of our young people are convinced that confirmation means graduation.
Don’t get me wrong they are great kids, they come to class. We have a great program.
We try our best but alas we seem to lose many of them.
We used to think when a kid stopped coming to church it was their High School or College vacation from their faith; We consoled ourselves with the thought they’ll come back when they get married or baptize their children.
But study after study has shown that while some do come back, many don’t.
I don’t need any study. All I have to do is look at the Baptismal Records and see the very low number of people who are getting married in church.
One of the most significant moments in my life this year was when we celebrated the funeral Mass of Chris Labbadia. As some of you know, he was a 19 year old who died in a car accident. I wrote about it in the report.
At his funeral the whole church was packed, but the first two rows over there in the old wing were filled with kids who were simply heartbroken. Some of them just sobbed through the whole Mass. Our faith seemed little consolation to them.
I’m here long enough to remember when most of them were confirmed, and I know I have seen few if any after their confirmation and many of their families are not committed either.
I worry about everything in our parish: the heat, the cracks in the sidewalks, the enrollment in our kindergarten, the families who don't send their kids to Religious Education, the old people who have no one left in town to care for them.
The list goes on and on, but my biggest worry is that even with all that we do, I fear that we are not doing enough for our children and their families to help them understand the importance of living a life inspired and shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I fear we just haven’t found a way to move hearts and inspire people’s faith.
Sometimes we console ourselves with thoughts like
our Masses here at ST. Paul are still full and we even need more parking.
Sometimes we think, “If you think we’re bad you should see some of the other churches.” That’s just a cop out.
I believe that if we don’t act in the not too distant future, we will be just like those other churches - half empty.
Over and over in the church these days we hear the words “new evangelization.” Our Holy Father is always calling us to find new ways to share the gospel.
And I believe that’s exactly what we have to do. We have to find new ways to share the Gospel beyond these walls.
We have to rediscover the missionary spirit, which should be in the heart of every faithful follower of Christ.
Since the time of Jesus our faith has been handed down to each generation and it is the responsibility of each generation to pass it on to the next.
We can’t be the generation that drops the ball.
I believe that the first thing we have to do is hire a new youth minister and pay him or her a living wage.
Then We have to be willing to get involved in our youth ministry when it starts up.
THe second thing we have to do is form a new evanglization team
We have to put our heads together all of us and come up with idea after idea after idea to reach those who don't know Christ or no longer practice their Faith.
Just like you never give up on your kids, our parish can never give up on anyone who no longer comes to church.
I hope to form this new evangelization team with the Pastoral Council and begin exploring ideas.
If no one signs up then nothing will get done.
Some of you are thinking
Nice ideas Father, but I can’t get involved. I don’t know what to do.
All we need is your good will.
All we need is your willingness to try.
Everyone in these pews has something to give
Everyone has a gift to share.
Ours is a holy mission.
God will tell us what to do and how to do it.
Our new evangelization effort is going to take time not days or months but years.
and it is going to take commitment.
The days of simply coming to church, tossing in our envelope and thinking we’ve done what we have to do have to end.
Like I said before this is your parish.
You or your parents or even grandparents built it.
You maintain it.
The priests come and go.
Pastors, Friars, Staff are but a blip in the history of a church here today and gone tomorrow.
In years to come some of you will say to each other who was that chubby priest with the white beard who was so loud? What was his name?.
St. Paul Church will be what you decide it will be, nothing more and nothing less, And all of us will be judged by God on what it will become.
Our buildings are in good shape, for now we are on a solid financial footing.
It’s time to take the next step and ramp up our pastoral life.
At the ends of the pews are little cards there are simply three questions. Anyone in middle school and above can vote. Say a little prayer then vote as you believe God would have you vote.
If no one is willing so get involved then like I said nothing will get done and we will follow everyone else down the road to a half empty church.
Please put the cards in the collection basket when it comes around.
Thanks for listening and may God bless you and God Bless St. Paul Church