June 6, 2009 – Talking Stats

Summertime usually brings a little slower pace to things around the parish.  Not that there still isn’t plenty going on with roofing projects, vacation bible school next month, and of course continuing to plan for the Mission in September.  But overall there are generally a few less meetings and a few less activities.  So in trying to come up with a subject to write about this week I glanced around at some news items and came across an article from Catholic News Service.  Annually a directory is published called the Official Catholic Directory.  This year it is 2100 pages worth of material, but thankfully this article just hits on the highlights.  It is basically a statistical summary of what the U.S. Catholic Church looked like on January 1, 2009 as compared to a year earlier.  If you would like to read the full article for yourself, here is a link to click on:

www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0902595.htm

These are a few highlights of the article: From 2007 to 2008 there were decreases nationwide in the number of Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, and Marriages performed in the Catholic Church.  The number of Catholic parishes and elementary schools also declined.  However, on the flip side, there were small increases in the number of priests, permanent deacons and diocesan seminarians.  There were also more students in Catholic colleges and universities.  Catholics continue to make up 22 percent of the total U.S. population, which is unchanged from last year.

So in going through the article and trying to digest all of the numbers, what does it all really mean in the end analysis?  As I was told more than once in school, statistics can be manipulated pretty much however you want them to be.  You can take some of the numbers and put a positive spin on them, and take some other numbers and put a negative spin on them.  I think the main thing I take away from the article is that the face of the Catholic Church continues to change.  The church we see now will not be the church that we see in 10 or 20 years.  Times continue to evolve, and it is the challenge of the church to evolve as well.

I hear comments from people such as “there sure aren’t as many people in church as there used to be,” or “young people sure don’t go to church anymore.”  I can’t argue with statements such as these, but we have to look a little deeper as to why this is occurring – it isn’t just a function of people ignoring the church, but population trends continue to shift, younger people are moving to other areas, etc.

Bishop Braxton did make a good point in one of our pastoral council meetings – he basically said that the strength and viability of the church shouldn’t just be judged on the sheer numbers, but are we continuing to carry out Jesus’ mission and evangelize to others?  Are the people who are present in church getting the full experience?  So as we look at the current state of the church, perhaps we need to brush some of the numbers aside and focus more on things such as whether the church is giving me what I expect, or what can I do to continue to spread the good news of the Gospel?  This is one reason I think we can look forward to our Mission – it will be a time to perhaps re-focus our energies on the positive ways our church can make a difference in our lives.

Finally, just a personal note of thanks to you for your compliments on our website, and what we continue to do with it.  You may have seen that Tony LaRussa, the Cardinals manager, sued Twitter because someone set up an account with his likeness and was posting a lot of negative comments toward players.  This lawsuit has since been settled.  I just want to assure you that our new Twitter account is genuine – it is me and all me – (what a scary thought).   If you have any quick updates to share about goings on in the parish or church as a whole, I can put them up very easily and quickly on our Twitter account.

Enjoy the day of sunshine.  Peace.

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