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Sunday, August 28, 2022
I know that everyone is talking about All Things New and the imminent closure or consolidations of parishes and schools through the Archdiocese of St. Louis. I know that this eventuality is causing hypothesizing and opinionating, worry and anxiety. As your priest and pastor, charged not only with your spiritual care but also with the temporal care of this parish community, I want to reflect with you on this process; how we got here; where we’re going; and what comes next.
First, let’s get the facts of the matter out of the way. What I’m about to say might sting a little. Please know that I love you enough to tell you the truth. As a diocese, we are undergoing this process because the parochial model of church that has been used in the diocese since the turn of the 20th century is no longer sustainable. There are too many aging buildings, too few Catholics to help care and pay for them; and too few priests to provide spiritual, pastoral, and temporal coverage. And yet, strangely enough, of those three realities, the most important one is the fact that there are too few Catholics attending Mass, tithing for the care of the church, prioritizing the Sabbath, and living out intentional discipleship. MQP has nearly 1400 registered households. Our census is 4,150 people. Our weekly average of Mass attendance is just over 1,100 people. You are here but where is everyone else?
All Things New is just as much about re-evangelizing nominal, but nonpracticing Catholics as it is about the closure and consolidating of parishes. Our finite human and financial resources have reached a critical tipping point. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing. We have to try SOME THING NEW. It’s time to reallocate our resources and refocus on attention: invite back, welcome and
re-evangelize the nonpracticing Catholic.
Last Friday, the priests of the Archdiocese attended a presentation is which we were shown the proposed models of the consolidations of parishes. The Archbishop asked us to keep the information we received confidential because it will undergo numerous revisions between then and the presentation to the faithful at the listening sessions in late October, held at the individual parishes. In obedience to the bishop, I cannot reveal the details of that presentation to you until the appropriate time. The models presented to us were based on demographic and sacramental data; the results of the Disciple Maker Index and the Catholic School Survey. The presentation was comprehensive, informative and, in some ways, predictable. We were there for 5 hours. On a Friday. When it was 80 degrees and sunny with no humidity!
In September, our key parish leaders, 6 members of the parish who have been working with, and advising me, on this process for the last year will have the models presented to them. They will provide feedback and the models will undergo another revision. Then, in October, here at MQP, the entire parish community will have an opportunity to see the models and provide feedback at a listening session facilitated by a layperson assigned to our parish. Our facilitator will not be a member of our community.
I would be remiss here if I did mention, from this pulpit, those who have been on our All Things New working group for the past year: Eric Field, Heidi Sallee, Sean Dolan, Danielle Emert, David Rehg, and Sue O’Leary. Also, Justin Basara graciously volunteered to be a part of this process by agreeing to serve as a listening session facilitator for the archdiocese. Again, Justin will not be assigned to our parish, but will instead be assigned to another parish in the diocese. I am very grateful to these members of our community who have assisted both me and the archdiocese in this work. Our work is not over; in fact, in some ways, it’s just beginning.
So, what’s next?
I am convinced that this process to make All Things New is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit. I can’t exactly articulate why I know this to be true, but I hope you will trust me when I tell you that it is of and from God. This will make us stronger; this will enrich our experience of a Catholic community that, in many ways, is becoming the minority in our culture.
So, I aim now to pointed areas of intent:
- I announce today the formation of Emmaus Groups. Small groups of parishioners who want to support one another in living out Intentional Discipleship. There is more information in the bulletin and an introductory presentation will be made in the Lubeley Room this coming Wednesday at 7pm. This is a key component to the future of the the church: Catholic Christians coming together in a post-Christian world, to support one another by fellowship, prayer, and learning.
- I will speak plainly here: starting on Monday, I’ll begin reaching out, personally, to those households that are registered members of this community but that I haven’t seen in church in the year that I’ve been here. They may go to a conveniently timed Mass at St. Elizabeth’s or St.Mary Magdalen- and I suppose that is what it is. Perhaps COVID messed with their weekend routines. Perhaps they’ve got a bone to pick with the church’s teachings or beliefs. And I hope to get the chance to talk to them about all those things. But first, I want them to know that I miss them. I mean, I literally miss them. I miss seeing them but I miss seeing them here, around our Eucharistic Assembly. They were here once and they can be here again, so help me God. I’m taking it upon myself to reach out to them and invite them back. Let me know if you would like to help me in this endeavor. It will be labor intensive, but the bounty could be 30, 60 or 100 fold.
- We are resuming the Luke 18 8th grade retreat weekend here at MQP. Too many of our 2nd and 8th graders receive the Sacraments of Initiation and become members of the Church but have not been properly formed to not just be members, but disciples. A parish doesn’t exist to run a school. A parish runs a school to make disciples. We MUST do better at making Disciples. It is my intention and hope that the Luke 18 Retreat, Emmaus Groups, and a renewed focus on the ACTS Retreat Apostolate will highlight the Great Commission given by Jesus: go and MAKE DISCIPLES!!!
Friends, in my pastoral love for you, please let us guard against gossip and resignation. These do us no good and produce no fruit. Instead, let us turn our attention to the work of inviting and welcoming our parishioners back to this Eucharistic Assembly. I challenge you, next Sunday, invite a member of our community that you know hasn’t been to church for any duration back to this Eucharistic Assembly. Drive here together, sit here together, and then go to breakfast together. Talk about what you heard during the homily - what did mean to you and how can you apply it in your daily life? Talk about the songs we sing during Mass- what words spoke to you and moved your heart? And then talk about the weather and whether Pujols will make it to 700! For some, if not all, this will be at least ONE THING NEW!
This is community and this is church. We are not resigned or intimidated by the work of Inviting and Welcoming Back. Friends: it’s time to grow back our parish. Join me.
Fr. Craig Holway