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May 5, 2024

As we look at ongoing pastoral plans, sometimes the question will come up – why do we need to do this? One of the biggest reasons is the evidence we see of the steady decrease in the practice of faith. Not just Catholic Christianity but really across the board there is a movement away from faith. Becoming ever more common is simple disaffiliation, not being connected to any faith of any kind. That itself is a further step from claiming a certain affiliation even if it isn’t being lived in any real way.

 

One data point the Diocese has been collecting for many years is October Mass counts. Each Sunday in October the number of people at Mass is counted and then an average is produced from those weekends. That data for our parishes tells the tale: 476 in 2003 to 370 in 2023 at Sacred Heart – a 23% difference from 20 years ago. 182 in 2003 to 164 in 2023 at St. Mary – a 10% difference from 20 years ago.

 

Here is a major why for a pastoral plan and why the Diocese has been working with each parish to help them formulate a parish mission and vision. I am as susceptible as the next person to the allure of simply continuing the status quo. After all it is known, and there is a certain comfort and familiarity in what is known even if isn’t achieving the results that are hoped for. Hence, we are trying to move past that and to really living the New Evangelization – which is really a re-evangelization. This means preaching the Gospel to those who think they have heard the Gospel already and have rejected it, although what they received wasn’t necessarily the Gospel. I appreciate how Fr. Boniface Hicks describes this reality. (He is a Benedictine Monk who is active in the New Evangelization.)

 

“One reason for this newness is because the field of the New Evangelization is primarily those who have already heard the Gospel…sort of. Those who grew up Catholic and received a version of the Gospel watered down with secular culture, rejected what they thought was Christianity without really knowing the content of the faith. The full content of the faith must be presented in a new expression to avoid the defense, “I’ve already heard that.” It must also be presented with new methods, because those who need evangelization are not showing up for the old methods of CCD and parish missions and Sunday homilies. It must be presentewith new ardor because the fervent authenticity of the messenger is critical for communicating the Good News in a compelling way.”

 

I am excited for this venture and certainly grateful for the push from the Diocese to help us begin taking these practical and proactive steps to form ourselves. To hear the Gospel ourselves anew and then be confident in our mission to live and share it.

 

I will be gone next weekend for my brother Randy’s ordination to the transitional Deaconate. All are welcome to that Mass – Saturday, May 11th , at 10:30 am at St. Thomas

Aquinas, 955 Alton Rd., East Lansing.

 

God Bless,

Fr. Todd 

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