Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
As you know, school is started now at Holy Cross Academy and final preparations are underway by our parish staff to begin the year for Religious Education—on Monday, September 14, one week away.
Today I must remind all parents of your moral and sacramental obligation to provide formation for your children in the faith. As your pastor I must remind you of this commitment.
Registrations this year are only 74% of where we were at this time last year. So far, only 711 children are registered in the program beginning next week, down from 965 last year.
What has happened? I haven’t heard of your dissatisfaction, in fact, only that our program has gotten better every year. Our dedicated catechists are always seeking more formation and certification, our facilities newly renovated. What has happened?
Karen Sturtevant, our Assistant Director of Religious Education, provided me with some figures for this year:
|NUMBER OF GRADE CHILDREN IN|
|+ children attending Holy Cross||310|
|+ anticipated children in CYM
I include all of these here because they are startling. 40% of the children/youth in our parish are involved in a form of faith formation. 60% are not involved. At all.
I am hoping that the main reason for this is simply that school begins a week later this year and people are slow to get in and register, though registration has been underway since June.
National averages, however, seem to be trending in this direction. From 1965 to 2014, estimate Catholic population in this country has increased by 30 million, to about 80 million total. There are half as many Catholic elementary schools today as in 1966, and only a relatively small number fewer Catholic high schools and universities.
The number of primary school-age children in parish religious education programs has dropped from 3.4 million in 1965 to 2.7 million today (79%), though the number of Catholics today is 160% compared to 1965. Likewise, 43% of teens are registered in secondary school-age religious education today, .6 million compared to 1.4 million in 1965.
These effects are seen in sacraments received, too. The number of baptisms in 1965, 1.3 million, has dropped to .7 million today; marriages in the Catholic Church have dropped by 57%. Mass attendance in 1965, 55%, dropped to a low of 22% in the year 2000, and has returned to 24% today.
I believe that the most serious obligation we have as a parish community is to provide Catholic education and formation. I wish we could develop a culture where Catholic education could be provided to all who seek it through the support of the whole parish, but that is a dream that will require a lot of prayer and generosity that simply doesn’t exist today. We provide financial assistance where possible, but Catholic schools remains a wish that most people cannot afford. Thanks to those of you who make the sacrifice.
Religious Education, then, is our next best hope. Why is it not demanded by parents of their children? Still, I hear from people every day who, now in their later years, wish they had done something different with their children that might have helped them hold on to their faith, stay in the Church, live by a better set of values, get into heaven. It requires a perspective of the future looking back, to see that these are not choices that children can make for themselves. If you have registered, thank you. If not, please, please, consider registering your children.
God bless you.