Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
It’s that time of year, transitions are taking place all over the place. Already many plans are taking shape for what a lot of our family members will be doing at the end of the summer, which goes faster and faster each year. Already people who are being relocated for their jobs are saying goodbye, students graduating are looking forward to their next steps in life, most people are just hoping for a break this summer to catch their breath and step back and sit down and put up their feet. A mom, standing next to her son after Mass last week told me her son was getting ready to go away for college. “Tell him,” she said, “that he isn’t going away to college to find himself. He already knows who he is!”
Free time isn’t necessarily a good thing, either, unless you have a plan. Idleness can get you into a lot of trouble! If you go to places you shouldn’t be or you allow erosion to take place in the discipline that you have established in your life, then free time can become laziness. Life doesn’t have to be a two steps forward, one step back experience. How about three steps forward? Perhaps we were all so conditioned by the education system that once summer came we grew accustomed to forgetting what we learned. At one point I realized I was becoming a person who just learned for the test, if you know what I mean. Once the test was over there was a big delete button that you could push. What was it all for anyway? A grade? Or did I become a better student, better person, because of it?
So, this summer, let’s make a plan to challenge ourselves to be a better person when it’s over than we are at this moment.
Let’s start making plans for next fall. As the calendar starts filling up remember you have to keep time in the calendar for your spiritual life as well. Stay in touch with God. Don’t adopt an attitude of vacation from God like you might from your boss. Many people do this. And they teach their kids this technique. It doesn’t work in the long run.
Make sure you include Religious Education for your children in the fall schedule. You can start registering soon. Tell all your friends who are Catholic that we have this obligation to our children—that our life with God isn’t something that we just fit in when it works with everything else. I was doing a little research to see who lives in our parish and whether or not our programs were reaching everyone.
What I found was staggering. This year we had 962 students in Religious Education, which is actually down from previous years. Add to that more or less 350 registered Catholic children (probably fewer) enrolled at Holy Cross, that means we are serving 1,312 children. The real number is quite a bit less than this, because we have many families in our Religious Education program from neighboring parishes.
According to our database, 2,558 children and youth between first and 12th grades live in our parish: only 51% of the children of registered families in our parish are being formed in our Religious Education program.
If we have, roughly, 200 children per age/grade, that would mean that our high school Youth program should include 800 students who are currently attending a high school in our parish. We probably reach 100, many of them only occasionally during the year.
If the numbers are correct, we are missing the opportunity with these young people: of the men ordained to the priesthood this year, 80% of them said they were relatively sure of a vocation while they were still in high school. And of all the Catholic students who go away to college this year, 70% of them will graduate with no affiliation to a church and no regular practice of religion.
Our parish must renew our commitment to these children and young people. We have come a long way but we have so much farther to go! First thing is to somehow reach out to all the families we know in our schools and neighborhoods and tell them of the need for religious formation. It is a blessing, and young people are more equipped to deal with the secularization and unfaithfulness of the world. On our part, we also have to make holiness and faithfulness a real part of our visible lives so our words are believable.
We also must sign up to help in the programs we need to grow. We have always wondered what we would do if suddenly everyone came to Mass…15,000 people would need 23 full Masses every Sunday. If we seek out the other 1,246 students we will need teachers, and spaces, and a lot of love and patience. Let’s start planning.
God bless you,