Fr. James Hurlbert, Pastor
It was good to spend some days away for prayer and reflection last week. Priests make spiritual retreats annually, using the days of quiet and prayer to reflect upon and develop their spiritual lives and deepen their relationship with Jesus. I always find that these days help me to to re-set, to engage my faith at a deeper level. I know that it is often difficult for parishioners to make the time for spiritual retreats, but I also know that we all benefit from focused time alone with God. In lieu leaving home for a stay at a retreat house, making time each day for private prayer, for spiritual reading or watching spiritual shows on TV or the internet can help nourish our souls.
Each October all the parishes in the Archdiocese count Mass attendees and send the numbers to the offices downtown as part of the way for measuring parish health. Attendance at all the churches I know of continues to suffer in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, but we have seen some improvement here the past couple of months. Here is what we had this October: the Saturday 4:30pm Mass averaged 78 people; the Sunday 8am averaged 85 people; the 9:30 averaged 141 people; the 11am averaged 120 people. The average total number of weekend Mass-goers was 422. So we have this as our baseline… Clearly the goal is to improve this.
Our first efforts will be to try to re-engage those who used to attend Mass regularly prior to COVID. I know that many simply got out of the habit or have gotten comfortable watching Mass on television or on the internet. I hoping that the coming Advent/Christmas season will prompt many of our former “regulars” to re-join us at the altar. Beyond that, we will work on attendance via the “backdoor” of evangelization. It’s not just a matter of getting “butts in the seats,” but in helping people to develop a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Once that is established, we can help them to see how Sunday worship facilitates an active encounter with the Lord of life. In the past, parishes sometimes thought that by staging “events” that guaranteed higher attendance (children reading, all-class Masses, RE Masses, etc), those who came for the show or special event would get hooked and keep coming back. This has been shown to be a failed strategy. The experts studying this have determined that we need to first work with folks outside of Mass to help them with their faith and their relationship with Jesus, and this will translate into a desire to attend Mass.
May your week reflect the encounter with Christ We experienced at Mass today!
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