In the April 27 issue of the Catholic Star Herald, Bishop Joseph Galante asked readers to share their ideas about what could be done to increase interest in Sunday Mass. Here are some exercepted responses:
Listen to Father Barron
First we have to set on fire with the Holy Spirit the people in the pews and let it then spread out like ripples in a pond. The most astounding tool for that is the Catholicism Series DVD and study program commissioned by Cardinal Francis George and presented by Father Robert Barron. It has caused me to realize what an awesome gift we have in our Catholic faith. Jesus and His Mystical Body are presented in a way that I’ve never experienced before and I’m a 62 year-old grandma.
Incarnation Parish, Mantua
People are hungry for the Word of God
I agree that it is sad that so few people attend Mass. I will share a little of my own story and why Mass is important to me. It wasn't until I went to college and a Protestant friend introduced to me reading the Bible and having a personal relationship with Jesus that I ever had that type of experience. I had grown up going to weekly Mass and completed all my sacraments but there was no personal connection for me. With my new found Bible and closeness to God, I thought of leaving the Catholic Church because it wasn't feeding me the way this new life did. Thankfully I was able to find a spirit-filled African American Catholic church in Philadelphia which fed me but allowed me to remain Catholic. I think people are hungry for the Word of God. I read my Bible every day; I need it. I find that most Catholics think you are weird if you read a Bible or worship God openly. I think most Catholics may not even own a Bible or if they do they don't read it. I have moved and now attend a different predominantly Caucasian parish but it is spirit-filled and they try hard to make having a personal relationship with Jesus a priority. I attend Mass weekly not because I think God is checking attendance but to thank Him for all he has done for me and my family. I am 39 years old and have never truly stepped away from my faith but I didn't really know Jesus until someone who was not Catholic showed me the way … I think having Bible studies (showing people the Word of God can help them and bring comfort) and teaching people about a personal relationship with Jesus may bring people back to Mass.
Christ Our Light Parish, Cherry Hill
There needs to be personal invitation
I journeyed through the RCIA process in 2002 and in hindsight I am regretful that I did not participate in the process sooner. The liturgical experiences and homilies I have been privileged to listen too, as well as be a part of, continue to transform me. What a wonderful journey. This transformation process is a gift of The Spirit that is always present and available to everyone. The Holy Spirit has allowed me to see the goodness of God that always resided within me. I just needed to be nudged!
I say all of the above because I think The Church can do and is doing some things to “bring people back,” however I believe the key will be how do we reach those people to bring them back? There are many opportunities to see and hear about all the good things we do as Church and community, however I think in many cases it’s mostly the people involved who hear it! I think the communication methods being used and resources now available are good and should be continued, but there needs to be something more!
There needs to be a personal invitation by me. There needs to be personal invitation by you and by all of us in order to help bring more people back. It was the "invitation" to begin the RCIA process that got me started. Without the Invitation" I'm not sure I'd be here.
Christ Our Light Parish, Cherry Hill
The need for inspiration
I read your article in the Catholic Herald and was excited that you posed such a question to the faithful of the Camden Diocese. I am 39 years old and have been teaching for 18 years. Eight of those years (2001-2009) were spent teaching high school theology at a private Catholic school in Philadelphia as well as being the chairperson for my department. I had wonderful experiences leading groups of students to Steubenville, being a leader on numerous Kairos retreats, as well as other small but equally inspirational experiences throughout the years.
Yes, we need better music. Yes, we need members happily greeting parishioners as they arrive. Yes, we need more after-Mass gatherings to get to know one another. I could go on with all these little details that would most certainly “improve” one’s experience of church. But what we truly need, what we really long for is to be inspired … The homily, besides explaining the Gospel, should also inspire and challenge the people to live out the good news. Most times it is a matter of being reminded of the simple things we are called to do as sons and daughters of God…love one another, be kind, forgive, have compassion, share…simply put be good people. We all need reminders of these things, but we need to hear it in a way that moves us, that stirs something in our hearts and in our souls. We should walk out those doors at the end of Mass with an urgency to want to do good, to want to be better, to want to do more…love more.
In my experience it has been those moments that have stirred my spirit that have made me take action; whether it be volunteer more, pray more, or read materials that teach me things about my faith I didn’t know before. It was these types of moments that made me want to tell others about what I heard and made me want to come back again.
St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Franklinville
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