Out of the nine pastoral priorities that came out of Alive In Christ (our parish pastoral vision) back in 2016, two of those dealt with worship: developing a more vibrant weekend experience and creating a culture of one people.
What do we mean by vibrant, unified worship? I’m sure all of us have had the experience when the church is full and there is a great energy in our worship. One example is our Christmas Masses that we held in the Activity Center while we were out of St. Mary’s! This has an impact not only on regular churchgoers but on those who may be coming into the church as visitors or guests.
Currently, we have about 2000 people a weekend coming, but a total capacity of 3800 seats at the six Masses we offer (52% capacity). We can gain a lot in vibrancy when we are not so spread out.
Vibrant Weekend Experience – Recently you might have taken part in a parish survey on Mass times. Additionally, this past Saturday evening Fr. Scott and I met with those who regularly attend our 7:30 PM Mass. The whole point of this is to gather the direct input of parishioners in order to have a productive discernment on the best times for us to worship as a community.
Not surprisingly, even the suggestion of changing Mass times is a cause for unease for those to whom worship is a priority. Please know that no final decisions have been made. Your responses and comments are going to help guide the decisions of parish leadership as we move forward.
One People, One Church – We heard loud and clear in Alive In Christ a desire to have more unity among our language speaking communities. This has been identified as a priority of Archbishop Lucas and the whole archdiocese as well. Many discussions have taken place with Hispanic and Anglo leaders towards a vision of consistently worshiping together. These discussions continue and we thank you for your input as to how we can insure the best possible experiences for everyone.
Both of these priorities will involve some change, which is never easy. Therefore, we need to understand why these priorities are so important.
It’s vital for Catholics to realize the overall trends that we face. During a 16 year period (see graph below) there has been an annual 2% drop in weekly attendance across the whole archdiocese. This is the result of parishes not having a strategy for evangelization. Thanks be to God our parish does have a strategy that is based deeply on ChristLife (Discovering Christ). Though still in the beginning stages, we are making great progress in helping more and more adults know a relationship with Jesus is possible and make him the center of their lives. God is moving hearts. The fruit of that will be a people desiring to worship Him!
We need the partnership of the whole parish to live out this new way of life. Our mission from Jesus is to reach not only to inactive Catholics but all those in the Norfolk area who do not know Jesus. To do this we all have to be united and be willing to “step out of the boat” in various ways. The ultimate reward is seeing other people come to life in Jesus and knowing him better ourselves in the process.