Archdiocese Turns to Evangelizing

As our discussion about pastoral planning in the Boston Archdiocese continues, BCI would like to direct our readers to several articles and resources of interest.

Reader BobofNewton pointed us to this Wall Street Journal article, Archdiocese Turns to Evangelizing  Here are a few excerpts:

Archdiocese Turns to Evangelizing
With 16% of Local Catholics Attending Mass, Boston Church Leaders Take a New Tack; ‘We’re Not Used to Doing That’

BOSTON—The fourth-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in the nation plans to respond to a steep drop in churchgoing by venturing down a road taken by Mormons and Protestants: evangelizing.

Some 40% of Roman Catholic parishes in the Boston area can’t pay their bills, and only 16% of local Catholics attend weekly Mass, the Archdiocese of Boston said in an overhaul plan released this week that proposed the effort to increase membership.

“We’re not used to doing that,” said William P. Fay, a monsignor and co-chairman of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission, in an interview Thursday. “We are used to going to church, having communion, and making sure our kids are properly educated. Now, what we’re saying is that we’ve got a responsibility to reach out to other people and get them engaged and involved.”

The archdiocese is proposing to reduce costs and become more mission-minded by reorganizing its 290 parishes into groups of two or three parishes that will share a “pastoral service team” of priests, deacons and finance councils.

The plan does not call for closing churches, but each “pastoral collaborative” can recommend closures or merging of programs, and is also expected to come up with a local plan on how they will creatively “evangelize” to increase church attendance, said Msgr. Fay.

“Once you’re baptized, you’re supposed to go preach the gospel to other people,” he said. “It wasn’t something that was on the front burner, but we are trying to bring it to the front burner.”

Boston is far from alone. “Dioceses all around the country are looking at evangelism—I even know one diocese that is considering a door-to-door campaign,” said Mark Gray, a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. “This has always been much more common among Protestant denominations or Mormons…but now there is the sense that the Catholic Church should be doing this as well.”

The motivation is clear. The U.S. Catholic population is growing, but a lot of Catholics are skipping church. The number of people identifying themselves as Catholic rose to 77.7 million in 2011 from 74 million in 2005, but the weekly Mass attendance rate has fallen and is now about 31%, and far less in many urban areas, Mr. Gray said.

In Massachusetts, attendance has been dropping for decades, with some of the decline in the last 10 years a likely fallout from sexual-abuse scandals involving priests, said Msgr. Fay. “Some of it was, no question about that,” he said…

But the decline is also the result of many people being too busy to commit to church, Msgr. Fay said. “It takes two or three jobs to support a family…they’re worn out.”

“Only 16% of our folks are active Catholics…so what we need to do is really turn that around,” he said.

This article from The Boston Pilot, “Archdiocese proposes plan to share parish resources” gives more information.

“As opposed to a plan for merging parishes and closing church buildings, this plan adopts an approach that strengthens and enlivens our current parishes,” the document said. “By creating these teams, improved pastoral services can be provided to parishes without altering the parishes themselves.”

In a meeting with The Pilot, archdiocesan officials said the plan comes as a natural outgrowth of previous restructuring and plans in the Church, as it moves away from a mindset of maintenance within the community toward a mindset of mission within the community. Within the framework of the plan, as described in the document, the Church will move away from problems in keeping individual churches open miring the Church, and toward the mission of promoting the Gospel. According to the document, and archdiocesan officials at the meeting on Nov. 30, addressing these problems through PST actions will clear the way for a renewed focus on evangelization.

“Along the way we began to focus in on the issue of parishes, because if evangelization is going to take place successfully, it’s really going to happen at the parish level,” Msgr. Fay said, in the meeting. “As you can see from the documentation we have given you, that is the first significant proposal that we’re coming forward with.”

The archdiocese had planned to release the documents to the public at on Dec. 6, after a consultation with archdiocese priests on Dec. 5.

“We are looking at Monday as the first step in a months-long conversation here,” Msgr. Fay said. “This is going to go on for four to six months, this whole dialogue and hearing from people. Everybody who wants to be involved in this will have an opportunity to be involved in it, and to respond in any way that’s appropriate.”

Anyone can access There is a place for the planning documents to be posted publicly after Monday. This website also links to a few resources you may find of interest, including a Catholic Radio program transcript on the topic, “Why Catholics don’t attend Mass and why they should,” and a link to a study commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops on why Catholics have stopped attending Mass.   The findings in the report released in 2006 are rather interesting. A summary can be found here at Catholic Australia. Here are the reasons divided into high level categories (but not listed in priority order):

Church-centered reasons

1. The irrelevance of the Church to life today
2. The misuse of power and authority in the Church
3. Problems with the priest in the parish
4. Lack of intellectual stimulation
5. Concerns related to the parish as a community
6. A sense of being excluded by Church rules
7. Structural factors

Participant-centered reasons
1. Family or household-related issues
2. Crisis of faith
3. Going to Mass simply not a priority

The full report is a very worthwhile read.  Can you guess what the most frequently cited reason is for infrequent Mass goers or those who no longer attend Mass?  C’mon guess.

32% of those surveyed who no longer attend Mass or attend infrequently said the most important reason why they do not attend Mass is “I no longer feel that being a committed Catholic requires going to Mass every week.”  More than half (54%) of all the infrequent or non-attenders among Catholic parents named this as one of the three reasons they could choose in the survey.

The topic of why many Catholics do not attend Mass merits more than its own full blog post, but this study gives some further validity to the need for evangelization, which is a key stated goal of the pastoral planning initiative.

Priests of the Boston Archdiocese gather on Monday afternoon in Randolph to discuss the pastoral planning proposal. Keep the Monday convocation of priests in your prayers.

28 Responses to Archdiocese Turns to Evangelizing

  1. Carolyn says:

    There is a novena starting today to Our Lady of Guadalupe (and finishing on her feast day, December 12) that is quick and easy to pray, and might be the ideal way to offer prayerful support for this meeting of priests:

  2. Carol says:

    Teams of people to do what?

    The problem is, the priests have stopped teaching our religion to the people in the pews. Because the people are no longer being taught sin from virtue – how to respond to sin by going to confession to be absolved and then fill one’s empty soul with the Eucharist which then feeds us with the gifts we need to be able to resist temptation – the people drop off because they have lost sanctifying grace.

    Teams, schmeams. Dogs and pony shows. It is all a farce.

    This archbishop is a fundraiser, not a physician of souls. He has been distributing poison since the day of his arrival and everything underneath him will continue to die a slow death.

  3. WTH?? says:

    I hope the Archdiocese has an “Evangelizing for Dummies,” or “Idiots Guide to Evangelizing.” This is definitely new territory for RC parishioners. Jehovah’s Witness kids grow up doing this; it is second nature to them, as if they were born to it.

    Perhaps the Archdiocese can hire some of them to train us.

  4. Lazarus' Table says:

    It’s going to take alot of work and a few generations to un-ring some bells. All of the ‘reasons’ posted at the beginning of this blog are quite valid.
    Clericalism is still rampant in the church. And it’s quite prevelent among young priests and, Im told, seminarians. Parts of the Body have been telling other parts of the Body, “I don’t need you” and that message has been heard and taken to heart. You want to do it yourself? Ok, then do it yourself.
    The sermons we hear have about as much intellectual stimulation as a prune danish. Spiritual stimulaiton is even less. Sounds like the homily was prepared 30 minutes before Mass. “Vobis dabitur”, right?
    Thank goodness for “ex opere operato”; as long as we get the ‘matter’ and ‘form’ right, our attitude in preparing for, celebrating and receiving sacraments doesn’t count for much.
    We’ve lost our youg people; not only do they consider the church irrelevent but they get the distinct feeling they aren’t even wanted. WHo acnowledges or pays attention to them– except to criticize.
    People have found out that you don’t need the church to “be good”, help the poor, feed the hungry, etc. You might even be happier without the church.
    Church leaders and lay people live in 2 separate, distinct worlds that don’t really understand each other. Church leaders preach solutions to problems lay people don’t even think they have, and are clueless as to the problems the laity really do have.
    Biggest challenge? Convincing the laity that the clergy really do take Jesus and His Gospel for real, that they have a real relationship with Jesus that manifests how they reach out (or not) and even talk to people. Think any of our laity think any of our bishops would die for Jesus? Heck, they don’t even want to be deposed [as in court].
    Woe is us.

    • Priest of 30 Years says:

      Quite to the contrary, I find young priests committed to living holy lives and preaching the truth of the Faith. These young priests and seminarians are heroes, considering that they are seeking to serve in the Archdiocese that is the epicenter of the abuse scandal.

  5. Michael W says:

    When will they try catechizing?

    • Liam says:

      Actually, I would say that the collapse of Catholic practice in Boston is precisely due to the former emphasis on catechesis without proper regard for building on a foundation of evangelisation. Evangelisation was treated as something ad extra, not so much also ad intra. Instead of infecting people with a vital relationship with the Lord, we Catholics reduced discipleship to legalism and conceptualism: what do we have to Do and what do we have to Think to fulfill our duty? That lapse undermined the foundation. It took generations (from before Vatican II), because relying on the inertia of generation-to-generation handing down

      Evangelisation, premised on an infectious love of, and joy in, the Risen Lord communicated by the Holy Spirit, is the necessary foundation. Catechesis that simply tries to build on a foundation of precepts and ideas is building on sand. We should take the experience of the past several decades (again, starting before Vatican II) as an object lesson.

    • Jack O'Malley says:

      I agree with Michael W.

      You can get “evangelization” in any proddie “church” but there hasn’t been decent catechesis since the masonic mass was imposed. You get catechesis from the nuns not a bunch of semi-trained piskie-wannabe wymyn-priestess-pushing feminists. And I mean the nuns with a vocation who wear habits and are worthy of our respect, love and esteem not the self-absorbed tribads with their anti-magisterial agenda that have infested the Church since V2.

      If I were Cardinal O’Malley (no relation, propter quod gratias maximas Deo cotidie ago!) I would excommunicate every Catholic in the Massachusetts delegation. That alone would cause a mass defection of the Our-Father hand-holding hand-shaking homo-loving abortion-craving contraception-practicing de facto apostates in the pews. But I am of course not Cardinal O’Malley. Had I been, I’d not have allowed Ted Kennedy’s unholy cadaver anywhere near a Catholic Church.

      The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin “cardo” meaning a hinge. A hinge, by its nature swings both ways. They’ve learned to dissemble. I leave them their cappa magna. A vestment that was designed to cover a horse’s ass. It should of dire necessity be brought back because of its symbolic utility.

  6. Boston Latin alum says:

    Jack, I think we must have learned Latin at different times. Yes, the Latin root cardo, cardinis means hinge. But the meaning is “principal” or “chief”–that on which something turns. The College of Cardinals, on whom the government of the church hinges, elect a Pope from among themselves after a Pope’s death. They wear robes of bright scarlet red, just like the bird.

    I do agree that in Boston, the Cardinal seems to swing in whatever direction the wind is blowing strongest. I wish he would dignify the office by wearing the proper vestments of a prince of the Church and acting as a principal or chief instead of as an passive follower.

  7. Jack O'Malley says:

    BLS alum:

    I’m not sure why you felt the need to vaunt such an august moniker on this forum but given your academic credentials from that bastion of Avenue Louis Pasteur I exhort you to consider the response which I make in the following brief rejoinder whether it meets with your approbation and adequately addresses your cavil with respect to my interpretation of the word “cardo”. If it does I will look forward to your public confession of the venial sin of pettifoggery. A Pater, Ave and a Minor Doxology (in Latin) should adequately remit the temporal chastisement you will have incurred.

    Alumno Scholae Latinae Bostoniensis Iohannes Iacobus O’Malley S.P.D.

    Fortasse recte dicis originem nominis “cardinalis” ex colore avis derivare, sed si mihi ignoscas, mea quaestio rhetorica si res sic haberet vana esset! Si amplius dicam asseverem colorem vestimenti principum Ecclesiae sanguinem martyrum (qui semen Eius sit vel esse debeat) evocare debere! Nonne assentiris? Quam aliter? At affirmo argumentum tuum, scilicet, Cardinalem O’Malley eiusdem Ecclesiae principem agere debere et non pauperem coloris spadicis (ne dicam spadonis!) sacco vestitum simulare. Ille tamen satis facere Archidioecesi videatur si hospites accipiat vel epulis adsit vel itinera peregrina faciat — atque scimus nimis bene eum peregrinabundum esse!

    Cura ut valeas et omnia optima exoptat tibi conalumnus tuus illius quondam optimae scholae.

    • Boston Catholic Insider says:

      BCI knows people might object to an addition to our criteria for comments, but could we ask that comments be kept primarily in English, and of general applicability to all readers? An occasional Latin word or phrase keeps us on our toes, but a paragraph like this suggests your comment is crosstalk meant just for one reader rather than everyone.

    • Jack O'Malley says:

      My fault, BCI, for not including the translation which was at the bottom of the file when I cut and pasted the Latin into the combox. Here it is:

      Jack O’Malley extends best wishes to Boston Latin Alum.

      Perhaps you are right that the name “cardinal” derives from the color of the bird; but, if you will pardon me, my rhetorical point in that case would be in vain. To amplify, I would state the the color of the raiment of the princes of the Church ought to evoke the blood of the martyrs (who are the seed of the Church or should be). You agree, no? But I affirm your point, that Cardinal O’Malley ought to act the part of a prince of the Church and not pretend to be a pauper clothed in a brown sack. He evidently is seen to do enough for the archdiocese by receiving visitors, attending banquets and going on pilgrimages and junkets. And we well know about his wanderlust.

      Be well and your fellow alumnus of that once and future most best of schools wishes you all the best.

      • Michael says:

        I always seem to learn something from Jack’s comments and find his arrogance hilarious. Not sure if he intends to be funny or not. He adds dare I say “diversity” to the comments and in my opinion raises the quality of the discussion.

    • Jack, my Latin got no better after high school. I did my own translation, but it sounds like you’ve maybe kept up Latin more actively than I.

      What I don’t understand is why our Cardinal Archbishop wears the proper attire of a prince of the church to USCCB meetings and to the Vatican but not back here at home. If he’s a prince of the church and attired that way for the US bishops conference meetings and when in Rome, is he making some statement that his responsibilities to serve priests and laity back here in Boston are not nearly as we get the brown habit (sack cloth as you call it)? It lowers the level of public respect and accord due the office of archbishop. It’s like the person or married couple who dresses up for going out with friends, but wears jeans and sneakers when they go to Sunday Mass. I don’t get it.

  8. Mark Frances says:

    Pastoral service teams. “Badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges”. Please do some research into the contents of these so-called teams. One of the key components is the inclusion (key word inclusion) of pastoral associates who are mainly women and are being trained to take over the running of parishes and probably being elevated to the position of deacons. The Church is at a “fork in the road” as Johnnie Carson would put it. Don’t be taken in by “smoke and mirrors”. The intention is good. However, the only sin is “racism and sexism”. That is the sum total of evil in the world and original sin is an outdated concept. Malachi Martin wrote the handbook for theological reform and the issue of social justice replacing the concept of good and evil. There is no sin only Freudian problems with infantile development. This is dangerous and totally unacceptable. The intention of Vatican II (JXXIII) was to merge the moderate socialism of the West with the radical socialism of the East. This will destroy the need to come to terms with the Orthodox. The Slavs are Communist. The Western Church is naive and riddled with a gay view of reality. Again, the Boston Archdiocese is only the test case for the Skinnerian reform of the Church.

    • Boston Catholic Insider says:

      BCI recognizes the problems in the Boston Archdiocese and the Catholic Church, but let us separate the facts from the supposition here and also stay on the topic of the post. BCI also recalls from previous comments you have posted that you are not from Boston, but from another part of the country, perhaps St. Louis?

      The plan does call for trained pastoral associates. But to say women “are being trained to take over the running of parishes and probably being elevated to the position of deacons” goes far beyond the scope of this plan and is conjecture, not fact.

      Furthermore, you have strayed rather far from the topic of this post with your comments. The topic of this post is not about whether the Catholic Church adequately teaches about sin–if you are concerned with the state of Catholic catechesis on sin, you will need to keep that topic for another forum. Likewise, if you have theories about socialism and Communism, those would be best kept for another forum as well. Regarding the late Malachi Martin, you have referenced him about 10 times in comments on this blog already and your opinions on his theories have been seen and heard here. BCI is familiar with his writings and has read some of them, but with all due respect, he is not THE authoritative or definitive reference point for every single thing that happens in the Catholic Church. Nor is it necessarily the case that every single situation must be part of a broader conspiracy theory–as you often state as fact, rather than your personal opinion.

      You say the intention is good. BCI concurs. How the plan and concepts behind the plan are executed is another question. If you have a brighter idea for how to deal with the problems (referenced in our previous posts) driving the need for a different approach to how parishes are operated in Boston, please feel free to put it forward.

  9. BobofNewtn says:

    In response to the post, please let me say (in English if you will) that I hope the RCAB’s attempt to increase participation by Catholics in the Church succeeds and I applaud the Cardinal for his efforts in that regard. What I find interesting here is the vast amount of negativism toward any type of reform or effort by the RCAB to attempt to turn the tide away from a fleeing congregation. I sure as hell would stay away from Mass if I had to share a pew with some of the narrow, bigoted, self important bloggers on here.

    • Lazarus' Table says:

      Bob, there’s nothing wrong with that “narrow, bigoted, self-important” reader that six months of intensive therapy in the best psychiatric facility available can’t help.

  10. Boston Catholic Insider says:

    Comments in English are preferred at BCI. If BCI may clarify terminology, the “blogger” (BCI) is the entity writing the actual blog post (subject: “Archdiocese Turns to Evangelizing”); while those writing comments are the readers. BCI assumes you are referring to the readers who are posting critical comments, not BCI, the blogger.

    It seems to BCI that the critical comments are moreso directed at the archdiocese for failure to set a foundation for evangelization, rather than being critical of this specific plan.

    • WTH?? says:

      Agreed as to criticism of the archdiocese for failure prvide a foundations and not the specific plan. Hence my previous post:

      “I hope the Archdiocese has an “Evangelizing for Dummies,” or “Idiots Guide to Evangelizing.” This is definitely new territory for RC parishioners. Jehovah’s Witness kids grow up doing this; it is second nature to them, as if they were born to it.

      Perhaps the Archdiocese can hire some of them to train us.”

      While the post my seem a bit flippant to some, it gets to the heart of the matter – we just never evangelized; it was never part of the Catholic culture; if we even mentioned the word “Jesus,” we were trained to bow our heads.

  11. TheLastCatholicinBoston says:

    Many folks today believe that ALL conspiracies are fantasies of the lunatic fringe. I find this rather ironic give that what brings us together as Catholics is the belief that an all knowing, all powerful and all loving God comes to us in the form of Bread.
    Conspiracy is : An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act.
    I think it is fair to say that BCI has brought to light a few true conspiracies within the diocese.(those that intentionally subvert orthodoxy and tradition)
    On the point of Evangelizing I will stand with the non-Bostonian Mark Francis, I find outsiders often have more objective observations of the goings on in the Diocese. How soon we forget, The Boston Catholic Men’s Conference. I was heavily involved from the ground up when it started at BC High in 2005. I was there when the ‘Crossing the Goal’ crew spoke at the Cathedral in 2010. I think these evangelizing outsiders choked on their microphones when they witnessed catholic Apostasy, Boston-style. When I went to the ‘Captains’ meeting at Braintree HQ to ‘plan’ it, the only topics discussed were Parking and what’s for lunch. To say the Men’s Conference was ‘executed’ by the diocese is an understatement, it was absolutely positively squashed. (and there was no 2011 conference – big surprise)

    The Cardinal needs to realize that by constantly embracing the church professionals and enemies within the church the knives they stick in his back leaves those left in the pews bleeding out.
    Pope Benedict XVI himself has spoke of these enemies and professionals – Yes, as a matter of fact there IS a conspiracy, and it’s leader has been a liar and murderer from the start.

    South Shore Baptist church with the strategic evangelizing help of Grace Chapel just build a huge brand new warehouse-of-a-church on Main St. in Hingham, and it is bubbling with former Catholics.
    Now the diocese is going to ‘evangelize’? The One True Church needs to use somebody Else’s model of success? The proposal is either set up to fail (a conspiracy), set up to usher in De facto women deacons etc. (a plausible conspiracy) or simply and profoundly stupid. Either way is seems like a Hehir-Brained Scheme to me.

  12. bitsnbytes says:

    Maybe I’m too cynical, but I wonder if reducing the number of pastorates may have the effect of keeping zealous and well-formed young priests out of pastorates longer, in favor of the back-slapping politician priests of the older generation who made this diocese what it is today: ineffectual in evangelization, ineffectual in shaping culture and society, ineffectual in keeping the faithful as practicing Catholics.

    It’s a reminder that personnel is policy.

  13. Lazarus' Table says:

    As ‘head’ of a Pastoral Service Team and the one primarily accountable/responsible the parishes’ buildings, finances, etc etc, the pastor will probably have to be more of an ‘administrator’ or ‘manager’. Not all excellent administrators are excellent preachers or educators or evangelists, etc. Just as not all excellent preachers, educators, evangelists make excellent pastors. So, hopefully, each PST will have all the necessary “talents” among its clergy to evangrlize andinvigorate our parishes. ANd hopefully, also, the pastors will enable the clergy of his ‘team’ to use their gifts to the fullest.
    A couple areas of concern: how to form teams of priests who actually get along and can work with each other. And whose ‘vision’ will guide the ministry in the parishes– the pastors? Consensus of team? Edict by Ordinary? Direction of auxiliary bishop and Vicar Forane?

  14. robert moura says:

    Why does the Archdiocese fail to recognize that they did an awful job in guiding practicing Catholics from their ‘closed’ church to a new one. My experience was a list of churches I could attend that was tacked to the back wall of my church before it ‘closed’. That is NOT guidance, nor direction – that’s indifference. No wonder so many of us don’t go on Sunday.. we are orphans!

    • WTH?? says:

      Because it is all about sale of property and $$$$$. Did you think it was actually about parishioners? What would be interesting to learn is how many parishioners in the closed churches actually made the transition to the designated parish or any parish for that matter. You were not even on their radar, just as I am not.

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