I have had a few e-mails in the last couple days about a very painful topic: parish closings.
People are rightly angry and sad when a parish is closed.
Many factors are involved in a parish closing: shift in demographics, economic downturns, need to expand, etc.
So… I have great sympathy with people who are angry.
It irks me that places should be closed when so many people sacrificed for generations to build what is there.
But… but… ff people are not coming… if people are not giving… what is the alternative to closing a parish?
Do people think that parishes are free?
We are heading into a massive change in our economy and resources. But bills at parishes still have to be paid.
I have a sinking feeling that many places wouldn’t necessary have to be closed if some creativity was applied. I am thinking of the fantastic work done by Fr. Philips at St. John Cantius in Chicago. He turned a dying disaster into a world famous gem. How did he do it? He stuck to the Church’s doctrine in his preaching, the texts and rubrics in worship, and used both the older and the newer forms of Mass. He stressed the Polish heritage of the parish and made sure there was always something going on.
As I write, I am thinking about a scene in the movie Cinderella Man. During the Depression people gather at the Catholic parish church. Their parish is the focal point of their interaction and social activities and support in those troubled times.
They pool their resources to make a single chocolate cake for the birthdays of several children.
Throughout the history of the West, the Church was the powerful agency of support in times of need. The Church coordinated groups of laypeople in guilds and confraternities for social support and projects of charity, spiritual and material.
I have always thought of parishes as, among other things, the nexus points for spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
I wonder if we shouldn’t start planning NOW for how to organize for feeding the elderly and creating opportunities for entertainment for young people at the parish.
We need some creative thinking, thick skin and really sturdy backbones. We must ready ourselves for what is going to come.