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The Holy Spirit is Moving in LA PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 06 January 2011 20:34

The Holy Spirit is doing amazing things in LA!
I just learned that we are expecting 550 to come to our Making Disciples this Saturday and Sunday.  Meanwhile, the staff, pastor, and Parish Council of another parish in another region have gotten all excited about the possibilities for their parish.

 

I'll be on the road until Monday afternoon but will try to post as I'm able.



 
The Ultimate Exit Interview PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 03 January 2011 08:31

Over at America, William J. Bryan, wrote a thought-provoking piece about doing "Exit Interviews" for departing Catholics.  Then Inside Catholic's Margaret Cabaniss picked up the discussion.

Bryan proposed a few basic questions:

He proposes a few questions that could be included:

  • Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?
  • Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?
  • Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?
  • Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?
  • Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?
  • Do your children go to church?
  • Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?

I think the idea of asking questions is brilliant and that the suggested questions would provide a lot of important information.  But these questions don't address the heart of the matter.  We go over all these in great detail in Making Disciples but I'm in a hurry so I'll just work from memory.

Notice that none of the suggested questions mentions God. And that's the 800 lb gorrilla in the room.  If we don't address this one, we will miss the heart of the matter.  The Pew Forum, in their 2008 and 2009 surveys did ask alot of God questions and discovered that huge numbers of Americans don't believe in a personal God including nearly 30 % of Catholic of all generations.

A careful crunching of the Pew data shows that for anyone younger than a Builder (66 and under), Mass attendance goes up and down in direction relationship with the percentage of Catholics in a given generation that are certain you can have a personal relationship with God. Because the vast majority of people, 66 and under in this country, are post-modern in their worldview and they only engage in religious behavior that they find personally meaningful. These people aren't motivated by duty anymore, and the younger you are, the more cultural pressure you feel to not attend church.   So you have to have a strong personal motivation. Why bother going to Mass if there isn't a personal God with whom you can have a relationship?

Pew found that the percentage of Catholics who are certain one can have a personal relationship with God drops with every generation. Only 40% of Millennial Catholics (the eldest of which has just turned 30) are certain that you can have a personal relationship with God.  So it's no surprise that only 34% of Millennial Catholics said they attended Mass regularly.  And when you correct for the well known tendency for people to tell surveyors what they think they want to hear, you find yourself down in CARA territory (CARA's methodology does correct for that distortion) with 17% of Millennials and 15% of Gen Xers Catholic at Mass weekly.

And the Pew studies also found that surprising numbers of people who consider themselves to be "atheists", "agnostics" or "unaffiliated" still often believe in God, still pray, still are registered members of our congregations, still attend services occasionally, and sometimes are even involved in congregational activities. So our concern can't just be with those who leave but also with the large numbers of Catholics floating in and out of our pews who may not even believe in God and the majority who are not yet intentional disciples.

Secondly, it is really important to know that there are "two basic tracks". Here the quick numbers:  Of all Americans raised Catholic, 32% have dropped the identity altogether.  Of that number, 15% have become Protestants, 14% have become "nothing" and 3% have joined a non-Christian faith.

The Pew studies found that there are significant differences in motivation between those who become Protestant and those who jettison all religious affiliation. Catholics who leave to become Protestant tend to do so out of conscious spiritual hunger that hasn't been satisfied - they want "more".   For instance, 81% of Hispanic Catholics who leave to become Protestant state that they wanted a "more direct, personal relationship with God."

Catholics who leave to become a "none" are more likely to have ceased to believe in specific Church teachings or in God altogether.

Catholics on these two tracks are also on different time lines:  those who will eventually become Protestant leave a bit later and spend some time out searching and considering their options before choosing a Protestant faith.  While the majority of those who leave to become "nothing" are gone by 18; 79% of Catholics-become-nothing are gone by age 23.

And the Pew studies also pointed out that there is period of a few years before people leave when their faith is becoming progressively weaker.  Because most people don't just wake up one morning and decide they want to be a Baptist. Most people make the journey in two or more stages.  The time to be having these conversations is before people leave.

At the Institute we are proposing a somewhat different approach.

1)  First of all, let's have a real conversation, not an interview.  The truth is we don't know why Tom or Hayley or Jose left the church or are struggling with the idea of faith at all. The assumptions of those of us who are deeply invested in the Catholic faith as to why people leave are often absurdly wrong.  (For instance, the Pew studies found that the sex scandal and personal crisis like divorce were actually not major reasons why people leave.) Their journey is peculiar to them and their way back to God is sometimes just as unexpected.  (I met a woman in LA recently whose spiritual turning point was being electrocuted!) We cannot know what the real issues are for this person until we are willing to invite their confidence and really listen.

And let's focus the conversation about people's lived relationship with God to this point in their life.  Let's learn to recognize and respond helpfully to the needs of people who are not yet disciples so that they are able to continue the journey to following Christ in the midst of his Church.  And let's give lots of Catholics at all levels this evangelical awareness and set of skills

That's why I had to write this in such a hurry.  I'm packing for my first trip of the new year right now to fly to LA where Barbara Elliott and I will be teaching 500 Catholics how to have these very conversations with their friends, family whether or not they have darkened the door of a church in years.

Christ did not just send his Church to lapsed Catholics but to all people in all the world.  Because the primary mission of the Church isn't institutional survival.  The end for which the Church exists is for the ultimate salvation and happiness of every human being on the planet.


 
Lay Apostles: A "Novelty of God" for Our Time PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 01 January 2011 10:30

What the Vatican calls the "Workforce for the Church's Apostolate" grew tremendously between 1978 and 2008.  The "force" grew from 1.6 million to 4.386 million (174%) while the Catholic population grew 55% in the same time period from 752.5 million to 1,165.7 million.

Ten years ago, I would tell groups that bishops and priests made up .04% or 4/100th of 1% of the entire Catholic population.  In 2011, I have to say that bishops and priests only comprise .0355% of all Catholics.  In 20 years, that figure will probably to fall under .03% of the Catholic population.

It isn't because the number of priests and seminarians aren't growing.  Although the number of the ordained (bishops, priests, deacons) grew from 413,169 to 451,371 during these 30 years, this increase was dwarfed by the demand created by relentless growth of the human race and the Catholic population.  The immense number of the baptized has called forth a major new "workforce" for the apostolate: the laity.

In 1978, the clergy made up 26% of the 1.6 million member "workforce" recognized by the Vatican. The largest group was religious women (nearly 60%) and lay people only constituted 10.8%.

workforce 1978



But by 2008, everything had changed.  In this greatly expanded workforce of 4.386 million (which includes graduate seminarians and deacons), clergy now made up only 10.29%, religious women 16.85%, religious brothers 1.25%, graduate seminarians 1.34%, and lay men and women are the overwhelming majority at 70.2%.

In 30 years, clergy and religious have diminished from nearly 90% of the Church's acknowledged "workforce" to less than 30% and the lay "workforce" has grown 700%.  (The graph below shows the figures for 2005 which are almost identical to those of 2008.)

workforce 2005


This is, I think, an example of what Pope Benedict called in his audience of March 10, 2010, a "novelty of God".  The Pope talked about a series of new movements in Christian history.  In the 19th century, God called forth a new missionary wave of active women religious who transformed the landscape of Catholicism.  The small armies of habited sisters in every parish that we think of as exceedingly traditional (ala The Bells of St. Mary's) are only about 130 years old.

The determination to create a new kind of Catholic by catechizing all children - which was produced by the crisis of the Reformation - demanded a whole new labor force. It came first in the form of informal groups of devout lay women who lived in community but didn’t take religious vows.  This was because the Church had insisted since the late 13th century that women formally recognized as religious had to live in cloisters.   But educating millions of children all over the world and paying for the cost of such a staggering new initiative, required that sisters be able to work outside the cloister .

When, in 1749, the Vatican quietly changed its 500 year old insistence that women religious had to be enclosed, the stage was set for a transformation of the Church's life.  The emergency of the French Revolution and the need to resurrect the Church’s life in France in the early 19th century was the catalyst.  By the late 19th century, the number of women religious outnumbered priests and male religious for the first time in history and utterly transformed the Catholic landscape.

In Ireland, for instance, there were only 120 women religious in 1800.  If you think of the total number of priests and sisters together as the Catholic "workforce", sisters only made up 6% of the total at the beginning of the 19th century.  By 1851, women religious made up 38% of the combined body of priests/nuns. And by 1901, women religious were 70%.  In the US, there were 4 sisters for every priest by 1900.

In the 21st century, God seems to be doing something new again to meet the needs of our time and the Vatican has formally recognized it. Millions of lay men and women are answering God's call to evangelize, form, and nurture the tens of millions of new Catholics that God is sending us every year.  Lay apostles seem to be one of the “novelties of God’ that the Holy Spirit is raising up in our midst.

 


 
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