Each year in October, the diocese asks us to get an idea how many folks are attending our weekend Masses. These “October counts”, as they’re known, help us to plan for the upcoming 12 months.
This year, our counts have also helped us to understand your reaction to the implementation of On Mission for the Church Alive!, which began on October 15. Just the other day, the diocese released the ‘count’ numbers for all groupings across the diocese. As we look at the numbers of folks in the pews, we’ve all noticed that there are more people at each Mass, but the big question is how many folks have decided to stop attending Mass. Over the past two months, we’ve found that there are 9% fewer folks attending weekly Mass, in the diocese as a whole.
Here in our neck of the woods, the number is somewhat less rosy. In our grouping, 19% of our parishioners are no longer coming to Mass. One possible explanation is that they’re going to neighboring parishes, but it doesn’t seem that this is the case – our neighboring groupings are down, too (Churchill/Turtle Creek/Wilmerding is down 20% and Monroeville is down 24%).
One of the more serious implications of this downturn is our parishes’ ability to support themselves. As I mentioned in October, the plan is to become a single parish – not to close buildings. However, if a parish is unable to financially support itself – that is, if its expenses are much greater than its income – then we’re going to have to start asking tough questions about whether the parish community is telling us that they value their parish and wish it to continue to operate. That decision isn’t one for the bishop or even for me – you, as the faithful members of your parish, are the ones who will ‘vote with your wallet.
Every dollar you place in your envelope for the first collection returns to your parish and goes 100% to its support. (For those who I’ve heard saying “well, I’m not giving a single dollar to that diocese” (or “to that bishop”), please recognize that when you withhold your donation on Sunday, the message you’re really sending is “I’m not giving a single dollar to keep my parish open!”)
My hope is that, as we continue to evaluate the situations in our parishes, we will find that you do want your parish building to stay open, and demonstrate that desire by continuing to support it financially. I promise to be honest and open with you about these issues as we proceed!