Every so often, on a seemingly regular basis, the Pew Research Center does a survey of Americans on religion and its place in our lives. In a recent survey, the center conducted a survey of Americans who claim to be Christian. This survey doesn’t differentiate if one is Catholic, Presbyterian and so forth. It was interested in knowing if one claimed to be Christian. What they found was not surprising. The survey indicated that the number of people in America claiming to be Christian has declined. Pew research has found that 65% of U.S. adults claiming to be Christian declined from 77% in 2009, to 65% in 2019. Of course, when broken down by age, those of us born before 1946, what they call the Silent Generation, make up the largest number, 84%. The figures for younger generations are: Boomers (born between 1946-1964) are at 76%; Generation X (born between 1965-1980) are at 67%; Millennials (born between 1981-1996) are at 49%. In 2009, regular worshipers (those who attend religious service monthly or more often) slightly outnumbered those who go occasionally or not at all. Today, those numbers are reversed: 45% attend at least monthly, and 54% attend only a few times a year. Those who “never” go, referred to as the “nones,” have risen from 11% to 17%. What this means is that as our church population ages, and eventually dies, there may not be as many to take our place. Not only will that have a negative effect on our worship, but also on all the other programs churches offer to their members. No matter what our parish or other congregations do, the numbers reflect a decline in worshipping attendees, but also in members of the parish. There are a number of couples getting married who have no religious ceremonies. They are married at these so called “destination weddings,” which may or may not involve a clergy person. (Priests are not allowed to officiate at weddings that take place outside of a church, with very few exceptions). There are any number of parents in our parish, and every other parish, who bring their children for baptism, then not at all until First Communion, then again not at all until Confirmation, and then they are gone until the young person gets married. If you think this is only a problem in our parish, think again. It is happening across the board in all Catholic parishes. The church is the Body of Christ, and as the Body, we are called to radiate and reflect the presence of Jesus for others. Like Jesus, all we can do is extend an invitation to, “come and see, come and hear, come and experience” the presence of Jesus not just in our worship, but in each of our lives. Saint James the Apostle parish is a welcoming community, and as such, all are invited not just to worship with us but to be a part of the life of the parish. Each of us has to ask ourselves how inviting are we to others who may be looking for a church to be a part of. What kind of example do we set to bring others into the life of our parish? This is not just the role of priests and deacons. It is the responsibility of each of us by virtue of our baptism. Here’s another way to look at this. What would happen to our parish if there were no people to fill the pews each week? Cardinal Tobin has outlined six pillars of faith to continue the mission of Jesus not just in the diocese but also in our parishes. The Parish Staff and Pastoral Council are working to insure that the work of our parish continues to bring the Good News of Jesus to all who look to us as a sign of Jesus for them. But we need all of us to be involved as much as we can in the mission of the church.  HAPPY ORDINARY TIME!! ~ FR. JOE

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