The latest survey shows that parish ministry leaders, for the most part, are satisfied with their work, which they see as a calling, and believe that their individual parishes are meeting their communities’ spiritual needs.
And this is what you’d hope. I’ve never met someone in ministry who was going at it indifferently. Church staff work hard and give it their best. Volunteers pour out their time and energy, a free gift, given in love. They can see that what they do matters.
When I teach religious ed, I’m encouraged by the number of students who think my classes are fantabulous. But then there’s the other ones. The kid who quietly disappears mid-year. The mom that told me this summer, “My daughter dreaded your class.” (It was an easily fixable problem — nervousness about the test — but one I could not know about, until someone told me. I’m glad Mom told me, however belatedly.)
The parish leadership survey unwittingly uncovers a terrible problem, though: Most parish leaders think they’re doing just fine.
Well, we aren’t.
It’s easy to dismiss the person who pew who “won’t get involved”. Those types must not care about their faith, we say. They just want to complain. They don’t want to be part of the solution. Hmmn. Maybe.
But really? Do people come to Mass each week, hoping to avoid the community of the faithful the other six days? “Lord, I got up early on my day off to come to this place, please don’t get me interested in learning about You, or serving You, the other hours of the week.” Is someone kneeling in the pew before Mass, praying, “Dear Jesus, I sit every week next to these other Christians . . . please keep me from becoming friends with any of them. I already have all the friends I can stand.”
Lapsed Catholics are a thornier situation yet. A vast and complicated problem, with no single answer. But I know Catholics — earnest, lifelong, pious Catholics — who leave the Church. Because it stinks. Because they were in a crisis and nobody noticed, let alone cared. Because the Church-ocracy demon is out of control, creating a thousand bureaucratic hurdles in the name of “efficiency” or “thoroughness”. Because the liturgy makes them want to hide under the pew until it’s over — or as happened once years ago when Jon and I were on vacation, my then-protestant husband turned to me and asked, “Are you sure this is a Catholic church?”
Are these good reasons to leave the Church? They are understandable reasons.
We have the Eucharist, that’s reason to stay. Have that, all the rest is details. But goodness, the details. We kid ourselves if we count only the satisfied customers.