“I want to tell you something. In the Gospel there’s that beautiful passage that tells us of the shepherd who, on returning to the sheepfold and realizing that a sheep is missing, leaves the 99 and goes to look for it, to look for the one. But, brothers and sisters, we have one. It’s the 99 who we’re missing! We have to go out, we must go to them! In this culture—let’s face it—we only have one. We are the minority. And do we feel the fervor, the apostolic zeal to go out and find the other 99? This is a big responsibility and we must ask the Lord for the grace of generosity and the courage and the patience to go out, to go out and proclaim the Gospel.” –Pope Francis
In 1950, over 80% of all Catholics attended mass every Sunday. The same was true for most Protestant denominations. Today, church attendance is less that 30% and as low as 22% in some research studies. Any way you spin it, that’s a loss of over 50% in the past half century. And, that is a problem that won’t be turned around with pious platitudes or wishful thinking. We have failed to communicate with an ever growing population that is becoming more and more secular every day.
Some will say that the Church is still growing, but the growth in the Church since 1960 has been fueled by Hispanics. 71% of all growth of the Church is Hispanic. About 10% of the Catholic population in 1960 was Hispanic. In the 1980’s it was 25%, and today 40% of all Catholics have a Hispanic heritage. Yet, 75% of parishes across the U.S. have no form of Hispanic ministries.
Pope Francis recognizes this. It is why he has asked us to be a missionary church, to get dirty, to reach out to the 99 lost sheep.
Some are criticizing the pope. They are content with the doing what we have always done. But it is NOT working. We have failed to keep Catholics active and in the pews. And, we can’t reach them by preaching to the choir. We’ve got to get to them, where they are, and reach them with God’s message of mercy. We have got to change our approach!
Change is difficult for most people. A close friend of mine says that the only people that like change are wet babies! It’s true. But, we must change.
People are more apt to turn away from their sins when they realize that God is a forgiving God and ready to embrace them, forgive them, and bring them redemption and salvation.
Our missionary role is to make good Catholics great ones, to get the indifferent Catholics, who are in the pew on Sunday but not much else, to be good ones, and the get lapsed Catholics to become active again. Then, we can reach out to Non-Catholics and invite them in to the beauty of our Faith.
Pope Francis’ approach is different. We need to ask these questions; What is my parish or diocese doing to embrace these changes? Are we keeping up? What am I doing to aid the pope in this effort? Am I ready to break out of my comfort zone and help the Pope with this important evangelization?
Let’s quit the criticism and support Pope Francis is this important effort. We must go after the 99 and bring them back to the beauty of the faith.
*Source of statistics: National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministries, Boston College, Dr. Hosffman Ospino, Ph.D.*
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