There is little doubt that many of the Catholic institutions of today will not be around for the next generation. But that is to be expected. We are not the same people we were 5 generations ago. Can you keep offering what was vital to Catholics 5 generations ago to people in the next generation? The Church has always adapted to its times.
Some things just will not change. The Eucharist will be the source and center of our lives. That won’t change. Sacraments – Scriptures – worship - education – and all of the usual suspects. But how do you present it? How is it lived? What will touch people’s hearts? What is attractive while not sacrificing truth?
More recently I have been engaging people in a conversation on how to reimagine Catholic Akron. What can we do now to prepare for the city as it will be in the near future? It would be a mistake, I think, to wait until we have empty buildings and then say, “Okay, now we have an empty (school building – convent – what have you) what can we do with it?” At that point you are already losing your audience (pardon the term.) The risk that is being run is that you are dropping out of the greater public consciousness.
Here is an example of what I am thinking: There is a new paper about town called “The Devil Strip.” (Akronites and Barbertonians will understand that term.) There is an extremely interesting section where they ask a cradle Akronite and a new Akronite what they love about the city. The arts always rate extremely high. Now, there is a local neighborhood that is known for being “artsy.” The Catholic Church has no presence there whatsoever. As a matter of fact, in my collar when I am there one gets the distinct impression that there is an element of anti-Catholicism. Of course there is. When we don’t mix and mingle it is the rotten story that has a chance to germinate.
Why aren’t we there?
So at St. Sebastian we are trying to be involved in the art scene. Hopefully we are developing an arts friendly place that is attractive to those who shape our culture. The Academy of Culture and Arts opened with the intent of being open to greater community at all age levels. We are fortunate that we have a healthy school. What if we didn’t? We will already have an institution that could make use of the building and continue to be relevant to West Akron Catholic and non-Catholic residents alike. (The champagne problem at the moment is that both institutions are healthy – I could actually use another building.)
That is one example. There are a few other ideas in the pipeline that will slowly be rolled out as they seem feasible. BUT what ideas do YOU have for the Catholic parish – the Catholic presence in the future? Things that we can do that are within our control? Not something like, “Start ordaining married men.” That is quite out of our control as Pope Francis has reiterated.
If you have any ideas, I would be excited to hear them.