It may be that many Parishes are struggling in the Catholic triangle, the three points roughly being Chicago, Boston, and New York where, at one time, 50% of American Catholics once lived. As the Catholic population evens out across the map, the triangle looks as if the Catholic Church is failing while in other parts of the nation they cannot build churches and parking lots quickly enough. Is there anything good to come from this for triangle Catholics?
There is at least this: survival of the fittest. “If you don’t like it here, go to the next parish over,” is no longer a safe attitude to have because people can and will do just that - and possibly they will not stay within the Catholic family of churches! It is not enough to open our doors anymore and say, “Okay Catholics, come on in!” The ethnic fellowship, community pressure, our collective conscience will not get us into a pew. You better have your Church act together.
That does not mean we should give in to the customer service mentality that plagues the American Church experience and mindset. But it is similarly unconscionable to do things just adequately or minimally either. If we want serious Catholics, we need to be a Church serious about being Catholic.
The same goes for our schools. There is a misconception out there that when we were in the days of the nuns, everything was perfect. They weren’t. (Don’t get me wrong, I would jump on the bandwagon in a moment of orders reignited in our diocese and started staffing our schools.) Ask a priest who had gone through the golden era of packed schools with our valiant nuns making up all or most of the faculty. There were still terrible teachers and difficult principals. The difference was that people were much more likely to be desperate to have their kid in a Catholic school. If you kid didn’t make the cut, there were only so many seats and if you were lucky you MIGHT get in to the next parish over. The balance of power was much more in the hands of the school.
Not so today. Our schools now compete against each other for a smaller group of students. It is interesting the people call our school now and ask, “If I send my kid to your school, what will you give us?” We get LOTS of those. (We do not do that type of funding for the general public.)
This means being a typical Catholic school in the Catholic Triangle is not enough. Being a good Catholic school is not enough. In some places, being a great Catholic school is not enough. So in this and in all things that we do (evangelization for example) we must keep waking up and realizing, “Today, we must be better.”