The local grocery store may close followed by the gas station. The post office branch might shut down and perhaps even the local public school. It is the sign of a struggling neighborhood, or at least one in serious transition. All of these hit a stressed neighborhood hard. But studies show that one of the most devastating closures is the closing of a Catholic parish. The closing of a service means that people in an area must go somewhere else to find them. The closing of a parish means that people who were coming to the area bringing attention and resources, volunteer hours and activities, who cared about at least part of the neighborhood, are no longer showing up.
In our particular area, it is difficult to think of any other institution that has remained a constant in the 85 years that St. Sebastian has been here. The parks. The roads. Buildings, yes, but not the businesses in them. The post office moved, the public school has moved, St. Sebastian has even seen the local mall rise and fall, the last store closing this past January. But the churches here stay for the most part.
Think of what your parish provides (setting aside, ashamedly for a moment, worship of God.) We educate people of all ages from preschool to the end of life with a day school, PSR (CCD), adult education, RCIA, and sponsor community events and speakers, retreats and workshops. Sports, marathons, summer camps, and playgrounds are available from various parishes. There are concerts, art shows, festivals, dances, and other recreational events both for worshippers and for the general public. Social services, social outreach, social justice, social activism, neighborhood initiatives all flow from a parish. There is the pulling of resources to help causes locally as well as being combined with all parishes to help national and world problems. Outreach to the isolated, the voiceless, and the poor are some other areas and I am sure I am leaving out some. Even the fact that perhaps hundreds of people are attracted at least on the weekend to stop in to pray who might not have any other reason to be there.
A parish’s budget can run in to the millions. And because your parish is connected to all the parishes that surround it, in turn those parishes are connected to the diocese, a diocese to all of the dioceses in the United States, and this country united with all countries in the world to Rome, a local parish tends to bring a stronger voice and more attention to a neighborhood in which it is rooted. (We couldn’t, for example, say that St. Buhba was in a bad neighborhood and therefore it is going to move out to the suburbs like many other churches might. St. Buhba would be then in the parish of St. Whosit which simply can’t be. So St. Buhba is invested in making the place where he is work.)
So you want your neighborhood to be strong and healthy, one of the ways to do that is to pray for your parish. It is an anchor. It is sustenance for the local scene. In turn, pray for the local parishes that boarder you. When one of us healthy, then all of us become healthier.