Monday, May 2, 2011

God Works Through Secondary Causes

An article in the Peace Weekly recounts the success story of two parishes in a Korean country diocese. Although the number of Catholics in the country has increased in the last 10 years, the number attending Masses has decreased. The article mentions two parishes that have not followed this trend.

According to the statistical report of 2009, only one of every four Catholics attends Mass. When those in pastoral work hear that some parishes are getting over 40 percent attending Sunday Mass, they are interested. The article goes on to tell us the secret of this success.

One of the parishes has 1,744 parishioners registered and 784 coming out to Mass on Sundays. The numbers on Sunday are such that they are required to put chairs in the Church to accommodate them. Even at daily Mass it's difficult to find a seat.

Explaining his pastoral policy, the pastor said, "More than having many events I try to make every one of the parishioners feel the joy and delight of the life of faith. When the Catholics at Mass feel a sense of peace the numbers increase."

He makes clear that he has not used programs to  evangelize or made efforts to get the tepid back, and yet the numbers increase.  Instead he stresses the joy of the Christian life. "The parishioners, who are often tired by the daily chores of living," he said, "when they come to our church feel respected. It's what we want them to feel."

The pastor and the assistant and the office help make sure that no one is irritated  or pressured; everyone is always greeted pleasantly and kindly. At the end of every Mass, the pastor and assistant are always outside the church greeting the people and sharing in their concerns. The telephone is always available to contact the priests, and they are always eager to help. This spirit of the parish gets communicated to others and is a reason for the return of the tepid and the automatic increase in evangelization.

Most parishes are large and intimacy is not easily achieved. The personality of the pastor and assistant is certainly a part of what  goes into the mix to bring about a welcoming atmosphere in a parish setting. We should probably all be given courses in human relations and what goes into making a good salesperson. Our trust in the grace of God  to break through  all the human frailties and lack of charisma in the pastoral teams is necessary, but neither should we forget that God  works through secondary causes.

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