Changing our Expectations

Dear Friends in Christ,

Recently, the parish conducted a survey of over 2100 women in the parish. Thanks to all who participated and responded. We received some very good feedback. The main purpose of the survey was to attempt to gauge the “temperature” of where folks are at. Overall, the responses were extremely favorable to what we are doing in the parish. Those who responded overwhelmingly found our programs and offerings to be excellent and beneficial. That was very affirming and good to know. There were some insightful observations made that we will study and consider. However, there were two areas that surfaced that, while not exactly positive, were nonetheless enlightening and useful to know. Neither issue is new, but both speak to needs that should be addressed. The first issue brought forth concerned programs or activities that people would like to see here at the parish. In almost all of the instances named, the programs or activities that were being asked for, we already have! It is simply that the respondents were unaware. Even though we publish in the bulletin and have a very detailed website, print catalogues and brochures, use e-mails and social media, many parishioners still do not know of all of the offerings and opportunities here at the parish. This points to a communication problem that needs to be addressed.

The second issue that surfaced is also tied to communication and misunderstanding. The survey showed there is a lack of appreciation of how serious the priest shortage is. The survey indicated a desire for additional masses, confessions, priest involvement, etc. These are good and wonderful desires, but quite honestly, they are unrealistic. Currently, we have 8 Masses every weekend and 7 weekday masses. Confessions are heard twice on Saturdays. During Advent and Lent, we have 15 weekday masses and 17 confessions times per week! We average more than 80 funerals and another 80+ weddings each year. Last year, nearly 400 parishioners received the Sacrament of the Sick. That is a lot! This is in addition to the numerous hours of counselling, appointments, classes and meetings each and every week. All of this is wonderful! But it is a lot.

In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, there is a ratio of active priests to Catholics of 1:4,462. Twenty years ago in 2000, the ratio was half that amount at 1:2078. In 1990, the ratio was 1:1419, in 1980 – 1:930 and in 1970 – 1:844. That is five times more people per priest in 50 years. During this time, the average age of priests has also increased dramatically. In 1970, the average age of priests was 35 and today it is 63 with over half of the priests past 70 years of age. In the U.S., the total number of priests has fallen from close to 60,000 in 1970 to 37,000 today. In 1970, there were 54 Million Catholics in the U. S. Today, there are more than 76 million. The end result is that there are fewer priests, who are older, serving many more people in much bigger parishes. This is true here at SJV, our ratio is 1:7,500. In 1970, there were 2 priests serving 800 families, today there are 2 priests serving 5000 families. It is also true in our archdiocese and it is true throughout the United States. The reality is that the situation is going to get worse before it gets better and it is not going to get better anytime soon. I do believe the situation can change and I pray that it will change soon, but it is going to take many years.

So what can we do? As always, we must pray and work for more vocations and put our trust in the Lord. We need to encourage our children to live holy lives by the example of our lives. All of us need to help families stay close to the Church and strong in their Catholic Faith. We each need to encourage young men and women, our own children and grandchildren, to prayerfully and seriously consider a religious vocation. We must also change our expectations and adapt to new realities. Expecting parishes to run like parishes did in 1950 or 1980 or even 2000 is not going to bring satisfaction. The world has changed and so has the Church. Schools, hospitals and businesses have all changed over the years and so have parishes. Wanting something different is fine, but when it does not happen, we need to accept, adapt and adjust our expectations accordingly.

In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy