This weekend we celebrate the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne. First about the readings for this weekend: As the litur- gical year draws to an end, the church uses the Scriptures to turn the hearts and minds of her people to the life to come. How will we know when the end is coming? We do not know the day or the hour. But we know that in God’s own time, when light shines and triumphs over darkness, and when justice and love rules over all, then time as we know it will no longer matter and God’s second coming will be upon us.
Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, RSCJ: I spent most of my column last week writing about her in anticipation of her feast and the 200 years since she arrived here in Saint Louis. Very simply she was born in 1769. She entered the Visitation Sisters, but, during the French Revo- lution, her monastery was suppressed. Still seeking religious life she met Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat and joined the very young Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After meeting Bishop William DuBourg she asked, and received, permission to go to the United States. She arrived in Saint Louis in November 1818, settling in Saint Charles. She spent most of the rest of her life either in Saint Charles or at Saint Ferdinand Parish in Florissant. She was able to go as a Missionary to Kansas for one year, but unable to learn the language, she spent most of her day praying. She returned to Saint Charles where she died on November 18, 1852, aged 83.She was beatified by Pope Pius XII on May 12, 1940, and was canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II on July 3, 1988. She, along with Saint Vincent de Paul, is the Secondary Patron of the Archdiocese.
Next weekend we will celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the last Sunday of the Church Year. As the liturgical year comes to a close, the church includes a yearly warning that this life on earth is transient, a trial run for all eternity. We are reminded that Jesus is not the king of nation states, but a servant who comes to redeem and inspire all humanity. He is a shepherd, a ruler of human hearts, and a king of truth and justice. Is this the year that we will finally pay attention, surrender our dependence on temporal success and re- spond with the witness of our faithful lives? Things to ponder as we celebrate this feast.
During this coming week, of course, will we celebrate Thanksgiving. I hope and pray that each of us has a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving this year. While there are still problems to be faced there are many, many blessings which God has given us and for which we are to be thankful. I invite each of you to spend time thanking God, hopefully at Holy Mass on Thanks- giving Day (which will be at 9:00 a.m. here), but certainly thanking God at your gatherings with family and friends next Thursday. Please be generous with the collection for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, both the monetary collection and the collection for food to be taken up on Thanksgiving. (Just to let you know the parish office will be closed on Thursday and Friday of this week. Fr Mike and I might be around some on Friday, but it is an Archdiocesan holiday, so don’t count on it! I know you will understand.)
Numbers: Each October almost every diocese and eparchy in the United States counts the attendance at Mass. Some do it all four weeks, others three, and some even try to break down the numbers into adults, young adults, teens, children, and infants! (That’s a monumental task to be sure!) Father Mike Donald has been “in charge” of this process here at Saint Monica for a good number of years and has very precise records of the attendance at our Masses during October since 2012, the first year Msgr. John Brennell was pastor here. (I really want to thank Fr. Mike for being so precise with these numbers!) Please remember that in October 2012 there were still six weekend Masses here. The current schedule went into effect in 2013. The AVERAGE total of Mass attendance (in October) for the past seven years are: 2012: 1478; 2013: 1358 (-120 from the previous year); 2014: 1299 (-59); 2015: 1318 (+19); 2016: 1226 (-92); 2017: 1132 (-94); and 2018: 1039(-93). The average Mass attendance, in October, since 2012 up to this year, seven years, has gone down 439 people.
Attendance at Holy Day of Obligation Masses has also gone down. The Immaculate Conception (coming up on Saturday, December 8) had 925 attending in 2010, 2015, 825; 2016, 817; while only 702 attended in 2017. (Our Masses for this coming year will be at 5:30 P.M. on Friday, December 7, 8:00 A.M. and 10:00 A.M on Saturday, December 8.) Christmas has been “up and down” over these years: 2010: 1025; 2012: 1790; 2013: 1955; 2014: 2005; 2015: 1900; 2016:1780; and 2017: 1650. New Year’s, which isn’t always a Holyday of Obligation, has also had some issues, these are only when January 1 fell on Tuesday – Friday. 2013: 725; 2014: 660; 2015: 700 (2016: somehow the count was missed). The Assumption (again only when August 15 was on Tuesday – Friday): 2014: 840; 2015: 810; 2017: 700; and 2018: 700. Finally, All Saints, again only Tuesday – Friday): 2016: 690; 2017: 660; 2018: 580. While not a “Holyday,” since it is on a Sunday, Easter continues to have a good attendance. 2013: 1775; 2014: 1750; 2015: 1650; 2016: 1760; 2017: 1500. PLUS the Easter Vigil, THE Mass of Easter, which runs from 150 (2018) to 250 (2014 and 2015).
Why these numbers? First to show that over the past seven years the average number of people attending Mass in October at Saint Monica has dropped 439 people. Second (and the Parish Council will be meeting this coming Tuesday evening to discuss some of this), we need to address the reasons “WHY?” so many people who still live in the parish are not attending Holy Mass here. (Please note that there a BIG number of people who attend Mass here who do not live in the parish, even though some might be registered here.) There are some anecdotal reasons as to why Mass attendance is dropping, but there has been a full study of the decline over these years.
Finally, not to frighten you, but to tell you the facts, with the number of people who are attending Mass here, there is really no need for more than three Masses on a weekend … unless our good people of faith return to being actively participating people at our weekend Liturgies. Of course we will be praying about this … and I have to tell you that throughout the Archdiocese most of these numbers are the same … a downturn in Mass attendance.
Please pray that we will be faithful to the Lord and the work of so many will bear fruit.
Fr Joe Weber