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Why Mass Attendance is Way Down in the Diocese of Rochester

April 28th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

Fr. Bill Spilly, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, has done a respectable job outlining many of the reasons for the sharp decline in Mass attendance throughout the Diocese of Rochester. Yes, you heard me correctly, Fr. Spilly! Although I disagree with a couple of the items, most are spot on reasons for why our Mass attendance is so low. So… we recognize the problems… when are we going to start addressing them?

Here is the article with emphasis and commentary added:

“At the last meeting of the Priests’ Council with Bishop Clark, a report was given about the decrease in Mass Attendance in the Diocese of Rochester over the last 10 years. Most of that decline began in 2002 and continues to the present day. Among the many reasons, including laziness and lessening priority of Sunday Mass [Poor catechesis] as very important, are the following:

* Demographic shifts: people relocating out of the diocese due to jobs, retirement, and illness [I don’t know that this is really the problem for the most part. Obviously there are less Catholics in the city, and that explains the problems there. The suburban Catholic population is still about the same if not higher]
* Church renovations: people disliking the renovation plan, process or fundraising [Unnecessary and tasteless destruction of our churches has played a large role in lower Mass attendance. Destroying beautiful, worship-inducing churches by making them into rounded, man-centered structures hurts the worship experience. Doing these things against the will of the people (i.e- Sacred Heart, St. Ambrose, and to a lesser extent, St. John in Spencerport) does nothing but anger parishioners into leaving]
* Parish planning: people dropping out of church because of the elimination of a Mass, the changing of a Mass time, the clustering of parishes, the closing of parishes and schools [All of these preceding items are significant factors, which is why we should be very careful when it comes to making changes. These changes need to be well-researched beforehand, and all options exhausted before making them], the appointment of a new pastor [who is less than orthodox…], the appointment of a parish leader not a priest [The biggest reasons why St. Anne is in the shape its in. By the way, attendance was in the 430s again this past week. Lourdes was not much better in the 460s. Round of applause for Sr. Joan’s amazing job so far…], the appointment of an extern (a priest from another country) who is difficult to understand
* Church practices: people drop out of church because Mass is too long or not reverent enough [Bingo! There it is]; homilies are too bland, too long or too political [i.e- homilies repeatedly on immigration reform, pro-Obamacare, global warming, women ordination, etc. Suspiciously missing here is homilies by laypersons. These are a big turn off for many]; the Church’s annulment requirements; the parish or the priest/administrator is not traditional enough [i.e- the St. Thomas situation, and St. Jude] or liberal enough [I disagree for the most part with this. The Rochester Church is growing more and more liberal, but we see less and less people]; the Church is unwelcoming to the divorces and remarried or to homosexuals [The Church is welcoming, so I disagree with this part as well]
* Alternative Catholic churches: Within Monroe County, people attend Mass at St. Ann’s Home (700), Cherry Ridge (100), Jefferson Road Carmelites (203), SSJ Motherhouse (100), RSM Motherhouse (45) and various campuses. Elsewhere in the diocese, people attend Mass at the Canandaigua VA (250), Abbey of the Genesee (125), Mt. Saviour Monastery in Elmira (200), etc. [It’s tough to ignore some of these attendance numbers. People are getting fed up with liturgical abuse ridden parishes that are man-focused, and are turning to these other worship sites that offer quieter and more reverent Masses. Maybe this is why the bishop has refused to allow Masses at the St. Padre Pio chapel; it would drain attendance from less traditional parishes in Gates and surrounding towns. The people are fed up with the silliness at so many area parishes. The alternative communities are experiencing much growth in recent years]
* Sex abuse: The fact that the precipitous decline begins in 2002 is indicative of the effect this has had on Mass attendance. [Sad, but true. Then again, a lot of the people I know who complain about “priests who touch little boys” are people that didn’t go to church often to begin with]

In the Diocese of Rochester in the year 2000, there was an average of 106,483 people going to church during a given month. By 2009, there was an average of 75,376 people going to church during a given month. That is a decline of 30% in just the past 10 years [ouch! Are the progressives so married to their cause that they can’t wake up and smell the pudding for what it really is? Their ideas have failed. Their push to achieve their goals have driven people away. Progressive Catholicism does not bring in more people than it drives away].

Here at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, i
n 2000 there was an average of 3,185 parishioners going to Mass during a given month. Last year in 2009, there was an average 1925 parishioners going to Mass during a given month.
That is a 40% decline in these last 10 years.

Are the reasons the same for us here at SEAS? Can we do anything to lessen the decline or stop it or even reverse it? You thoughts?

Peace to all of you,
Father Bill “

A thought-provoking article.

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17 Responses to “Why Mass Attendance is Way Down in the Diocese of Rochester”

  1. 125 people for mass at the Abbey of the Genesee is a standing room only crowd.

    Thanks pastoral planning.

  2. avatar Matt says:

    idk that it's that high, but it is generally "standing room only" for sunday Mass

  3. avatar Mike says:

    Dr. K.,

    Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place but I can't find this article on the parish web site.

    What's the source?

  4. avatar Mike says:

    Thanks, choir.

    Odd that seekandfind has got next weekend's bulletin up while the parish web site doesn't.

    Maybe they get it directly from the publisher?

  5. avatar Gen says:

    I think they do, Mike.

  6. avatar Bernie says:

    I agree, this is a very good article with many valid points.

    I don't really think laziness is a reason. Why attend Mass if you don't really understand what it's all about? If you understand what it's about then you simply cannot resist attending. As Dr. K says, "Poor catechesis." Religious education in the truths of the Faith has been a disaster over the last 40 years and unrelenting dissent has chipped away at the faith of the better prepared.

    Of course, fluffy sermons, political harangues and dissent self promotion from the pulpit have not helped. People like good sound explanations of doctrine and of the practices of the Faith. I wonder how many of our priests/deacons (even –good grief– lay pastoral administrators) prepare a sermon referencing a good bible commentary (like the Navarre) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    I's my belief the scandals are having a dramatic impact. People are ashamed of the wider Church and just quietly slipping away; not so much angry as saddened and disillusioned.

    This diocese is so liberal it should be seeing dramatic increases in Mass attendance, should it not? I guess the vote is in.

  7. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    spx's bulletin link on the left links to seek and find.

    I'm familiar with the website because I'm the one who created it (not the content, but installed drupal and got it set up for them).

    After reading this and further reflection on the goals of the previous pastor, I am wishing I hadn't given any time or resources to this parish. It's such a shame because there are so many good Catholics who don't want to be caught up in such quarrels.

  8. avatar Christopher says:

    Another problem might be the fact that the youth (20-30s crowd) is almost non-existent in the Catholic church. It's been my experience that either kids are turned off from being squirted with a super soaker, or they've gone the opposite way and been poorly catechized and gone to a protestant meat market to find a husband/wife such as http://www.tfhny.org/

    The Catholic church in this diocese does not do a good job at taking care of it's young and we need people like you to re-educate and re-invigorate youth to keep them in the church rather than at home watching jersey shore.

  9. avatar RochChaCha says:

    I think Dr. K and Gen hit the nail on the head when they say that 'poor catechesis' is the main cause, coupled with a move to ultra liberal teachings. Catholic's nowadays make every excuse why they can't make it to church. When i back out of my driveway Sunday morning, my neighbors are loading their vans with hockey and lacross sticks, baseball bats for the game, etc. Are they going to mass on Saturday night, knowing they have games on Sunday, No.

    Matter of fact, one of the kids asked me a couple of years ago while I was at our neighborhood pool, why i wore a 'T' on my neck. Baffled and not knowing what the kid was talking about, I realized she was talking about my crucifix on my chain. No idea of who Christ is, yet a year later, she took her Communion. Now that that is out of the way, no need to go back to Church for this family.

    Another family up the street told me they want to get their kids to church (these kids have yet to be baptized and they are 10 years old). When we shared our excitement for them, they quickly deflated us by saying they were going to 'wait until fall because summer was a busy month for sports'. Guess what, so was fall and this spring and they still have not gone to church.

    Poor catechesis is certainly the root of most of the attendance problems. I suppose 'youth sports' might be another 🙂

  10. avatar Christopher says:

    I don't know how good these stats are, but they certainly are interesting:
    http://cara.georgetown.edu/bulletin/index.htm

    When looking this up, I noticed another article in which we made the USA today…

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2004-11-07-church-main_x.htm

  11. avatar Mike says:

    FWIW, I just posted a companion piece to Dr. K's analysis at DOR Catholic. See here.

  12. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    a layperson can go to the carmelites for mass? when?

  13. avatar Sister Emily says:

    BEN.
    1031 West Jefferson Road
    Pittsford.
    Right across the road from Locust Hill Country club.

    7;30 am daily

    Week end 8:00Am.

    They have a web site.

    I think you may be familar with one of the Priest.
    carmelitesofrochester.org

    check out their book store.

  14. avatar Gen says:

    Fr. Bonsignore says Mass there every Wednesday morning. It's a great experience. I'd highly recommend going, Ben. I'm there whenever I'm in town for it.

  15. avatar Christopher says:

    Forgive my ignorance, who is Fr. Bonsignore? Where does he normally say mass?

    I'm assuming he gives a great homily if you both are recommending him.

    Rochchacha and I were talking about this today at work and might consider doing a morning trip there someday if that's the only day to see him.

  16. avatar Dr. K says:

    Fr. Bonsignore is head of the local Latin Mass community (1:30 PM Sundays at St. Stanislaus). He is also assigned to Monroe Community Hospital, and I *think* he helps with Strong.

    ~Dr. K

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