Corresponds to questions 9, 10, 11, and 12 of the survey
In the classic 1967 movie, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a liberal couple’s values are challenged when their daughter comes home with her African-American fiance. It’s true, this wouldn’t shock us today. In fact, we couldn’t be more grateful for the great gift of diversity we have in our Church. However, we have to admit that even today not everyone feels welcome in every parish.
Who sent an RSVP?
With this in mind, the first thing to consider in the recent Be Missionary Disciples survey is: who filled out the survey? Usually, those who take the time to give us feedback are either very engaged or have a concern to express. That’s why this survey doesn’t give a complete picture of your registered parishioners, but rather a snapshot of how the more active ones see and experience your parish.
So then how can the survey be helpful?
It’s actually very helpful to reflect on who did and – more importantly – who did not fill out the survey. For example, you can compare the ages, gender and ethnicity of the survey respondents to the profile of all of your registered parishioners. This data can be found in the Parish Data Executive Summary that pastors recently received. This summary gives a ten-year snapshot of the parish, including changes to the age and ethnic makeup of Mass attendees. This data can also be found in ParishSOFT or your recent Mass attendance count. How does the profile of your most engaged parishioners from the survey compare with the profile of your registered parishioners in general? Who’s not engaged? Why?
Putting it all in context
Another aspect to consider is how your survey results compare with other parishes in your region. We have data sorted by region, Hispanic, black, families with children under 18 as well as the total Archdiocesan picture of the survey results. It could spark insights by comparing some of these subgroups with your parish survey. Naturally, your parish may serve a specific niche that makes it different from these summaries, but put them side by side. Do the results make sense?
If you have an Archbalt email account, you can access the five year profile for each parish in the archdiocese, based on the data collected from their consolidated reports. Log in to My Arch, click on “Location Resources” under the left hand column and then “Parish Profiles” in the center. What does this information tell you about your region?
Who did we forget to invite?
We must always look beyond our parish walls to those who never darken our doorstep. As Archbishop Lori wrote in his pastoral letter, A Light Brightly Visible, “A parish might well attract people from beyond its own ZIP code, but it can never cease to reach out with missionary love to the people in its own ZIP code.” (p. 17)
Are your registered parishioners representative of the people you see in the local grocery store or shopping mall? Neighborhoods change. Sometimes an immigrant community is growing, such as Ecuadorian, Filipino, or Nigerian. Sometimes the age or gender distribution is tending one way or another. Sometimes new developments bring an influx of young adults and families. Sometimes neighborhoods are abandoned. No matter where your parish is, there have been changes and trends over the past ten years that are key to an effective evangelization.
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) provided a remarkable graphic in one of their blog posts, which indicated a growing ethnic transformation among Catholics, particularly those who make up the next generation of Catholic families. When we view this information, we should be asking ourselves: who is missing from our survey respondents and why? Who is missing from our active parishioners and why? And who should we be reaching out to today so that five years from now they’ll be vibrant, active members of our parish?
Welcoming in Action
Are we inviting and welcoming our greater community? Bishop Madden shared an example of this in one of his weekday homilies. He told the story of Fr. Dennis Grumsey, OFM Conv., pastor of St. Casimir in Canton, who noticed that there was an influx of young adults in his neighborhood who were not in his church on Sundays. He went out to them and asked them why they were not there, to which they replied that the times for Mass did not work with their schedules.
He might have responded that Mass ought to be important enough for them to make the available times work. But he was evangelizing them, which demands meeting them where they’re at, not where we’d like them to be. So he started offering a Sunday evening Mass. With this simple change, attendance of young adults at St. Casimir jumped from 50 to 250.
Look around at your community, look at your pews and plan for those who are not with you for your Sunday Masses. None of us should be guessing who is coming to dinner, we should be going out to invite them – all of them.