It is time for St. Malachy to start making the transition to being a “one priest” parish. We’ve not quite done that yet hanging onto hope that an associate pastor might be assigned to us after Fr. Xavier returned to India in December 2018. However, with the recent deaths of four pastors (Frs. Kevin Morris, Glen O’Conner, Rick Eldred, & John Beitans) and no priestly ordinations for the next two years, our parish needs to accept the reality that our long term planning should responsibly envision one priest assigned to St. Malachy Parish.
As our Sunday morning catechetical ministries are ever strengthening, there has also been a request from parish staff (DRE, CRE & Youth Minister) to add more time to our programs to cover all the material in greater depth. Our current Mass schedule doesn’t allow this to happen without taking the opportunity to attend any weekend Mass. Our RCIA sessions currently meet during 10:00am Mass which means the pastor can only be involved with special coverage by another priest.
Last year, the Archdiocese asked all parishes to count attendance at weekend Masses. This was an eye-opener across the Archdiocese. It revealed that our parish churches are typically less than half full for the number of Masses we are offering on the weekend. Of the 221,569 Catholics in the Archdiocese, we averaged 67,002 attending Mass in the two months of data collection (April-May 2019); this is a 35% attendance rate. Adding up every seat in every church within the Archdiocese, 42% of pews were filled leaving 58% of seats were empty.
St. Malachy is the largest church building in the Archdiocese seating 1,500. We have four Masses each weekend which means a total of 6,000 available seats on the weekend. We average 1,879 seats filled and 4,121 seats empty out of a total of 6,000 seats available every weekend for Masses. This means out of the total number of seats available on the weekend, we are only 31% full. This hopefully raises some questions in your mind like: Why aren’t more people going to Mass? Why do we need all these Masses if we are less than half full? Is there a better way to move forward?
I understand transition is hard; and in the following weeks, I will be providing more information about why reducing Masses can actually be a positive thing. I would like our schedule to be modified, and this schedule can certainly change. We have to begin somewhere, and after discussing this with the parish staff and pastoral council, this seems to be a good starting place….
Weekend Mass Schedule
Saturday 5:30 pm; Sunday 7:30 am & 10:15 am
Weekend Religious Education
Sunday 8:30-10:00 am
Weekday Mass Schedule
Tuesday 6:15 pm (with Adoration from 5:00-6:00 pm)
Wednesday - Saturday 8:15 am
In this new schedule, we wanted to stay as close to the former Mass times as possible while reducing only one Mass. We also wanted to add 30 minutes to Religious Education (which includes more than just our kids but adults as well….RCIA and Gather & Grow with God). This creates 90 minutes for catechesis and community time. The 7:30 am Mass rarely goes more than 50 minutes which also affords participants and catechists time to get to class following this Mass. You’ll also notice an increase in Tuesday’s Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to a full 60 minutes rather than 45 minutes and Mass beginning at 6:15 pm.
We are looking at beginning this new schedule on August 1, 2020, which is the weekend before our children’s Religious Education begins. This will also give us some time to practice social distancing at Sunday Masses before implementing the new schedule. We also plan on investing in new audio/visual recording equipment in order to continue live streaming Mass (from the church) for those who are not comfortable attending Mass due to health issues or concerns.
I want you to know this schedule is not set in stone; it is a starting point. Twenty years ago, when our parish first started planning the move from our Green Street location to our present campus, it was foreseen that this might be the case (one priest; fewer Sunday Masses). For this reason, we built the church the size that it is. Reducing Masses for one priest to manage the parish was on the horizon even back then.
In the following months, we will provide information about this transition and highlight the positive opportunities this can offer for us. Please know of my thoughts and prayers.
In Jesus, through Mary,