Since it isn’t really about numbers, much less money, I thought I would share with you today some of the human side of the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA, for whom we are taking a collection today. I received an email this week from Father Brian Kane, a son of Saint Bernadette (and son of Michael and Karen Kane, regulars at the 9:00) currently deployed in Iraq.
First, Chaplain Kane sets the scene: We are enjoying cooler temperatures these days, low 90’s during the day, mid 70’s at night, a great improvement from the 110’s of last month. It almost makes you grateful for our November chill, doesn’t it? Then, he points out that his life hasn’t changed much since the troop drawdown: Soldiers still stop by every day seeking advice and support for a variety of issues or just to talk.
We do have fewer Catholic priests in country now, the other priest who has been here … with me will leave next week for a base that doesn’t have a priest. We are already starting to plan for Christmas Masses in southern Iraq. By Christmas there will probably only be two of us to cover southern Iraq. Thankfully we do receive a good amount of support to get to where we need to for Mass. We also will be starting an RCIA class for soldiers and civilians who are interested in joining the Catholic Church, I believe there are at least 10 people... We celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day here with special Masses at our Chapel. So, as you regard this yet-another-second-collection, bring to mind this image of the Church, alive and giving life even in a war zone, to our own men and women so eager for the Word of Life, worshiping God and praying with us in an alien land, under the pastoral care of “One of Our Own.”
Closer to home, some of you were unnerved by the clipboards and counters in recent weeks that are the hallmark of the annual Archdiocesan October Count, when every head in every Sunday Mass in every parish is counted. October is chosen because it is a reliably “normal” month – no holidays (Christmas or Easter) to skew the count up, and nothing (summer vacation, Thanksgiving, snowstorms) to skew the count down.
I want to thank the ushers and the volunteers who made the time and took the effort to do the counting; it meant often you were not able to pay full attention to the homily, and I know that is a sacrifice.
I was somewhat disappointed in the results. It is hard to compare this year’s number to last year’s, because the second half of last October was when we had that huge flu outbreak and many people stayed home from school, work, and church. But after previous years had been climbing, the number is down from 1254 Massgoers on average each Sunday two years ago, to 1210 this year.
The 11:00 Mass is growing, but the 7:30 is shrinking, and the 9:00, big as it is, seems to be down too. The Vigil Mass fluctuates wildly. 1210 individuals at Mass is not exactly a strong showing for a parish with 1240 registered households of 3747 people -- and that number is very current, since we have been maintaining our registration database closely.
Think of those service men and women who endure heat and hostility and crave the possibility of being present for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Give thanks to God for His presence in our midst, and encourage someone you love to come as well. It is a matter of life and grace, not numbers.