Marin County pastors and pastoral associates listed a lack of Catholic faith formation and identity in parish families and what they described as a tarnished, aloof church as key reasons for a decline in Mass attendance and participation in the sacrament of the Eucharist at their parishes.
At the March 13 meeting of Marin County deaneries held at St. Sebastian Church, Father Cyril O’Sullivan, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, Lagunitas, opened a frank first discussion in what will be a yearlong initiative focused on the Eucharist. The goal, he said, is to come to some agreement about the issues related to the diminished understanding, interest and participation in the sacrament, and to work on solutions.
“Many teenagers don’t understand or believe that the Eucharist is the body of Christ,” Father O’Sullivan said of the young people he has prepared for the sacrament of confirmation. It is clear that they think of the sacrament as merely a symbol, he said. “If the teens are thinking this way, the parents must be too.”
Though a deanery-wide plan to fortify the Eucharist at the parish level will be the end result of discussions, Father O’Sullivan, the elected dean of one of Marin County’s two deaneries or parish administrative groups, got a head start last month with the start of Lent. During each Sunday of Lent, he is spending a few minutes before each homily to explain the significance of key steps in the order of the Mass that parishioners see at Mass each week, such as the priest’s reverencing of the altar at the start of Mass and the meaning behind the offertory prayer.
Others around the deanery meeting table, which represented more than eight parishes, said they see that even parishioners who were raised in the Catholic Church or attended Catholic schools are not always well catechized.
“Most of our parishioners don’t really understand the sacraments,” said Mike Morison, pastoral associate of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Mill Valley. “They don’t understand divine relationships and have no understanding of the Trinity. If they don’t understand what a sacrament is, how are we going to attract them to partake in it?”
To read the entire story, click here.