America Magazine recently highlighted a study commissioned by Bishop David O'Connell asking Catholics why they stopped going to church (see the article here -Why They Left).
The responses included not feeling welcomed, starved spiritually, to feeling undervalued by the church. Others point to issues of doctrine and church practice. All of the respondents remind us of the stark reality of declining church attendance, with fewer than 20% of registered Catholics attending Mass. But there is hope and promise here, as their tone was generally positive.
We have before our parish communities a great opportunity, if we are up to the challenge. In light of these responses, Byron and Zech call for a "creative liturgical, pastoral, doctrinal and practical response". Will we choose to remain in dialog with these Catholics in our parish boundaries even if the issue is a doctrinal one in order to remain in relationship?
So then, what will our response be? In what ways is God calling us as Catholics, and Catholic communities, to reach out to those inactive Catholics in our own backyard? What has been working so far and is a strength we can build on? Where is their opportunity for growth to build up the kingdom of God in your community?