The process of renewal of the community of the local church of the Archdiocese of Chicago includes all pastoral centers, parishes, schools, parish buildings, including the curia itself and its offices. This process involves spiritual and also structural renewal. I mentioned this in the previous bulletin. When I look at the map of all pastoral centers, my heart rejoices that in most districts throughout the metropolis there are churches and chapels, which serve the pastoral needs of local communities. This is how it was decades ago, when our neighborhoods were bustling with life and when most of the faithful lived in the parish territory. Over time, the parish community not only lives within the vicinity of the church, but comes from many different locations. We move to different places, but we still remain members of our parish family, which we represent and build through active participation in its life. From the beginning of our spiritual journey, we actively participate in the sacramental life, supporting various initiatives spiritually and materially.
However, over several years there has been a decline in the number of faithful actively participating in parish life. Statistics of the American Episcopal Church show that just in the last 20 years, the turnout of the faithful participating in the life of the local church has fallen to 27%. Throughout the United States, two out of five baptized children did not receive the sacrament of Confirmation. 85% of the young people who were confirmed ended their journey of faith at the age of 21. The annual October Count of the faithful over a period of 30 years from 1991 to 2018 shows a decrease in the participation of the faithful in the spiritual life of local communities. This also affects the state of the family and marriages. The family is the first place to shape attitudes and values in the hearts of the younger generation. It is like a seminary in which new vocations to priesthood and religious life are forming. Believing and practicing parents are a living example of the beautiful marriage and family life from which the young generation of Christians draws. There is a decrease of these values in our families and in the school environment, and secular trends are promoted in higher education institutions. These and other factors have a great impact on our local communities, marriage, family, schools, parishes and workplaces; they create a need for the renewal of our communities through profound re-evangelization, starting with ourselves.
I have been thinking for a long time about the reason for the decline in vocations to priestly and religious life. Some say: it is a general trend, this is happening everywhere!! But why? Does a young person lack the sensitivity to hear the voice of God, who is constantly calling them to service of the Greatest and Only Love? Jesus says through the Apostle James: “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” James, 4:3. We so desperately need new priests and religious brothers and sisters. Are we aware that in a few years the number of those called will fall so dramatically that we will run out of priests to fill our parishes? This is already happening, which is why many communities have only one priest, or even one priest serves several pastoral centers. The process of spiritual and structural renewal has already begun, which is why I sincerely ask you to participate in this process through prayer and participation in the meetings that will take place in the near future. May the Good God keep us for Himself.