Fr. Jolly’s Homily for Sunday, August 25, 2019

Homily on the 21st Sunday- C

According to Vatican News Magazine, the Catholic Church in Germany lost more than 200,000 members in 2018. Germany is a very small example of people who lose their faith and stop practicing their faith in the continent of Europe.  National Catholic Reporter says “One in three people raised in the Catholic Church have walked away from it, making “former Catholic” the third largest religious designation in the United Sates.

When people leave the Catholic Faith, 4 out of 5 of them are gone by the age of 23.

  • Mass attendance, by age group: Of those over 65, it’s almost half.
  • Of those between 41-64, it’s 20%.
  • Of those just out of college, so called Millennials, it’s only 10%.

There is an organization called the Amazing Parish conference. It was founded by two Americans named Pat Lencioni and John Martin. John is a very successful business man and Pat was a very successful CEO. Both these men are awesome Catholics; and they love the Lord and the church! When these men learned that for the past several decades, the Catholic Church has been bleeding very badly, they were heart broken.  They came together in prayer and the Holy Spirit inspired them to do something about it. Therefore, they established this organization to help the Catholic Church to come up with an immediate solution to a very important problem. According to their scientific study they give us an accurate picture of the Catholic Church in America.

  • 36% decline in priests since 1980.
  • 18% decline in Mass attendance since 1980.
  • 2,080 parishes have closed since 2000.
  • Annual infant baptisms have been reduced 335832 since 2000.
  • Nearly 80 percent of Catholics will stop practicing their faith the age 23.
  • 1 in 7 parishes are without a priest.

Why young people are leaving the church?

  1. 34% stopped believing.
  2. 31% feel that they are not spiritually fed.
  3. 14% say that the church is judgmental.
  4. 12% say that they bored at Mass.
  5. 9% are leaving because of the bad example of the clergy.

Also a recent pew research study reveals that only 30% percent of the Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Just look at the story of the Catholic Church in Memphis. 50 years ago, we had religious sisters and brothers everywhere. We had St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, St. Agnes, St. Dominic Schools, and plenty of Christian Brothers teaching. Catholic education used to be very cheap; because we had brothers, sisters and priests teaching. That is no more the case.

Those of you who are listening to me also could tell the story of one or more immediate family members falling away from the Catholic Church or not practicing the faith.

  • What does this mean? It means there is a problem.
  • What worked before doesn’t work anymore.
  • We need to make some changes.

Knowing “why” you do what you do matters.

  • Why does the Church exist?
  • Why do we do what we do?
  • Why are we doing things & programs? (school or any organizations)
  • When we lose our “why,” we lose our WAY.

Jesus did three years of ministry and prepared a group of men to continue His ministry in His absence.  The entire ministry of Jesus can be summarized into two basic principles!

Jesus gave the Church a great command and a clear mission.

The “great command” You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:37-39)

The “Great Commission” Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19)

Why does our parish exist?

To make disciples! That’s it!

  1. Jesus called each person by name.
  2. He Shared His life with them.
  3. He taught them about Love (Kerygma).
  4. Then He sent them out to do the same.

Encounter, grow and make disciples! These are the three basic steps of being a disciple of Christ!

There are some pastors and parishes who understand the need of the time and have taken great steps and they are building amazing parishes! Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Plymouth, MI, Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland,  Saint Benedict Parish in Halifax, Canada are some of the examples of parishes who embraced the concept of the New Evangelization for the past several years and those  parishes are thriving. We had been talking to these parishes that had been doing Alpha for the last several years. They said, ‘the church is thriving, young people are returning, vocations are increasing and everyone is getting on fire for Jesus and church’. Thanks be to the Holy Spirit who is inspiring so many laity and priests who are stepping out of their comfort zone to take their parishes from Maintenance to Mission.

This is how evangelization works. Encounter, grow and witness! This was the model in the early church and that is the only model that works. That is what we have in the Alpha program.

Why we are using Alpha program?

It has been my experience and the experience of previous pastors. We have a lot of young families are joining our parish because we have a great school. The day the children graduate from the school, both the parents and children disappear. They are graduating from the church. The reason is that while they are here with us, we fail to plug them into the life of the parish.

People do not feel connected! Alpha is a solution to that major problem.

What is Alpha?

It’s people coming together for 11 weeks, sharing a free meal, watching a video with inspiring stories and important questions of life and have some friendly discussion in a small group. The whole program is for 1 hour 30 minutes. Child care is provided! By 11 weeks people will encounter Christ and a good community. They feel like want to grow and share that experience with others. We start exactly at 6 pm and finish at 7:30 pm so that people can go home and spend time with family. Alpha is for all people. If Pope Francis is free, he can participate. In Alpha, Jesus meets people exactly where they are. There is no expectation, no homework. Basically, it is introducing Jesus to people and people to Jesus. And it helps us to increase our relationship with Jesus.

That is new evangelization! Is this new evangelization going to work?

We have many blessings:

  • We have Confidence in God.
  • Confidence in ourself!
  • We believe in team work; we have plenty of generous volunteers.
  • All of us are needed, important, and together we can move mountains.

There are many ways you can participate:

  • You can fast and pray for this most important ministry. There will be a team praying in the adoration chapel or in the church during Alpha
  • You can come and participate and then invite someone to participate next time.
  • You can encourage others to participate.
  • You can support financially.
  • You can support through being a volunteer.

The Responsorial Psalm reminds us: Go out to all the world and tell the Good News!