What does The Church mean to you?

Jul 26, 2018

Dear Sisters & Brothers,

This week Fr. Steve and four of our young adults are attending a conference, with about 35 others, at our retreat center in western New York. The purpose of this “Dialogue” is to listen to these young Christians discuss their spiritual needs and what they are hoping to receive from the Catholic Church. It is very evident that people’s needs change as society changes. It is essential that The Church adapts to meet these changing needs.

When my parents were young, most of their lives revolved around their parish. Besides the obvious spiritual nourishment, that is where they went to school and it is where they and most of their peers met their spouses. It was both their spiritual and social world. When they went dancing, the dances were at church. For my mom, when she went to the theatre, it was at her parish (especially since her father ran the theatre). For their parents it was even more so, since many of them were still living in ethnic burrows.

When the Redemptorists first came to this country we became pastors of ethnic parishes. We spent our first hundred years in America ministering to ethnic groups and helping them to integrate into the larger society. Many of them did not speak English and all of them faced some level of discrimination. The Church was there to help them, not just spiritually, but socially as well. Some parishes even had their own banks. And to be honest, it helped us too, because most Redemptorists were also immigrants, some of whom spoke little English. The Germans ministered to Germans, the Irish to the Irish, and the French to the French.

As “the great melting pot” blended people together and as society changed, what people needed from The Church also changed. One big example is that most Catholics today do not look to The Church for their social needs. And the size of St. Louis’ Catholic school system is rare in today’s world. And so, it can be difficult to figure exactly what it is that people need from The Church beyond the obvious. All too often, priests assume they know what people need. Thus this “Dialogue” is our chance to listen to a new generation as they try to figure this out for themselves, where does The Church fit into their lives?

But it’s not just young adults that need to answer this question. We all need to understand where The Church fits into our lives. How would you answer that question? What does The Church mean to you? What do you need from your Church? And how can The Rock meet those needs?

In the Redeemer,

Fr Rick