August 17, 2012


Good practicing Catholics

Is the Catholic Church in the United States slowly coming apart?

In our July 20 issue, we editorialized about the problems of the Church in Philadelphia, where only 18 percent of Catholics are attending weekend Mass, two-thirds of parishes are running deficits, schools and parishes are being closed, and its archbishop acknowledges that people are angry.

Is this a microcosm of the Church in the United States, as one observer stated?

We don’t think so. At least, not here in the Midwest and, in particular, in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. We are convinced, from observation of what is happening here, that we have a thriving and fervent local Church.

Admittedly, not all of the 225,000 people who call themselves Catholics are practicing the faith. That’s obvious to anyone who contrasts the size of the congregations in our churches on most weekends with those on Christmas, Easter and Ash Wednesday.

But there are many thousands of good practicing Catholics who take their faith seriously indeed.

In parishes that are able to offer Mass daily, practicing Catholics are filling the pews in the chapels where daily Mass is held. Of course, the Catholic Church is the only Church that schedules Mass daily wherever possible. We don’t have the numbers, but we are confident that the number of daily communicants has risen in recent years.

The number of parishes who are able to offer perpetual adoration has grown because so many people are taking advantage of that. Often, the practicing Catholics in adoration chapels threaten their capacity.

Whoever said that Catholics are no longer going to confession is wrong. Practicing Catholics fill our churches for Advent and Lenten penance services, but there are also lines at other times that confessions are offered. Admittedly, they are not as long as they were 50 years or so ago, but they’re there.

We’ve observed that some parishes offer recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, at least morning and evening prayer, and practicing Catholics are attending. Many others are now praying the Liturgy of the Hours privately, as the Church encourages us to do.

Recitation of the rosary is still common in many parishes, and at least one parish now recites the Angelus at the end of weekday evening Masses.

Many practicing Catholics realize the value of retreats and take advantage of one of the six retreat centers in the archdiocese. Besides Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis, which is owned by the archdiocese, there are the Archabbey Guest House at St. Meinrad, Mother of the Redeemer Retreat Center in Bloomington, Mount Saint Francis Center for Spirituality in Mount St. Francis, Our Lady of the Apostles Family Center in Greenfield, and Sisters of St. Francis’s Oldenburg Franciscan Center. (See links to retreat centers on our links page)

Practicing Catholics know, however, that being a devout Catholic requires more than prayer, so many of them are actively involved in pro-life activities, including praying at abortion clinics. Many of these same people were present at the rallies for religious freedom.

Others actively support the Little Sisters of the Poor at St. Augustine Home in Indianapolis, the Sisters of Mercy at Mercy Providence Retirement Home in New Albany, or the Benedictine Sisters at St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove.

Still other practicing Catholics help care for the poor and the needy through their support of the all-volunteer Society of St. Vincent de Paul. If they can’t volunteer, they can contribute clothing, food and household goods.

They can also contribute to Catholic Charities, as they did after the March 2 tornadoes in southern Indiana.

The vibrancy of practicing Catholics in the archdiocese is noticeable in the number of men who are now studying for the priesthood. Both St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, and Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary are full to capacity and are building new facilities.

The students at those seminaries, though, are studying for other dioceses as well as for our archdiocese, so the need for more vocations to the priesthood remains. Ordinations will not balance the number of clergy retirements for many years.

Meanwhile, all of us should be trying to make practicing Catholics out of those who have fallen away from the faith, or are simply lukewarm Catholics.

—John F. Fink

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