I spent the last two weeks driving the back roads of Indiana and Illinois farm country. I saw a lot of corn fields and soybean fields, and I hate to admit it took me longer than I’d like to admit about how to tell the difference. (It helps that corn is a lot taller now than soybeans!) I couldn’t help but think about these small rural parishes in farm country that I’m traveling to though. Most of them feel ignored by big city parishes, wealthy suburban parishes, and even the Diocese. They’re hard to travel to when there’s not an interstate in site for miles and even finding a gas station can be rather complicated on a long trip!
A few months ago I was struck by a guest essay in the New York Times about languishing. An emotion we were feeling collectively as a culture that we didn’t quite have a name for it. Adam Grant defined it as Languishing – not quite depression, but also not happiness or joy. This past weekend a Catholic leader shared another guest essay from Adam Grant about the other side of languishing: Collective Effervescence.
“We need to get ‘Back to Basics!'” I see this often in the open-ended comments of the surveys I conduct with parishes. Many of the respondents indicate that either they or people around them need to have a better understanding of the basic building blocks of the faith. Why do we do the things we do at Mass? What do we believe about Jesus Christ as the Son of God? Where does Mary fit? Well, I’m assuming that’s what they typically mean because they don’t quite explain themselves entirely in the comment box. Honestly “Back to Basics” seems similar to saying, “We need to communicate better.” ‘When parishes tell me that I say, “Define ‘communicate’ and define ‘better.'” I’m going to define “basics” even more simply than that though, so let’s get to it.
One of the questions we ask on our parish surveys is if the parish has ministries, programs, and events for a whole list of different categories of people. Two of the categories on that list are Single People and Single Parents. I also know from my surveys that about 20 to 25% of parishioners who complete them are single, separated/divorced, or widowed. The data I glean from these two questions is that 1/4 of parishioners are unmarried and less than 50% of respondents believe there are adequate ministries for unmarried people at the parish.
I’ve written many times about the research from Springtide Research Institute here at Transform Your Parish. Today I want to share about a challenge they’re doing this summer for leaders who want to help young people find a place where they belong. The team at Springtide has focused much of their research on Loneliness and Belonging.
One of the themes of Pope Francis’ ministry has been a focus on those who are forgotten by the world. One group he has focused on is the elderly with the establishment of Grandparent’s Day on the 4th Sunday of July – the Sunday closest to the Feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne (the parents of Mary, the grandparents of Jesus).