Bulletin Letter – 5/5/19

Dear Parishioners,                                                                                                                                  +JMJ

First of all, thank you so much to everybody who put such great work into our Easter Triduum and Divine Mercy liturgies! I really thought everything was quite beautiful. The more beautiful we make our worship in the Mass, hopefully the more fully we will all encounter the Invisible Beauty of our Lord who is in it all! Thank you to the ministry schedulers, the greeters, the ushers, the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, the lectors, the musicians and cantors, the altar servers, the church cleaners, the groundskeepers, the maintenance personnel and everybody else I am forgetting to mention. The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. How right it is to put such effort into our worship of Jesus there! Again, so many thanks!

Perhaps you remember that a couple months ago we took the Discipleship Maker Index survey, which had been offered to parishes involved in the Amazing Parish Movement in our Diocese. This is the first opportunity I have to give you some initial feedback from that survey. We had a webinar a few weeks ago with the organization that created the survey, and we looked at some initial results.

The very first thing to do is to commend all of you for an amazing participation in this survey! For a parish our size – some 725 households on the books – we had a full 222 people fill out the survey, both in electronic and hard copy forms. That statistic in itself was actually something of a record, if I heard our webinar sponsors correctly. They said that they can use this statistic as an example for others, to encourage them that such a high rate of participation can actually be reached. So, congratulations on that! That in itself really said something about the Faith life in our parish – the fact that so many people cared enough to take this survey. Thank you to all those who participated!

Then we can consider some really hopeful statistics from the following super-important questions. You remember that the survey asked everything on a 5-point scale, from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”:

– Do you believe that Jesus died and rose again? – 86% strongly agree (13% agree)

– Do you believe the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ? – 78% strongly agree (19% agree)

– Do you believe Scripture is the word of God? – 76% strongly agree (21% agree)

Those are some pretty good numbers! Of course we would want a full 100% ideally on all those questions, but given the circumstances, those are some pretty hopeful results. (There are many reasons a person might decide not to answer so strongly to a given question. That’s where we delve into the results to consider where we can grow.) Unfortunately for the last couple of decades we have been told that less than 25% of Catholics really believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus; yet here with our parish survey we have 97% agreeing overall. That’s awesome!

The survey data can actually be quite helpful to give a panoramic view of our parishioners spirituality and faith and parish engagement. The very first slide of the sponsors showed us, which they call “high-level dashboard”, showed the following statistics for those 222 people who responded, regarding one of the most important questions on the survey (one they called a “driver” question):

For the question about where you consider yourself on your Catholic journey:

-33% said they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ

-38% said they are growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ

-25% said they practice the Catholic faith

-3% said they consider themselves Catholic (6 people)

If you put the above question next to the three mentioned earlier, you can do some questioning. Why with such a high percentage of people believing strongly in Jesus, the Eucharist and Scripture do only 33% say they have a personal relationship with Jesus, or only 38% percent more say they are growing as disciples of Jesus Christ? Is it because there is some humility going on, such that people don’t want to consider themselves “holier-than-thou”, and they are looking at how much there is yet to do in their own growth in discipleship? (Welcome to the club! That’s certainly where I’m at. The Lord has plenty He still needs to do in me…. I’m a long-term project!) Or is the language about “personal relationship with Jesus” something that people do not understand? Is the idea of discipleship something we should teach about more? Do people perhaps think that being a disciple means you are one of the apostles, or you’ve reached a certain spiritual threshhold that seems impossible to attain? There is so much food for pastoral meditation in these results.

So, with 75 of these type of questions, there is a plethora of other questions to pose and ideas to suggest. I am so grateful for the way everybody participated! I will be using this survey data in pastoral council for some good discussion. There are many months worth of research to do with all of this information. Let’s ask our Lord to give us wisdom to use this survey to grow as a parish in all the ways He has planned for us!

Have a blessed week!

In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,

Father Poggemeyer