Parishes have experienced a substantial decrease in Mass attendance due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions since public celebration of the liturgy recommenced back in June 2020.  In my opinion, even if we didn’t have these government restrictions, many parishes would still be less populated than before COVID because the sad reality is that many people have formed new Sunday morning habits. The normal routine of getting up, dressed, and out the door for church is a fading memory for many families.

Despite this circumstance, recent parish meetings have provided me with an increased feeling of hope that our Church will continue to gain strength in 2021. You may be asking yourself why I am so hope-filled for the future of our Church. The answer is a simple, but very powerful four-letter word — love.

I have witnessed a heightened awareness of the need for love during recent parish meetings.  Pastors and parish leaders have recognized that many people are hurting and the Church is a source of hope and love. I will continue to proclaim that evangelization is all about relationships; an intimate relationship with Jesus and an intimate relationship with each other. We are truly sisters and brothers in Christ. I used to think that was a nice way to reference fellow Christians, but I am gaining a deeper understanding that it is so much more than that. We are supposed to love each other as we love our own families. I realize that may sound extremely radical and I struggle with that too, but the more we give it a chance, the more fully we live our baptismal mission. It’s unfathomable for me to imagine a world in which everyone loved our neighbor as ourselves, but that is how God instructed us to act.

My approach with parishes specific to evangelization is that there is no programmatic solution or silver bullet. The solution is to bring ourselves into a closer union with God through increased prayer, Scripture and sacraments. It’s hard to believe we are one month away from the beginning of the pandemic impacting our area. Many people are tired and running on fumes.  One of my friends recently told me that he is “running on credit because he used tomorrow’s energy to get through today.” He is not alone and we are all suffering in different ways. I am sure it’s more challenging to reach out and help others when we may be suffering ourselves. If you have the need, please consider getting professional help with counseling or therapy. For most, a more intentional prayer life consisting of frequent Scripture readings and celebration of the sacraments coupled with a good friend will do the trick.

May we reflect on this passage from 1 John 4:19-21 — We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Let us pray that we may recognize God’s unconditional love for us, so we may share that love with everyone we meet.

Please contact me with any questions about boosting evangelization efforts at your parish at Thomas.Cronin@rcda.org or by visiting https://www.rcda.org/evangelization. Follow me on Instagram: tom_rcda