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from fathers desk

My Dear Spiritual Family,

In the midst of a violent squall on the sea, the disciples panic, seek out the Lord, and find that “Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion!” Mark adds the lovely detail of the cushion, a simple word that reveals comfort and planning in a chaotic situation. Christ Jesus is also at the stern, in the position of leadership, where the one who steers the boat from the rudder would sit.

At times life can feel like a storm, wind blowing and rain coming in sideways, little to no visibility. We can even lose our sense of direction. And at times in our lives, it can feel very much like Jesus is asleep at the rudder. Yet Jesus challenges us with the question, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” He may even command our hearts and anxieties to be still just as He commands the storm.

The Catholic Church is in the middle of a storm. Since 2003, we have been sailing on stormy seas. And the next decade should prove stormy. There will be more change in our church over the next coming years than there has been over the past few decades. But overall, Christianity in America is in crisis. See this article PEW On Religious Decline . Here is another interesting study among Catholics: PEW Facts about  Catholics. 

With declining vocations to the priesthood and religious life, with declining church attendance, and increasing expenses, we are in the midst of a squall. The pandemic has only accelerated some of the evident trends. Yet the storm came to our door, when we had to make the tough decision to close our school. A few weeks ago the Sisters of Saint Joseph informed me that it is time for them to withdraw from Maple Shade. Our sisters have come to a tough decision. The sisters prayed, discerned and decided that they can no longer continue here. It is sad news. So the storm is at our door again.

The SSJs have served our parish for many years but the trends have hit their community especially hard. Sr. Evelyn is fond of reminding me that when she joined the sisters numbered 2600; now they are about 500 and many are too old or frail to be engaged in full-time active ministry. Many convents are empty where sisters formerly served. In recent years, Sr. Evelyn has been the only sister in the convent dedicated to our parish community, but in previous decades many sisters served in various capacities. The storms of change have long been at their door. And as I have gotten to know many of the Sisters of St. Joseph over the years, I testify that they are women of faith. They have faith that God will guide them through these times.

Another challenge for our parish is that while older folks have returned to Mass, many of our younger families have not yet made regular attendance a priority. What’s worse is that our state suffers from an aging population, more pensioners than workers.

Furthermore, younger families are deciding not to settle in our state with high taxes and property values. The pandemic has only sped up these realities with more people settling  away from major population centers. Mostly the south has gained in population while the more expensive coasts have lost people.

So perhaps it is best to say that there are multiple storms brewing. Our mission is to be people of faith in our little corner of the world, to dedicate ourselves to the Gospel. We might pray with the man who seeks healing for his son, “Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief!” Or, with St. Faustina we can pray “Jesus, I trust in you!”

May God bless all fathers today! And may all Father’s be examples of faith, leading their families through the storms of life.

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Wilson