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August 7, 1998     The Message
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August 7, 1998

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7, 1998 The Message --for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 Regional factors affect Mass attendance By LYNNE WEIL Catholic News Service (CNS) -- Pope John II wants the faithful to :remember to keep holy the i;L0 ,' rd s Day, but according to authorities in several regions, and the economy affect Mass attendance. the July 7 apostolic letter ("The Day of the )e John Paul said the should view Mass aRen- as central to their Sun- Fie also noted that world- turnout at Mass was mixed." "On the one hand," he wrote, is the example of some churches, which show fervently Sunday can be whether in urban idely scattered vil- r contrast, in other parts because of... soci- pressures ... and per- because the motivation of e faith is weak, the percentage {hose attending the Sunday is strikingly low." Piero Marini, papal liturgical ceremonies, the discrepancy at a conference to pre- you have very small Catholic communities" with Catholics forming a minority of the population, the bishop said, "you tend to have higher rates of Mass attendance than in places where Catholics are many, they are spread out and there is a lack of priests available." Take, for example, the pope's native Poland, where the church is not young. The Vatican says 95.5 percent of Poland is Catholic, and there are more than 1,400 Catholics for every priest. Recent studies reveal that 33 percent of Polish Catholics say they go to Mass "regularly" -- meaning two to three times monthly. But for major holy days such as Christmas and All Saints' Day, the figure rises to 97 percent. With mostly Catholic Ireland, by contrast, 60-65 percent of the faithful in the Irish Republic and in the neighboring province of Northern Ireland attend Mass each week, according to the bishops" conference shared by both jurisdictions. In Italy, there is a priest for every 995 Catholics, and 97.2 percent of the population belongs to the faith. A leading Italian religious studies institute reports that 30 percent of all Catholics age 18 and older attend Mass every Sunday -- with a higher turnout in some regions than in others and significantly lower figures among younger people. On July 12, Pope John Paul II underlined the message of his apostolic letter, addressing local residents who had gathered for the Sunday noon prayer at his vacation retreat in Italy's Dolomite mountains. The pon- tiff said Sunday provided an opportunity to rediscover the "joyful gaze of God," and that regularly celebrating God's work provides "a vital antidote to the boredom, lack of meaning and desperation which may tempt some people." Perhaps this is why in some countries that experience sud- den social or economic shifts, more people go to Mass. South Korea, in the midst of a major financial crisis, is one such case. The bishops' confer- ence says about 30 percent of the faithful attend Mass regu- larly. But recently, priests have been reporting a swelling of the ranks on Sundays, which authorities attribute to uncer- tainties in South Korean society. The church in South Korea is comparatively young, and only 7.9 percent of the country's pop- ulation is Catholic. Religious studies expert John Kang In-chul of Hanshin Uni- versity told UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand, that an inef- ficient pastoral policy in South Korea was to blame for low turnout in affluent times. In Latin America, 30 percent of E1 Salvador's Catholics say they go to Mass three to four times a month, while 25 percent say they go once or twice a month, according to a poll by Jesuit-run Central American University. An independent pollster in Peru found that among urban Catholics, 37 percent attend Mass every Sunday, 39 percent every other Sunday and 24 per- cent once per month. Among Peru's frequent church-goers, 83 percent said they participate "actively" m singing along and responding -- while 25 percent always take Communion. One of the countries with the highest reported regular Mass attendance is the United States -- where Purdue University sociologist James D. Davidson found that 43 percent of those who identify themselves as Catholic attend Mass at least once a week. That's the kind of turnout to give the pope hope. His July 12 remarks in the mountains included the warning that "our lives in the era of technology risk becoming ever more anony- mous and a function of the process of production." He observed: "Man, then, becomes unable to enjoy the beauty of creation and, even more, unable to read in it the reflection of the face of God." Contributing to this story ure Cindy Wooden in Rome; Mike Lanchin in San Salvador; Jonathan Luxmoore in Warsaw, Poland; Christena Colclough in Belfast, Northern Ireland; and Alejandrv Bermudez in Lima, Peru. Bishop's Forum will return Sept. 4 Bishop Gettelfinger is on vacation, and has additional travel commitments as the U.S. bishops' national liason with Catholic scouting. The Bishop's Forum will return Sept. 4. , i!!!i, L COMMENTARY ? C. JUSTIN CLEMENTS Office of Stewardship and Development is truly a verbum word which, when or read, immediately trig- of thoughts within each person. abstract, stewardship is like a multifaceted dia- or kaleidoscope. With contextual twist and turn, yet another series of and cognitive reac- concept of stew- is most at home within things spiritual and it's a word increas- 'used in secular discourse. industry, environ- Servants, practitioners of Professions" and many frequently refer to stew- describing certain of their various disci- This expanded aware- of the stewardship naturally more facets to an notion. stewardship is no What's it all about? puzzle; it's a simple idea. Stew- ardship is a way of life predi- cated upon four interlocking concepts: 1) God, the Source; 2) Gratitude; 3) Accountability; and 4) Return. Let's take a clos- er look at each of them. \\; 1) God, the source True believers, agnostics and full-bore atheists all agree upon one thing: we'll never get out of this life alive! It's also abundant- ly clear that we enter the world with nothing and, with the rare exception of slightly disturbed individuals who are buried in their favorite antique automo - biles, or surrounded by their jewelry, we leave with nothing. Everything we accumulate dur- ing our passage through time is only temporarily on loan to us, notwithstanding the message on the marquee of a California bank located across from a cemetery: "Deposit your money with us; you can't take it with you, but you can keep it close!" Christians profess to believe that God owns everything; GOd is the Source Who generously allows us the use of His posses- sions during our mortal journey, beginning with the gift of life. Notice that we chose the phrase "profess to believe." Many of us may say the words, "Everything I have comes from God," but how many of us truly believe it in our hearts? Judging by the number of us Catholics who are less than generous in sharing our time, talent and treasure, we still have a long journey ahead before stewardship becomes our way of life. 2)Gratitude .................................. The normal human response to someone, who freely shares his or her prized possessions with us is a sense of gratitude. We just mentioned that our Catholic faith teaches us that God has given us temporary use of everything we have. Everything! How can we possi- bly thank God enough for such extraordinary generosity! To be sure, God doesn't need our gratitude. But, as human beings, as people of faith, and as disciples of Jesus Christ, we need to express our thankful- ness for the many gifts and blessings we have received. We do this not only with our words which, in themselves, are just noise and hot air emanating from our faces, but also -- and more significantly -- with our actions. How we use God's gifts and live our lives.., these are the measure of our discipleship in Jesus Christ. The very term "stewardship" implies 'bility. Steward is one to whom certain possessions and duties have been entrusted. Christ's recurring references to stewardship contain an incon- trovertible theme of responsibil- ity. Stewards are required to use their masters' property wisely and well. Those who do are praised and rewarded; those who don't are excoriated. The scriptural message of steward- ship is clear: GOd demands our accountability for the gifts we are allowed to use between birth and death. In the last analysis, when our time of judgment comes, the question will not be: "What words did you speak during your life?" But "What did you do with My gifts?" 4) Return From Sacred Scriptures we can draw one additional conclu- sion about Christian steward- ship: God expects some yield on His investment in us. As Christ's disciples, we have an obligation to use God's gifts and talents responsibly, develop them to our full potential, and return them "with increase." If we only take, but don't give, if we use God's gifts only for our own selfish interests and don't return a portion to God who is the mas- ter and true owner, we have obviously failed as stewards. Remember what happened to the steward who buried the tal- ent his master had given him and simply gave it back to the master upon his return! Continued from page 4 approach of those who want the training program for Latin American military officers shut down has grown in size as well as complexity. But with the retirement this year of the school's chief oppo- nent in Congress, Rep, Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass., and the ever-increasing size and dura- tion of protests against the SOA, this fall could be a critical sea- son in the campaign. Last year, a bill to cut the school's banding failed by only seven votes, the closest margin ever. Kennedy is detea'min to push hard for success before he leaves Congress, and a vote is annual protest. In the meantime, opponents of the school have begun daily prayer vigils at the school and at the federal court- house in Columbus, Ga. They and the school's critics in Congress contend it should be closed because of the link they see between the school's curriculum and training and the involvement of some ol its grad- uates in some of Latin Ameri- ca's most violent human rights abuses. They" include the five officers for the rape and nmr- der of four American church- women in El Salvador in 1980, former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and 47 o00ers anticipated in September. for war induaing Should the vote fail again, the 1980 murders of Archbish- thousands of people from arotmd op Oscar Romero, the 1989 the country are expected at Fort deaths of six Jesuit priests and Berming in November for an- hundreds of other civilians.