I am the only permanent member of my parish between the age of 20 and 30. There are a couple others in that age group, but none have plans to remain in this area for too much longer. The church is in a town of 150 people, and the parish includes that town and the surrounding rural area. Our priest serves two other parishes nearby as well. The parish is well off financially and just bucked a trend by putting up a nice new parish hall.
An average Mass attendance is somewhere around 60-70 I’d say. Much of the work needed to run the church is done by a handful of volunteers. The church has several traditions that are only made possible by these volunteers. The gerneral mood of the parishioners in response to the current state of the parish is slightly apathetic, though when necessary the people band together to put together rather extraordinary events. Mass participation is generally slightly lacking. It is rare that neither myself or my parents are the lector, Eucharistic minister, etc.
It would be feasible for the diocese to close the church and consolidate with the nearby town of 5,000 people. There would be a strong effort from the parishioners to stop this from happening, however. The church is on the national historic register and has had large amounts of money put into it for restoration purposes in the last 15 years.
The church is the lifeblood of the community. There is no other outlet in the town that brings people together, besides the bar which doesn’t exactly provide the same type of community-building opportunities as the church. The church owns the bar anyway, so the success of the bar is loosely considered to be in connection with that of the church.
That is the information about my parish. Given all that, what does the future hold? Does this situation sound similar to yours? I don’t have any quick and easy answers for reversing any negative trends. I do have long answers involving revitalizing communities by bringing back more farmers and more jobs, but that’s a little complicated. What are some other answers? Your input is greatly appreciated.
If you can’t think of anything either, then check back with me in a few years when I’m running the town bar.