Notes from Archbishop Perez (Part Two)

Last time I wrote about a gathering of priests who met with Archbishop Perez during a fall workshop. During the gathering, the Archbishop spoke on several topics. Let me continue with some of his words.

The Independent Oversight Committee overseeing the Independent Reconciliation and Reparation Program (IRRP) announced the release of its final report earlier this year (June 2, 2022). IRRP operated on behalf of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and was launched on November 13, 2018. Its mission was to provide compensation and supportive services to victims of childhood sexual abuse by clergy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The committee’s final report provided a variety of data and statistics. It noted that, to date, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has paid a total of $78,465,000 to the 438 claimants who have accepted offers of compensation.

Within the context of this issue, there continue to be people in Harrisburg who want to open up a perpetual statute of limitations window. Original attempts to do this were not done according to proper procedures and were subsequently dismissed. There are further attempts currently underway to try again. However, this time there seems to be a difference. Unlike previous legislation, ALL parties would be held accountable - public and private schools, all teachers, all administrators, and all religious denominations. In other words, anyone involved in any way with any children.

At one point, the Archbishop said, “What are the worries of the Archbishop? We have too many maintenance parishes. They are busier than ever, but they are trying to attempt to do more work with fewer people. Parishes need to begin looking at what they are, and what they do through a new lens. Parishes tend to be focused inward too much. They need to be focused outward.”

Here’s an example from the Archbishop:

Previously I was a pastor of a church of approximately 16,000 parishioners. There were 5 to 10 people, that would be .03% to. 06% of the parish, who were the movers and shakers. They planned the so-called “stuff.” The stuff was the same activities, same festivals, same programs every year. The only thing that changed was the date. Nothing changed unless they wanted it to change. Typically they were closely associated with a group, usually either the CYO or the school.

The next group was between 50 and 70 people or .3% – 4% of the parish. They were the worker bees. They were the ones that did “the stuff” that the first group said should be done.

Next, there were approximately 250 to 300 people or 1.5%–1.8% of the parish who attended “the stuff.” It was always the same stuff. No new programs, no new initiatives, no new ideas, just repeat every year.

The fourth group included between 2,400-2,500 or 15% of the parish. These were the Mass-goers. They would come to church and then walk out. Why? They were not interested in “the stuff” that the parish offered year after year. There was nothing being offered by the parish that intrigued them. There was nothing offered that interested them or even had anything to do with them.

Finally, there were approximately 13,000 to 13,500 parishioners that were totally disassociated from the parish. No one ever called them. Never one ever reached out to them. No one ever asked them their opinion about “the stuff.”

At one point, the parish was celebrating an anniversary. A committee was convened to do something to celebrate the event. The committee met for nine months. It was primarily populated by the people in the first two groups. The only idea that the committee came up with was to produce a large banner. When I saw it, I said, “Oh wow. That sets my heart on fire.”

I asked them, “Where are you going to put it?”

They said, “In the gym.”

I asked, “Why are you putting it in the gym?”

They answered, “That’s where all the CYO and other basketball games take place.”

I asked them, “Why not get permission from the local township to put it across the street in front of the church?” They had no answer. I disbanded the committee soon after that.

“Here’s my observation. At the center of the Cross is a crossroad. It is where two directions, going in different directions, meet. Philadelphia is in a period of a crossroad and thus smack dab in the middle of the Cross.

We are entering the end of an era where the Church has to look deeply into herself. We need to think about how the Church is to gather. Like the Cross, it is a period of death and dying. It is also a period filled with hope and inspired by the Holy Spirit.”

Archbishop Perez’s #1 priority is to “build and foster a culture of intentional, missionary discipleship.” A parishioner recently asked me, “What exactly IS that?” Next time I’ll begin to answer that question.

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