Autumn Leaves

Looking out my window this afternoon, I saw leaves falling from the trees... Not such a remarkable sight, given that the leaves fell slowly, one or two here, three or four over there... And after watching for some time it occurred to me that as many were the leaves I saw fall, still the trees in my back yard looked full and leafy...

And I thought of what I wrote in my Sunday letter to my parish last week where I compared the numbers from our recent annual "three weekends in October" headcount at all our Masses with the numbers from the last two years. Here are the figures for total weekend attendance:

2006: 4,104
2007: 3,663
: 3,421

A difference of 683 worshippers: a 17% decline.

Just as it was easy this afternoon to miss the impact of leaves falling here and there, a few at a time, I didn't notice the decline in attendance from week to week but at longer intervals I quietly observed that things were changing. Even now, at 3 of our 4 liturgies, the church appears fairly full even if a keener eye sees the empty seats here and there, the gallery and the side pews not as much in demand as they used to be.

Our decline mirrors other parishes in the archdiocese and in the US but that doesn't make the numbers any sweeter. Our Parish Staff, Parish Pastoral Council and our 2018 Group will need to wrestle with these numbers and see what we can do to call home those who have left us and those whose attendance is significantly less regular than in the past.

The autumn leaves drift by my window,
the autumn leaves of red and gold...



  1. I'm noy sure if this is an accurate statement, or if the timing of your figures jive, but many Catholics that I've spoke to, and do not attend church, tell me its a result of the abuse scandal.

    I'm not sure if that's the real answer for them or if they use that as an easy excuse that is difficult to argue against.

    Either way, I notice the space available in the pews too.

    "Bring a friend."

  2. Met a wonderful young couple from Chestnut Hill at the reception for Frank and Al. They had come out to mass at Holy Family once before. Had nothing but good to say of our parish. I invited them, if they are able, to come to a Faith Festival in January. They wished they lived closer so they could come more frequently. At the reception I also saw one of our "Autumn Leaves," who had drifted away. Perhaps, the beauty of the mass and the warmth of the reception will inspire her to return on a regular basis. I hope so.

  3. This post reminded me of one of my favorite stories about each person's voice making a difference. Here it is, from http://www.funnysermons.com/content/view/2559/55/

    "Tell me the weight of a snowflake," a coal-mouse asked a wild dove.
    "Nothing more than nothing," was the answer.
    "In that case, I must tell you a wonderful story," the coal-mouse said.
    "I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow - not heavily, not in a raging blizzard - no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say - the branch broke off."
    Having said that, the coal-mouse flew away.
    The dove, since Noah's time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for awhile, and finally said to herself, "Perhaps there is only one person's voice lacking for peace to come to the world."

  4. tph: great story - thanks for sending it along!

  5. Did the silent "n" fall off the title of this post as a nod to the leaves falling as silently from our trees lately?


  6. Yes it did - and thanks for pointing it out!


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