Friendly Competition


Not so long ago, neighborhood and nationality were everything when it came to church membership. Either your street address or your ethnic identity tied you to a particular parish; it was what determined, pretty much automatically, whether you would be baptized, married, and buried at the church of St. Luke or St. Ladislaus. Nothing was a matter of choice. If you were stuck with Father Can’t-Understand-Him or that strange DRE who wears long, black skirts even to the grocery store, you just hung in there and hoped for something better in the years to come.

Not anymore. Much to the annoyance of many clergy (and the delight of many lay people), parishioners are “church shopping” like never before—and I, for one, think it’s a wonderful thing, even though it is still important to guard against adopting a purely consumerist ethos to churchgoing. Let me explain why a bit of choice is not a betrayal of the gospel.

First, discerning parishioners challenge the leadership of parishes to keep on their toes. Gone are the complacent days when pastors could rely on Catholics who would show up for church no matter what—Catholics whom neither rain, nor snow, nor inclement liturgy would stop. These days, more and more are realizing that stimulating preaching, prayerful liturgy, community involvement, and educational opportunities—for adults as well as children—all contribute to higher attendance at Mass....

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Fr. Nonomen (a pseudonym) is the pastor of a suburban parish. He has been a priest for more than twenty years.