An Emergency in the Church

The check to purchase our township’s first fire engine was written at my grandfather’s kitchen table.

He wasn’t a full-time fireman. He was a farmer, like most of his neighbors who belonged to the volunteer fire department. They became firefighters out of necessity – and because that’s what you did. You took care of your family and friends in the event of an emergency, like a house fire.

Today, though the engines are bigger, brighter and full of high-tech safety options, things haven’t changed much in Mundy Township. The farmers, factory workers and insurance salesmen who volunteer these days come from the same stock as my grandfather’s generation. They engage in the same routines, stopping whatever they’re doing to answer the alarm.

It was never a question to invest in that first fire engine or the numerous engines since. So often, it takes just such an investment from each of us to do something significant for the common good. After all, during an emergency, we don’t expect people to put out their own house fires.

Today, the Church is facing an emergency – and it starts in our own parishioners’ homes. The Pew Research Center paints a dim picture, with a growing number of people who claim no religious affiliation. In the U.S., 44 percent of adults no longer belong to their childhood faith. Additionally, 79 percent of those who leave Catholicism do so by age 24. Only 24 percent of Catholics attend weekly Mass. This is alarming. It’s an emergency in our Catholic homes. As leaders of the Church, we can’t expect the emergency to just vanish. It means we have to do something different.

What can the Church do to help Catholic homes stay Catholic? If someone is seeking to grow in faith, our parishes have plenty to offer. But mostly, it’s at the parish. What we offer usually requires people to come to us. So what about the 76 percent who don’t go to Mass regularly? Do we reach out to their homes? What about helping equip the 24 percent who are faithful? What do we provide to our faithful Catholics to help them address the burning crisis of faith in their own homes? The hectic pace and distractions of the world threaten those under our pastoral care. How can we expect people to make their homes Catholic homes if we never reach out to them with our message? It’s as if we are expecting our people to put out their own house fires.

We have the solution to this emergency. We have a message that brings happiness to this life and the next. It’s the message of Christ.

Like most of the bishops who have chosen FAITH Catholic, Bishop Richard Lennon decided to do something new and bold. He decided to reach into every home in the Diocese of Cleveland with a magazine from his diocese. In fact, the diocese’s new magazine is now the largest-circulation diocesan publication in America. It is mailed for free to 246,000 Catholic homes – every parishioner home in the diocese.

It’s the largest-circulation magazine in Ohio! He’s made an investment to provide every Catholic home with something to strengthen the domestic church – local witness stories, faith formation, columns that help people apply their faith to their everyday lives and news from a Catholic perspective.

Every bishop, diocesan leader and communications professional knows we have to communicate with all possible means: print, social media, websites and more. However, as I wrote in the previous issue of Content Evangelist, no other form of media gets our message into every home as effectively as print. It’s true that nearly everyone is active on social media. But, only 4 percent of Catholics follow the Church on social media. Only 4 percent of Catholics go to their diocesan website. If you doubt this, check your monthly visitors to your website. Check the number of people who engage with your best post on social media. Then, compare those numbers to your total household count and the total number of Catholics in your diocese. You’ll see that the only way to reach everyone is to reach out to everyone! By mailing a magazine to every home, your diocese can do this. With more than 80 percent interest in these magazines and 2/3 of recipients spending at least 15 minutes with an issue, nothing beats a diocesan magazine for consistently reaching into every home with our message, the message of Christ. It may seem undoable, but it’s more affordable than you think. Besides, we are in an emergency.