We have been tracking our weekend Mass attendance closely for over a year. The good news is that we are seeing an increase of total Mass attendance by about 32% from a year ago from an average of 585 per weekend to 775 per weekend. The bad news is that the numbers seem to have plateaued the last couple of months and they are still about 30% below our pre-Covid numbers. We are also seeing one of our Masses consistently below the 100 person mark.
Sacrifices – I recently gave a couple of presentations in Knox County to six parishes (St. Andrew in Bloomfield, St. William in Niobrara, St. Wenceslaus in Verdigre, St. Ludger in Creighton, St. Ignatius in Brunswick, and St. Paul in Plainview) about our current pastoral planning in the archdiocese and projections for numbers of priests in the next 10 years. I explained that when one of their priests moves, he will not be replaced. They will then have one priest for that entire area (it is 42 miles from Niobrara to Plainview). Likely, some parishes may choose to close not for financial or attendance reasons, but rather because they are able to see the big picture and are less concerned about self-preservation for the sake of staying open. The others will have to decide which parishes will become the “hub” parishes where there will be regular weekend Masses. They will then decide on a schedule for a weekly rotation of Mass at the other “spoke” parishes.
Without a doubt, they will have to make some difficult sacrifices. They are not alone. We also will have to make some tough choices in the near future. We know we can do without all of our Masses between our two parishes. It is also increasingly difficult to find priests to cover for us when Fr. Frank and I are gone. If we reduce our Masses from six to four on a weekend, we will no longer need to find a priest to sub. When both of us are here, one of us can make himself available to another parish when other priests need to be away. No definite plans have been made, but I want us to prayerfully begin to be open to this reality that will be coming sometime in the near future.
Fr. Lorig, Pastor