The Archdiocese of Baltimore is taking a hard look at Mass attendance and how to face the future. From The Baltimore Sun:
The historic Archdiocese of Baltimore is embarking on a sweeping reassessment of how it operates in the city, a process officials say could lead to major changes in the number and type of parishes and even an overhaul of the cradle-to-grave parish system that anchored its city ministry for generations.
The first and oldest Catholic archdiocese in the United States has seen the number of worshippers on its Baltimore rolls sink to about 4,000. Churches built to seat 25,000 people on Sunday hosted about 4,500 per weekend as of 2019. That number has shrunk to 2,000 in the wake of the pandemic.
There are “no preconceived notions” as to what the diocese’s physical footprint in Baltimore will look like once the process of reviewing the 62 parishes in or near the city is complete, Archbishop William E. Lori said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. But it’s clear the initiative is historic in scale.
“I don’t think anything quite this comprehensive has ever been undertaken” in the archdiocese’s 233-year history, he said.
The purpose of the multiyear “Seek the City to Come” initiative will be to “strengthen the presence” of the church in Baltimore by taking “a good hard look at our footprint in the city to see how that footprint can be made more effective, how we can use the resources at our disposal to serve the needs of our people and to advance our mission of proclaiming the Gospel,” Lori said.
The archdiocese as a whole has more than half a million Catholics in an area that stretches from Garrett County in Western Maryland to Harford County. But numbers in Baltimore have plunged 98% from 200,000 in the 1950s.
“The majority of Catholics no longer live in the city,” said Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, the urban vicar for the archdiocese and the director of the initiative. “What we have now in Baltimore is church buildings, school buildings, convents and rectories that at one point were the backbone of Catholic life in the city and in the archdiocese beyond.
“We have the bones, so to speak. The structures are there, but we need to ask ourselves whether we’re doing the best we can in mission and ministry for the people of the city of Baltimore.”
From Archbishop Lori on the archdiocesan website:
Over the coming months, we will be exploring the ways we are meeting the pastoral needs of congregations and communities in Baltimore City and some parishes along the Baltimore County line. We are entering this phase of the process without a pre-determined outcome. Future phases of discernment will eventually lead us to decision-making in the next few years. Our singular goal is simple: to position the Church to best meet the needs of the people of God for the century to come.
Our intention is to channel energy and resources to foster parishes that are vibrant and welcoming centers of evangelization, where mercy, trust, and the love of Jesus abound. We approach our task with prayer, great hope and compassion…
… We cannot be so entrenched in our history that we do not recognize the needs of the present or future, or the reality of our decades-long challenge to do more with less. We value our place in history and we are mindful stewards of our traditions, knowing, however, the mission we are on is not born of brick and mortar. The physical presence of the Church in Baltimore will not look the same in 10 years as it does today; indeed, I question why it should.