A current trend on social media is the ‘Ten-Year Challenge’—a look back at photos posted ten years ago, side by side with photos of the same subject in the present time.
An interesting and often amusing casual activity, the thinking behind it may be taken to another, deeper level. It can be used for purposes of introspection, analyses of our spiritual, social and even physical health status and of the state of education in this country, given our willingness to be open and honest, brave and forward-looking.
How does the Church of 2019 compare with the Church of 2009? Have we become more like the Body of Christ, fulfilling the purpose of our mission on earth?
Some may say that congregation numbers are falling even more sharply now than they were then, that more adhere to the outward letter of the law than the spirit, that other ‘small’ churches are better able to attract and keep the souls that long for peace and security in an ever-changing and sometimes frightening world.
An April 2018 report by Lydia Saad on a Gallup poll of USA Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week shows that from 2014–2017, just 39 per cent of Catholics attended regularly, down from 45 per cent in 2005–2008 and representing a staggering slide from the 75 per cent in 1955.
In Trinidad and Tobago, a World Value Survey shows a small decline in the number of people identifying as Catholic, with 20.1 per cent in 2005–2009 and 19.9 per cent in 2010–2014. Figures show that of these numbers, 41.9 per cent attended Mass regularly in 2005–2009 while 44.3 per cent attended regularly from 2010–2014.
If this trend has continued, we all, as Church, have to take some measure of responsibility for this decline. We must honestly examine if we, as churchgoers, are open, accommodating and hospitable to each other and to those who may visit our churches from time to time.
A recent criticism that appeared in the media suggested that the ‘Christ dimension’ may be missing from our interactions with each other on a weekly and/or on a parish level.
We have to ask ourselves if we treat our brethren as if they were God’s children, as we ourselves claim to be or if for us, Christ is just a printed name in our missals and in Catholic literature.
On the other hand, there is a new consciousness of our need to reach the young in our schools and our parishes. Programmes of religious instruction are geared to answer the questioning and challenging minds that access philosophies of every kind on the Internet.
Attempts are being made to make the teaching of the Faith more relevant and applicable, more ‘real’, to young Catholics. Some of our young people go through First Communion and Confirmation instruction, only to stop attending Mass and receiving the Sacraments when they no longer need the mandatory signatures from the parish priest or Religious Knowledge instructor when they have received these Sacraments. The Church is signifying its determination to halt this trend.
The acknowledgement of the duty of the Church to our new immigrants is also a heartening response to a social challenge that grows larger with each passing week.
The Ten-Year Challenge can be applied, over any period of time and to any human situation, with beneficial results for all, provided that we are truly open to the challenges that present themselves in our search for truth and clarity.