Catholics dwindling has been the concern of the church in Ghana in recent times. A concern pulling everyone from his or her comfort zone to throw into the deep to catch more fish.
The Church, as a mother, is committed to finding reasons why the dwindling numbers of Catholics. Many Catholics are leaving the traditions of the Church for practices that are imitations of what the Catholic Church has been practising for years (Most Rev. Anthony Narh Asare).
The turbulent waves didn’t settle with an article published by Catholic Trends on October 26, 2023, with the caption, “Catholics have abandoned holy hour for alpha hour-Bishop Narh Asare”.
If the said caption is true, then the question is, why have Catholics abandoned the holy hour for an alpha hour?
In reality, if the said caption is true then we must change our reality as a church. We must change our reality as clergy and lay members of the Catholic Church. For, if a scientist has a theory that does not fit reality, then his theory must change. If a philosopher or a theologian has a theory that does not fit in reality, then reality must change.
How can we change our reality?
To change our reality, we must understand that “facts are more important than ideas” (Pope Francis). You cannot impose your ideas on people without understanding the reality of people’s lives. The church must understand today’s reality – the reality of realness, dianoetic reality, youth sensational reality, social media evangelization reality, unstilted theological reality, the sapience reality of age, the beautiful sound of speaking and music reality. We all have to accept these realities in order not to become parked cars and the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle (Pope Francis).
Unhealthy thoughts, feelings and deeds must be destroyed completely for the growth of our parishes, deaneries, arch/dioceses and the universal church. The clergy are called by God but not for the same ministry or apostolate. The clergy are gifted differently and bear different fruits of the spirits.
The Triune God gives to each one as he or she deserves. Priests must come together in sincerity of love and fraternity to put forward their different gifts together for the renewal and growth of the church. Gifted lay members must be docile in finding meaning and usage of their gifts in the church. One’s gifts don’t pose a threat to any person truly called by God to work in His vineyard.
The laity must understand the different gifts at work in the church and the ministerial life of priests without unduly comparing them. Priests must be thankful to God and one another for their different gifts and ministries. This unnecessary comparison, competition and insecurities have brought us to where we are today as priests, laity and a church.
There is no cheap popularity in devoting yourself to be who a priest is to be. Let priests face the hard truth and break new grounds for ministerial activities. A person’s sentiment cannot override the good of a parish, deanery and the church.
Issues surrounding abandonment, in my opinion, are youth-centred. If the youth are in absolute majority, then, we must agree with Pope Francis (October 28, 2018 homily) in apologizing to the youth for not listening to them. The youth are abandoning the church because they do not see the significance of the church in their lives. The consistent calling of the youth for modification is not a nuisance but a challenge to listen as a parish, deanery, arch/diocese and a universal church.
Listening is “fighting the temptation of easy answers and fast fixes” and wanting to “wash our hands” of problems and responsibility (Pope Francis). To be credible to the youth as pastors and parish pastoral council members, we need to regain our humility and simply listen while recognizing that what others have to say can provide some light to help our parishes and chaplaincies.
Let’s get it right together that, “young people are not empty vessels to pour content into or worse, vessels filled with garbage that must be removed to make room for the church’s content” (Fr. Thomas Reese)
I recommend reading Fr. Thomas Reese’s article on the three modes of listening to the young and Pope Francis Christus visit (Christ is Alive).
Alpha Hour is what it is now because of the team’s usage of social media in communicating. Our Priests (the religious as well) and the church lack a social media presence. Many priests reluctantly embrace newer technologies and commitment as regards the use and adoption of social media. It is the responsibility of the Priests and Religious to bring the church’s teaching into the “digital continent” (Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI).
In this age, social media will be the easiest way to bring the lapsed Catholics, the unchurched and our youth back to the church – in my opinion.
Our traditions are what makes us unique and different in comparison. However, traditions are subjected to intellectual discourse with time to embrace a necessary change. Modernity is making the traditions of yesterday relevant today and beneficial for tomorrow. Our current quality as a church should be a concern of all Catholics. No need to compromise.
Whether Holy Hour or Alpha Hour, we must have a personal prayer life as Christians. We can only survive with a genuine spiritual life in Christ. The spiritual needs of the church and her members must be a great concern for all.