I’m visiting Scranton, PA, where Bishop Joseph Martino announced the closing of many diocesan parishes last Sunday–from 209 to 118. He cited changing demographics, fewer financial resources and a dwindling number of priests as reasons for closing churches in the diocese.
The following day, February 2nd, was the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Two old people, Simeon and Anna, frequent the Temple, hoping to see the One promised by God. They’re there when Mary and Joseph bring the Infant Jesus, and the two aged believers rejoice as they take him into their arms.
So many people meet God in churches; how awful to have the places where they were baptized, been married, buried their dead, and worshipped with family and friends taken away. However valid the reasons, closing churches is a tragedy.
The church is diminishing in these parts, as it is in other parts of our country.
I visited the Passionist Nuns today who are also diminishing. Only 8 left, but at Mass today you’d think there were 30 of them singing, with voices more young than old. I told them so, and Sr. Rita replied: “God has left the best singers for now.”
Maybe so. We need a strong song to carry us on and, along with Simeon and Anna, we need living witnesses, like these nuns, whose faith beats cold statistics. We also need to listen to what the Letter to the Hebrews, read at Mass today, says:
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”