A couple years ago my parish celebrated 100 years. I was helping pull together church archival information for some special write-ups we did about the centenary. Although I’ve lived through this period, it struck me very forcefully when I came across parish picture books from the late 1950s-through the early 1980s what a huge decline there had been. These books were full of pictures of big families, husband, wife, children, all of whom lived within a radius of the church and attended and supported the church. It was just eye catching to see so many families I think–with lots of kids! The demographics for this particular church have radically changed and the church will probably not make it. I myself have moved to a different church.
Anyway, I want to say that this decline has happened in my lifetime and, for those too young to see it, it is indeed huge. Mine was once a very Catholic town, but that is now gone. But the only thing I can do personally is work on myself, getting closer to Christ every day, and realize that He was never about numbers. If the Church is shrinking in my part of the world, it may well be growing elsewhere. Moreover, I take comfort in such stories as Guadalupe where, through a single heavenly event to a peasant man, God through Our Lady effected a huge mass conversion over a very short period of time. It can happen again if God so wills.