Our parish is too small to start groups, we’ve tried, several times in the past 2 years, and many others tried before that. Average at 5pm mass on Saturdays in the summer is about 16-25 people including priest and servers etc. Average is about 50-65 people at both Sat. and Sunday masses year round. If it weren’t for snowbirds in the winter, it would be much lower. Largest attended services are, of course, Christmas and Easter.
I’ll tell you one of the reasons the protestant churches do so well. About 5 years ago I had a neighbor who needed a ride to her church on Sundays. So I volunteered to take her and of course I stayed for their service. The first time I took her, the pastor knew my name BEFORE church ever started. I had a note in the mail from that pastor with his home phone number, his cell number and his church number offering to be there for me and my family at any time day or night if we needed him on Tuesday. Within a week, someone stopped by my home with a fresh loaf of wonderful home baked bread and a Welcome to our Church notebook for me. No pressure really and truly, just outreaching of friendship. That preacher has retired, and I still get a Christmas card from him and his wife every year, lovely people, and very good Christian people and very kind.
They have extensive youth programs, several weekly bible studies, women’s groups, men’s groups, and their church is packed to the gills for 2 services on Sundays and one Sunday evening adn one Wed. evening. Prayers groups, prayer chains, bible studies and so forth. LOTS and LOTS of support and caring oozing out of that church. They even have a small bus that picks up elderly twice a month to take them 40 miles to the nearest grocery, they charge a buck or two if you can afford it. That same bus picks up folks for church too. The pastor there has a policy, miss one Sunday and you know, things happen. Miss 2 Sundays and he’s calling you… not to reprimand you for missing church, but to find out if you are OK or if you need anything… I haven’t been to Mass since Feb. (cursillo from heck, bad experience, rethinking church) and not one person has called me, no one. Evidently I’m not particularly missed and no one gives a darn if I’m ok or not.
When I moved here and started attending mass, NOT ONE PERSON even said HELLO when I started attending, not one person. I don’t think the priest learned my name for months and months, and he had less than 20% of the church members this other church had. There is no bible study, no women’s group, no men’s group. Nothing except choir, and I believe there are 3 or 4 people in the choir at this point, many times when I was with the choir it would be us musicians and one or two others who bothered to come for practice once a month. We tried to get an altar society going, TWO people showed up for the first meeting, myself and one other person. Once a month we have donuts after church, and that’s the ONLY time I ever see people at church socializing. No prayer group or chain, nothing. People die and you don’t find out for days that they were even sick, more or less dying.
That prot. church has about 20 of our catholic folks there. I can see why they prefer that church, it’s alive and there is a ton of stuff to do to get involved, there is so much support there. And I realize that larger Catholic churches have more going on, I was heavily involved in a large church back east before I moved out here. But here where I live now, our church is really very small and not particularly worried about getting folks to be involved.