Should I change parishes or try to change my parish?

I attend one of those parishes where lots of liturgical abuses take place. I am rather scandalized by many of the things that go on in my parish. I’ve attended several other churches in the area and have not seen ANY of the abuses that take place at my church. Would it be appropriate for me to change parishes? Or is it probably more important to try to bring about change in the church I’m at? Honestly, I feel that I’m up against some pretty strong personalities and probably wouldn’t get far.

A factor I want to consider is that my extended family also attends this parish. My dad understands how I’ve been feeling, but my mom thinks it’s more important for all of us to attend the same church.

Also, my husband is seriously considering joining the Catholic church. If I continue at my current parish, I’m fairly certain he will learn virtually nothing in their RCIA program.

So I’m stuck - what should I do? Would love some input on this difficult issue. Thank you!

I would change parishes.
You, as your husbands wife, are responsible for helping him get to heaven.
And while I understand your mother’s desire for all of you to worship together, if you are focusing on the abuses (which I understand, once you see them, they are hard to ignore) you are not focusing in Christ. You need to be able to focus on the Lord and worship him with your whole heart.

I think I would first make some effort to bring about the changes I’d like to see. Have you talked with the pastor at all? If you have, do you see any changes happening?

What would you be losing if you left the parish? You mentioned your extended family. How important is it to you to see them at Mass? Do you belong to any groups within the parish that you would have to leave?

How hard would it be to get established in the new parish? Besides Mass, do they have any groups or programs that you would want to get involved with?

My first instinct is to try and stay in the parish and make changes. But if that’s impossible, or if your current parish is becoming detrimental to your spiritual life, then I think you have the right to go someplace else.

Dear erinmlee,

What would God want you to do?

And does your extended family grant you the spiritual support you deserve, such that they would understand your reasons for switching parishes? Maybe they would even consider making the move with you?

When I changed parishes to my current new one where I am very, very happy, I spoke to my parents and grandfather about it. Having described the situation to them, they were all in favor of my decision.

In my new parish, there is reverence for Jesus in the Eucharist and courtesy among parishioners towards their neighbor, the example being set by wonderful priests. They also offer Eucharistic Adoration. My spiritual life has grown tremendously … as it would not have at the old parish.

At the old parish, during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, I in fact did try to change things by quietly calling over an usher who was chattering away with his friends, and I asked for quiet. For my trouble, I got sneered at and a disrespectful comment was made regarding the Eucharistic Exposition … from an USHER, of all people. So I took matters into my own hands and got the whole place quiet and the crowd of talkers cleared out within two minutes. A few of the quiet adorers thanked me.

So as for trying to stay and “change things” … I thought it rather fitting that the first sermon I heard at my new church home after I decided to switch parishes included a story of a family of immigrants coming over on a boat who huddled below deck virtually starving, until one day their boy went up onto the deck and came back down with a plateful of food which his father nearly cried at seeing, since he imagined he could never afford to pay for it. “Oh,” said the boy, “The food’s always been included in the price of our trip.” The point being, better to venture forth and seek satisfaction than to cower miserably in the same place just trying to make the best of a bad situation or environment. Don’t shortchange yourself. And of course, my good priest in the new parish tied in this story with a suggestion to us that we should visit Our Eucharistic Lord in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel. So it’s not just the feel-good pop psychology sermons … there’s real substance at my new parish.

May God lead you and bless you in your decision, so that you will be where He wants you and knows is best for you,

~~ the phoenix

Excellent Point!

If it is bad enough to switch parishes over, it is bad enough to write a letter or two. Write to the pastor of the old parish, explaining why, and CC: the bishop. Include what, why, and why you think it abusive.

Avoid the term “abuse”, instead use a term like “questionable practices.”

And do switch parishes.

I don’t know… the usage of the word “abuse” might drive home her reasons for leaving. No pastor wants to lose parishioners, and no pastor wants the parishioners to write the Bishop about him. Usage of the correct word, in this case “abuse”, makes the point all the more clearer. I am all for calling a spade “a spade” if the situation warrants it, and this this is one of those situations.
Also, make sure you note what it is about the new parish that attracts you. This will also drive home the need for changes to occur at your old parish.

Abuses are so prevalent in many churches that we, as responsible Catholics who want the Church to be what it is and what is capable of being, and not what it (esp. the American Catholic Church) has become, must call our pastors on these abuses and we must refer to them as such, for that is what they are. To dance around the issue, and to call them other names, downplays the damage these abuses due to the Church and her people. We must call them what they are, abuses. And we must use this word, especially in correspondence with our pastors and Bishops.

On a note regarding your family: if your mother is so insistent (sorry if that is coming across strongly, I don’t intend it to be) on the family worshiping together, perhaps they can attend Masses at the new parish with you? Attend your new parish for a few Sundays with your extended family, and let them make the decision.

I can tell you my experience.
I too am from a parish with a couple of liturgical abuses, though when I read this forum I must say it is nothing compared to what is happening at your side of the Globe. It started to distract me, so I thought of changing the parish.
The problems with changing it were: my brother lives there (I moved but never stopped going there), all my friends go to mass there, I had been going there my whole life and was involved in a couple of activities.
Talking with our priest about it makes no sense. I know him very very well, since he was in college.

Then I decided to continue going to the old parish and bit by bit finish my old work there and in the same time pray for the changes. But I also go to the new parish every third Sunday and am getting used to it. If I don’t see any progress in the old one, I will start going only to my new parish.
Since you have a husband who is trying to find his way, if I were you I would most certainly change parishes. Meet with your parents on Saturdays, if you give them another proposition I am sure they will get used to the new custom in your family.

Unless you are a liturgist or pastoral council member or lead catechist or teacher I am wondering how you are single handedly “change” a parish. TO save you some time I would suggest you move on. The parish you attend that has the abuses, does so because someone wants things the way they are. This someone would be the person you would likely have conflict with.

Warning: sometimes these people are very well anchored within their “post” at the church. they are experienced in dealing with complaints against their heterodoxy…oftentimes they are chancery “insiders” and may even be freinds with the bishop. Tread Carefully…the attitude of "changing’ the church may lead you to realize that the powerws that be are much more formidable that you realize…I know this from someones personal testimony. THey were severely persecuted for their attempts to “change” their church. They ended up moving away from their town because their parish was the only one within 30 miles of their home.

Thank you so much, everyone, your responses have all given me much food for thought. I’m so grateful to have found these forums!

This is something that I’ve been struggling with for quite some time, but it’s been brought to a head recently as I am being encouraged to join the choir – which I’d love to do, except that this is precisely where many problems stem from. (For instance, the music director has “changed” certain words of the Creed and says them so loudly that more and more people now say it her way; she also has the choir join in with the priest in singing the per ipsum, and now the congregation also joins in. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg!)

I know both priests at my parish very well; they are both good, kind, holy men. I like both of them very much, and I would be leaving behind many happy memories – I was married at this church, my kids were baptized here, and I did sing in the choir many years ago. I am certain that they would listen carefully to my concerns, but – and I know this sounds strange – I almost feel as if they would not be able to stand up to the strong personality of the music director. It seems that she does things her way, and nobody questions her, period. Worse, though, I don’t think they would want to stand up to her, since they both have some very “liberal” attitudes as well.

I wish I could convince my family to switch with me. However, my mom (whom I love dearly) just loves it there since it’s very “touchy-feely” and “feel-goody;” she refuses to accept that anything is wrong. She absolutely won’t go to a new parish, and I know she would be very upset if I left. My dad completely understands how I feel and has considered switching with me. I don’t think he will, though, without my mom, and I can understand that.

However, all your responses have helped me realize that it is definitely time for me to move on. So many things go on that I can’t bear to watch or listen to, and the Mass shouldn’t be that way. For as long as I have realized how bad things were, I have been offering up my discomfort as penance. But I am ready to go to Mass as it should be. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts!

I think it is usually best to stay where you are, and try to fix things. When things get too bad to fix, or you have someone else with you who is easily influenced (it is very, very frustrating when you defend a teaching of the Church only to hear the priest himself trash that teaching in front of you and the person you are trying to evangelize to), then you should find another parish.

Attempting to “change” the parish could very well be an uphill battle. It could also be a losing one. If you feel the worship of Our Lord is better served in another parish, make the move. You can always pray for change in your former parish, all the while worshipping Our Lord more fully in the new one.

In my case, I found that problems to be widespread and so I stopped going to church altogether. Obviously, the problems here go “up the line” to the bishop. I am particularly distressed at the opposition to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in my diocese.

When the real catholic church comes back, I’m ready.

Some, like Fr. Mitch Pacwa on EWTN, quip that the problems in the church now are nothing like they have been in the past.

So, what’s the point? Even JPII and B16 know there are problems with dissent in the Church.Well, they put out a catechism and all that, to point to the truth, but then they don’t do anything about the problems.

See if writing a letter is going to get you anyplace. In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, JPII said that the Catholic Church does not have a monopoly on the truth. You can go find a church that preaches the truth, at least as far as they understand it.


I have a question…
What involvement do you have in your parish?

Do you just go to mass on Sunday?

Do you contribute financially to your parish? Is your finacial contribution consistant [as in even if you are traveling, you realize that the parish is always there with the same utility bills even when you are not]

Have you volunteered to assist with planning liturgies? Pastoral Council, Liturgy Team, etc.

You say that believe the RCIA might be inadiquate…do you volunteer with the RCIA team? As a sponsor for catechumens?

Do you teach Religious Education? Voluteer with youth/young adult formation?

Do you visit with and take communion to the home bound?

The church is the people of God [as in us, you and me] It is not the priest, the parish building or the bishop. I have found that those who parish shop/hop are usually [not all of course…which is why I asked the questions] not involved and expect perfection to be performed by ‘others’. They are usually disappointed, because even if the new parish seems better…time and familiarity will color the opinion, the priest will be transferred and a new pastor with a new personality arrives, parish staff changes etc…

If you want to be more than just a “litugical police” officer, use your talents and litugical knowledge in support of your parish and its mission. Find a way to become involved and stay within your home parish…

Yada, I appreciate your questions. I do think I have been fairly active in my parish - anyway I definitely do more than just show up for Mass each Sunday. I contribute financially, a consistent percentage of our income, to my parish every week. I contributed my time/talent primarily by singing in the choir until I had to stop for health reasons a few years ago. I’ve been involved in other various activities throughout the years, though more often as a participant than a leader/organizer. I certainly can, should, and want to do more, especially if I’m going to complain about the way things are being done.

There was one time I really tried to make a difference. I attended a meeting about 10 years ago in which God and gender was being discussed. When I was finally given a chance to speak, I tried to explain respectfully and succinctly why it bothered me that during the Creed, many people had begun to refer to the Holy Spirit as “she,” and say that Jesus became “one of us” instead of Jesus became man. The priest nodded politely and said, “Huh. OK. Well, that’s all we have time for tonight…”

I’m a pretty shy person, and since then I’ve never had the courage to speak up again. No one else in the meeting shared my opinion, so I knew that change would not come easily there.

As I mentioned in another post, I have decided to change parishes. We actually have a rather fantastic bishop who has done a lot to encourage orthodoxy in the diocese. It honestly seems like every parish in town except mine is complying. (Mine is a Newman Center; maybe that has something to do with it?) But your point is well taken, and I plan to make a sincere effort to be more involved at my new church, certainly before I start complaining about the way something is done.

And while in the past I definitely didn’t know enough about the faith to be an RCIA sponsor, I look forward with much anticipation to sponsoring my husband this fall! :smiley:

With all due respect I think YADA was referring to being Officially involved with you parish. Like being the lead Catechist, or on the parish/pastoral council/ or a Chairperson for Liturgy committies or Director of RCIA… Financial support is nice and going to a meeting 10 years ago is nice but in reality I believe YADA was questioning if you were a “heckler from the back row”

Now saying that I do not intend to be disrespectful BUT… there aint no way you will “change” anything in your church without being in a leadership postion or VERY involved with your parish in an official status. Get elected to somthing or volunteer to CHAIR a committee.

I’m not sure exactly what your point is here. First of all, I was just trying to answer Yada’s questions honestly about the ways I have been involved. I mentioned the money only because Yada asked specifically if I contribute financially. I also clearly stated that I admit I can and should do more. I am not a leader in the church, but I am not a back row heckler either, I am somewhere in between. Either way, noticing the abuses that take place and wondering what to do about it doesn’t make one a heckler in any case. I started here with a fairly simple question - I’m seeing a lot of things done wrong; is it okay for me to leave or should I stay and try to improve things? So if your point is simply that I’d need to be more of a leader to change things, then that confirms my decision to leave since I have no intention of assuming leadership roles. I am happy to serve, yes, but not everyone is cut out to be a leader. Now maybe I’m reading too much into your message but there seems to be an implication that I’m not doing enough, and if I’m not going to head up a committee, then I should keep my mouth shut. I disagree and I don’t appreciate the implication.

I have noticed that Newman Centers seem to be more touchy-feely feel-good because they are on campus and “competing” with the protestant groups. They assume protestants will come to Mass with friends from campus and they want them to feel “comfortable” and don’t want to “offend”.

Do what YOU feel is best for YOUR and your FAMILY’s spiritual health. I am sorry that you are seeing such abuses in your Church. I restate my previous post that you should write both your former priest and the bishop regarding the events that you have seen. Be very specific, and refer to them as they are, abuses.

OK OK I didn’t put it very well…you have read it wrong. I wasn’t implying that you are a do nothing pew sitting Catholic. I did however take notice of your boldness in the statement of “changing” your parish. I found it a little more confusing later on in the thread where you stated that you not in a leadership role in your parish. I have never come across a person who implies that changing the way things are at their parish who is not involved considerably in the parish. I am of many leadership positions in my parish and even the diocesan level so it sounded odd to me. I apologise for being snippy in my statement but I have had some pew sitter do nothings approach me before telling me how things should change…Most of the time these people were misinformed about things. Usually they are put off by my orthodox view on things.

I think I understand what you’re saying now. My question about trying to change things was not meant to sound bold at all. I should clarify that our parish is very small and rather casually run. There is no liturgical planning committee that parishioners can get involved in; the 2 priests and the music director decide virtually everything. So when I asked if I should try to make changes, all I really meant was maybe meeting with the priests and respectfully telling them my concerns, since that’s about the only option I have. I realize it sounds weak mentioning a meeting I attended 10 years ago, but I’ll also say that no such meetings have been held since, to my knowledge (and I read the bulletin pretty thoroughly most weeks).

And I still don’t think I agree with you in general. Even people who do nothing but come to mass every Sunday have a right to bring up concerns. They certainly ought to be respectful and humble, and it doesn’t mean everything has to be done their way, but as I said, not everyone is made to be a leader, but nobody should feel they can’t or shouldn’t speak out just because they don’t run the parish council.

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