Earlier this week, a particular headline caught my eye. It announced that a closed parish in Yonkers, New York is reopening as an Eastern-rite Catholic Church serving an Indian congregation.This reminds me of my visit to the multicultural United Kingdom this past November, during which I heard a similar story: Catholic parishes that had closed, or were about to close, were being re-opened and revivedby Eastern-rite Indian Catholic congregations.
As you may be aware, the largely secular UK has experienced a dramatic decline in native-born practicing Catholics (and, indeed, practicing Christians in general) over the past fifty years. Based on current trends, I believe this decline will continue. This said, the UK has experienced an influx of Catholic immigrants (many from the Global South who bring with them a vibrant faith). Many British Catholics with whom I spoke agreed that these immigrants are a fast becoming a lifeline for the Church in the UK.
While secularization hasn’t yet gripped the United States as dramatically as it has the UK, there are certainly documented declines in U.S. Catholic participation and the reception of sacraments. As with the UK, I think the declines will continue to happen, primarily due to the Faith not being passed on to our young in a manner that sufficiently captures their imaginations and hearts. This decline is most evident in our largest Northeast and Midwest dioceses. Since these dioceses encompass large cities that tend to be quite multicultural, and because many parishes in these large cities have faced closure, I am thinking that this type of re-opening and reviving of inner-city parishes—like the one in New York mentioned above—will become more commonplace over the next five to ten years.
Although we should surely lament the loss of the Catholic culture that has happened in so many parts of our inner cities, I also think that such a solution is a wonderful opportunity for the Church, as Mystical Communion, to be revitalized through the gifts of different Catholic rites and traditions. This said, it will be interesting to see how these new, Eastern-rite parish communities—which tend to be theologically and culturally conservative—will meld with the surrounding urban communities, which seem to lean towards more liberal or progressive ecclesial and cultural norms.