FACING a lack of enthusiasm among many Catholics these days, church leaders urged members of the clergy to innovate in order to attract more believers.
Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in the United States, urged the clergy during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) to use modern methods, including social media, to reach out to their flock.
While they realize the need to innovate, local church leaders admit that the task is a daunting one, with more Catholics increasingly becoming inactive in practicing their faith.
Despite being raised a Catholic, for instance, Mark Anthony Briones, 16, refused to go to church religiously.
Briones told Sun.Star Cebu that he stopped going to church because he felt the masses were no longer interesting. He admitted that as a child, he was scolded by a priest during a mass.
“Unsa may gamit anang misa? Boring siya dayon unsa man say makuha nimong pagtulon-an (What’s the use of going to a boring mass? What can you learn out of it)?” Briones said.
Another Catholic, 17-year-old Marty Abrigonde, shared Briones’s sentiment. The nursing student said that while he still goes to mass, he doesn’t do so religiously.
“Dili tanang Dominggo makaadto ko. Kung makaadto man gani ko, naa ra ko sa gawas sa simbahan (It’s not every Sunday that I go. When I do go, I stay outside the church),” he said.
Abrigonde admitted that his lack of enthusiasm for his own faith stems from some priests who conducted the masses he attended.
“Naa’y pari nga sobra ra kaayo ka boring, naa sa’y pari nga sabaan sad pero kusog mangasaba kung magmisa (Some priests are too boring. Some are lively, but keep scolding people during the mass),” he added.
Catholics in other parts of the world, such as the US, are also showing a diminishing interest in their faith.
In his catechism during the third day of the IEC, Barron revealed that in his own diocese, more than 70 percent of Catholics are no longer attending masses.
The 56-year-old bishop said that aside from the US, a great majority of Catholics in Western Europe no longer show interest in hearing mass.
He called this a “spiritual disaster”.
“What’s sad today is the attitude towards the Eucharist, that so many in the Catholic world have become blasè about it,” he said.
But while some Filipinos are lukewarm in churches in their own country, Barron praised the Filipino Catholics in the US for reviving the faith.
In some parishes in the US, it’s the Filipino communities that keep them alive, he said.
In order to urge more people to be more interested in their faith, priests must become innovative, he advised.
In a press conference yesterday, Barron said that social media and other modern media have a greater effect in reaching out to members of the flock.
Barron, who uses social media himself, said it is an “extraordinary gift” that allows members of the clergy to tell the Church’s message in a more compelling way.
Barron is the founder of Word of Fire, a global media ministry dedicated to new evangelization methods.
He reminded the clergy that the Church exists to “remind people that God is the only source of satisfaction.”
“Secularism is a spiritual disaster because we’re built for God and we know that. Because nothing in this world satisfies us. All the pleasure, all the power, all the honor that the world can give you, there’s still this restlessness in the heart, the restlessness for God,” Barron said.
But he cautioned priests to back up modern methods of evangelization with “older media” such as books to make the discussion more substantial.
In a separate interview, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said Barron’s statement is a call to the clergy to innovate in order to attract renewed enthusiasm.
While there is a need to innovate, Palma said that innovation must also be accompanied by “further learning and praying.”
Palma also urged practitioners of traditional forms of media to help them in keeping the faith alive.
Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said that the task of bringing wayward Catholics back to the faith is a daunting one.
Vergara, chairman of the 51st IEC Communication Department, admitted that while Filipino churches today may look jam-packed with churchgoers, only less than 15 percent of those who go are active Catholics.
“The situation is that we need to engage more in our catechesis, to evangelize more. It’s a great challenge of the church and bishops; priests and lay leaders have the responsibility to look for new methods and strategies to evangelize,” Vergara added.