Behind the Stats

A 2008 Pew Forum study revealed that the fastest growing religious group in America is those who have no religion. One in six are not affiliated with any religious institution. Approximately 25 percent of cradle Catholics have left their faith (many studies have indicated that the second largest “denomination,” behind Catholicism, is ex-Catholics). Of those who are Catholic only 20 to 30 percent attend Mass on a regular basis. The stats speak for themselves.

But they do not tell the whole story.

It would be convenient to hide behind such stats and adopt the mindset of some that there is no turning back. That the secular onslaught we witness today will simply erode away the Church. But to adopt such a thought process would be misguided to say the least. Do we really believe that God has given up on His Church in the year 2011?

Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessors have consistently said “No” to such a hopeless mindset. They believed that there will be a new springtime of evangelization precisely because the world needs it in this post-modern era. At the closing Mass of World Youth Day Pope Benedict challenged the almost 2 million who were gathered to be God’s instruments for this new evangelization: “Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God.”

Recently the office I direct (Office of Lifelong Faith Formation for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland [Maine]) hosted a special edition of the Hour of Power that offered participants an opportunity to gather for praise & worship (led by Jackie Francois), a testimony on the Eucharist (shared by Patrick Coffin), reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (we are so grateful to the priests who offered their whole evening to hear so many confessions), and Eucharistic Adoration. On a beautiful late summer night over 175 people (of all ages) filled the Chapel at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland for this evening of adoring the Real Presence of Jesus Christ and celebrating our Catholic faith. To say that the evening was inspirational is an understatement.

I couldn’t help but be moved in the very core of my being at hearing the words of one of the songs Jackie sung during Adoration. “I see a generation rising up to take their place. With selfless faith. With selfless faith. I see a new revival stirring as we pray and seek. We’re on our knees. We’re on our knees.” (“Hosanna” by Hillsong – click to see and hear Jackie leading us that evening.) All around me was a generation of young and old Catholics on their knees giving their lives over to the Risen Christ. A generation willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the Gospel message. A generation who want to “share with others the joy of their faith.”

In light of our recent celebration of Catechetical Sunday, let us ask God to bless all those who come forward to share their faith through the ministry of catechesis. Let us pray that God uses all of our catechists — all those who teach and witness our Catholic faith to all ages — to share His truth, goodness and beauty in a profound way. Let us trust that the God of life, who continues to nourish us through the Eucharist, will continue to guide all of us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to enkindle a new springtime of evangelization in our diocese and beyond.

Michael Lavigne


Michael Lavigne currently serves as the Director of the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support in the Archdiocese of Boston. Previously he served as the director for the Diocese of Portland Office of Lifelong Faith Formation. For the past twenty-one years he has served in the Catholic Church as a retreat coordinator, coordinator of youth ministry and religious education, diocesan leadership team moderator, coach, high school theology teacher and department chair and confirmation coordinator. Michael has earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in psychology and communications from Rhode Island College, as well as a Master of Arts degree in theology from Providence College. Michael is married to Lori and they are the blessed parents of Michael Jr., Mariana, John Paul, Therese, Julia and Chiara. The Lavigne’s reside in Taunton, MA. Michael and Lori write regularly at their blog:

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  • Joe DeVet

    Every time we think the times could not be worse for the Church, we should sit down and review her history. There have been worse times, and the Church prevails. Certainly not of her own merit, but because of the promise of our Founder. “The gates of hell…”

    I chuckled a couple decades ago when there was some scandal happening, and on a magazine rack I saw Time or Newsweek’s cover story–“Will the Catholic Church survive?” Yes it will–long after the United States of America has gone under–and certainly long after Time and Newsweek fold–the Church will be standing, fulfilling its mission.

    Not an excuse for complacency, but a point of encouragement for us to work to beat hell.

  • lkeebler

    Yes, Christ will preserve His Church, Jesus Christ has prevailed. But He also tells us without flinching that the road is narrow (Matthew 7:14 How narrow is the gate and strict the way that leads to life, and few are those who find it!). “Few are those who find it…” Why does He say this if it were not so. I think Jeremiah 9 and 10 explains (as so many other scriptures explain) so indisputably why the road is narrow (as he does out of great Love and honesty from God). Jeremiah is not a Book of history but God’s Word to us now, God is the same and we can not go about our own deceptions as if God does not see.

    Jeremiah 9: 23 This is what the LORD says:
    “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
    24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
    that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
    declares the LORD.