Transfiguration campaign aims to bolster Mass participation

| November 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

A fall initiative at Transfiguration in Oakdale has put commitment to Sunday Mass in the forefront.

Father William Baer, Transfiguration’s pastor, launched the campaign “Mass: Every Family, Every Sunday” in August on the feast of the Transfiguration, the parish’s feast day.

“The key is for the people to have a dedication to [the Mass],” Father Baer said. “That’s what we really try to foster with this program.”

The commitment is morally binding for Catholics because the Church interprets the Third Commandment as requiring worship at Mass every Sunday. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice.”

“We owe it because God is our creator, he is our redeemer,” Father Baer said. “He’s given all things to us.”

A Transfiguration parishioner sports a T-shirt for the “Mass: Every Family, Every Sunday” campaign. Courtesy/Transfiguration

To spread awareness, Father Baer works the catchphrase “every family, every Sunday” into homilies and bulletin articles. The staff also printed the phrase on T-shirts.

The campaign’s terminology “points out, of course, for people that there is something about this that’s not just for those who are very, very religious [or] those who have nothing better to do with their time,” Father Baer said. “It’s important every family be ready to do this.”

The T-shirt has helped to spread the campaign beyond the parish. Parishioners have shared stories with Father Baer of reactions they’ve received while wearing the shirt in public, and two stories in particular stick in his mind.

“One of the people was at a restaurant, and someone else came from another table all the way over to them and said, ‘That’s exactly right, and thank you for wearing that shirt,’” he said.

The other incident happened while a female parishioner was on a walk.

“Someone walked past her and stopped and said, ‘Excuse me, could I read that again?’ They couldn’t believe what was on the T-shirt,” Father Baer said. “She apparently read it approvingly.”

The message of the campaign has also moved parishioners. Father Baer said it has particularly helped men who are husbands and fathers “to recognize that this is something as a Catholic I am committed to doing.”

He added: “They would say this has made the difference for them.”

Father Baer, who has been pastor at Transfiguration since 2010, has seen more families attending Mass as a whole family, rather than splitting up to attend different Masses.

Ushers and hospitality volunteers take precise Mass counts, a practice the parish has employed since the 1980s. Transfiguration saw an uptick of 3 percent attendance in October this year from October 2016. Overall attendance for 2017 so far is up 2 percent from 2016.

“That doesn’t seem like much, but in this age in which many people are dropping out of going to Mass, we’re very pleased that there’s an increase,” Father Baer said.

That’s where the pastor has seen the challenge. In reviewing broader statistics and studies on Mass attendance, he observed some teachable trends.

“There used to be something of a bell curve, but now it seems like Catholics … either go just about every week or every other week, or [go] very rarely, perhaps Christmas and Easter,” Father Baer said. “They really are moving one direction or the other with that. That made me realize that we really do need to encourage this commitment to coming to Sunday Mass every week.”

He’s found preaching about regular Mass attendance has been helpful before, so he’s ramped up that effort as part of the campaign.

Families also don’t need to have warm feelings about the Mass or be entertained to succeed in making the commitment, he said.

“They simply go to Mass consistently,” Father Baer said. “That pattern really rubs off on the children, and there’s indications the children will likely become lifelong Mass attendees as well.”

Father Baer believes there needs to be more preaching in general on making a commitment to Sunday Mass.

“Many Catholics amazingly have not heard from the pulpit or anywhere why they should come to Mass every Sunday,” Father Baer said. “There might be something said about the beauty and the value and centrality of the holy Eucharist, but never the point that therefore, they should come every Sunday.”

Transfiguration’s campaign also kicked off a broader campaign called “Mission: Transfigured,” a spin-off of the movie title “Mission: Impossible.” It consists of three parts, starting with the Mass.

“We must be sacramental Catholics tied into all the graces that are part of that,” Father Baer said. “We [also] really are encouraging people to use the special seasons of Advent and Lent to come back to Mass, and to bring friends and family members back to Mass who have not been there.”

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