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Parishes shun ‘consumer’approach

By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
(Email Joanne)

Father John Vakulskas fears Catholic churches are turning into sacramental convenience stores for parishioners.

“We have become a sort of spiritual Kum & Go or Caseys, kind of ‘go for what we need when we need it,’” he mused.

“It is easy to show up at church when we need something and perhaps only show up again when we need something else, whether that is first Communion, baptisms, funerals, weddings or crises of just about any kind,” he added. “The church is becoming a safety net, a sort of a place of last resort. Kind of like the drama term ‘deus ex machina.’”

To address that concern, Father Vakulskas initiated a spiritual response at the parishes where he ministers, St. Andrew, Sibley and St. Mary, Ashton.

“In an effort to combat the tendency for our parishes to become ‘consumer parishes’ and instead be parishes of participation, we are using prayers to be recited at the end of all Masses, religious education classes, Guild meetings, Bible study, RCIA and other events, to help individuals be more aware of this tendency and work to overcome this.”

Father Vakulskas clarified this idea did not originate with him.

“This began as a result of a Clergy Day presentation by an individual who was addressing a subject that was always on my mind – how more and more people consider their parish a ‘consumer’ church, instead of a ‘participating’ church,” he said. “I sought out Protestant clergy and they, too, reported a similar situation.”

The prayers were typed and laminated for distribution. Spanish versions were also created, Father Vakulskas reported.

“At St. Andrew and St. Mary Parishes we have been working at having spiritual rejuvenation and renewal,” he said. “We all need a booster shot now and then and in Sibley and Ashton, we have been trying to give a spiritual boost to our lives both at home and in our parish worship and not just on a short term, but to be in this for the long term.”

Father Vakulskas acknowledged the most complete spiritual answer to this “consumer” parish approach would be a program of “Total Stewardship.”

“This, for some, is too long-term for our ‘instant’ world we are accustomed to,” he said. “One has to begin this spirituality somewhere and that is what we are doing with this prayer.”

It was the hope of Father Vakulskas that this would be a spiritual program and not merely a “flash in the pan.”

“We pray to our Blessed Mother and St. Andrew to be our guiding lights in the effort,” he said.

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