I was very saddened to read Rod Watson's May 10 commentary on the decline of church attendance. His statistics may be correct but his view of a church community can only come from someone who has never been blessed with such a community.
Churches are losing members; the secular world tends to get in people's way, technology steals their time and busy lifestyles often can keep us from entering those places of worship. Churches may close due to economic reasons, but churches will always exist and there will always be a need for places of worship.
My parish is more than a church, we are a family. A family that joins together in prayer, in song, in times of sorrow and in times of joy. I myself belong to St. Bernadette's Parish and thank God each day for the wonderful pastors He has brought to my parish and the wonderful friends we have met over the years. Friends that held my hand during deaths, during difficult family times, and all those events in my life – both sad and happy – where that hand was all I sometimes had to hold onto.
Oh yes, we have shared sadness, but oh, we have had tremendous laughter along the way as well. Our church does not suffer from schizophrenia and I don't know of any Christian community, Catholic or Protestant, that deserves that label. As Christ did – dying for each and every person on this earth – we defend life, all life because He told us too. Simple as that. God loves that woman carrying that child as much as He loves that child that has no voice, no choice.
Women have major roles in the church and are not second-class citizens. On the contrary, they usually are the shakers and movers, running many of the faith programs, volunteering and fundraising. In our particular parish, we are deeply involved with St. Luke's Mission, tirelessly helping women and young children put their lives back together.
One person meets this one, they are involved at St. Luke's, another person meets that person and becomes involved and so on and so on. We also administer to those in our parish who also need our help, food baskets, clothing or sometimes just prayer for whatever struggle they are living through.
That weekly visit to church reinforces and strengthens my faith. It connects me with people who share common beliefs, common values and common goals for their lives. We absolutely need each other and we all realize that.
I have been brought to my knees at various times during my life. I looked up at that cross and felt strength, love and, most important, hope. I feel a sense of such peace at church, a peace I can rarely find anywhere else.
Certainly, there are those who attend church, walk out those doors and live a life contrary to the teachings of Christ. Shame on them, they know better. They most likely enter with good intentions, but again, the world out there distracts us so much by feeding us in ways that are not always good for us and neglecting to feed our souls, the very essence of who we are. I have heard wonderful sermons preached in that pew so very poignant, that I felt it had been written for me.
So, maybe we will be left with smaller churches, but those remnant churches will remain strong because it is our faith, our love of Christ and our need for each other that keep us walking back through those doors.
Joanne Liwicki of Orchard Park works, and is married and the mother of two. She also volunteers at St. Luke's Mission of Mercy.