How a French bishop prepares his people for change
23rd January 2012.
On the 1st and 2nd October 2011 at the 92 Masses of that weekend you have responded magnificently to the questionnaire dealing with demografics typical of the faithful of the diocese. The collected data have been researched during the first three months of 2012 and now I would like to put before you the main trends of the survey in which you have taken part.
1. 2.2% of the overall population of the department have stated that they attend chuch services – in other words 7,500 people assist at weekly Masses in the diocese.
2. The faithful comprise 71% women and 29% men . The most noteworthy feature here is the high average age: 60% are more than 60 years of age.
3. Projections for the next 15 years show a decrease of from 40-50% in the numbers of practising Catholics. This is mainly explained by the very marked absence of the 20-30 and 30-40 age groups.
4. In 15-18 years time, with no ordinations, there will be only 15 diocesan priests under the age of 75.
5 Financial trends for the future show a €500.000 decrease in 15 years on a present day budge of 1 million.
On the 13th January 2012, priests, deacons and various diocesan committees have been given a brief outline of the results of this survey. They already have all the documentaion necessary to explain to you any further questions that may emege. We are showing a responsible attitude when we examine in a precise manner what is likely to happen if we continue on our present way in a heedless fashion.
This projection which we have described in theory has as its aim to prompt us to react in a collective way and to challenge us to a radical renewal. Therefore without waiting and in view of the urgency of the situation I have decided to set up immediately a team charged with presenting to me by July 1st 2012, at the latest , different ways in which the diocese may evolve; taking into consideration directions we have already undertaken. It is in our interest to link up this situation with our dynamique for evangelisation; it is a call to be creative in revitalizing this dynamique taking into account present realities. I have asked this team to consult without fear with the various forces active within the diocese and to think big.
Our future is not linked solely to demographic and economic concerns, but it is fiting that we take them into account. Pastoral choices have now to be highlighted or made without delay. So taking into account what our demographic study has revealed, taking into acount where we are now, taking into account what human resources we have , where should our priorities lie? Furthermore what human and financial resources should be given a special place so as to respond to these priorities and, on the other hand, what should be abandoned without a fuss.?
In the Autumn I will select and put into action the recomendations that have been made. I know that these reforms will be difficult and painful. But in my view they are the necessary conditions for giving the life of our diocese a future. I want to speak the truth to you in the light of these analyses. I remain hopeful and I count on you in the difficult times that lie ahead. We are being called to a spiritual experience in facing up to this situation and in living through it. All together we can hope that with the help of the Holy Spirit our will to succeed with the changes that are necessary will bring about the desired result and that we can hand on to our successors a diocese which is certainly different but viable and lasting.
Thank you for your response at the time of our consultation, Thank you for the efforts you are making to ensure that our parishes and Christian communities are alive: I experience it in the pastoral visits I make and I am grateful for it.
May the same Holy Spirit renew us in hope and draw us to witness with joy to the good News of God’s Love for all people.