New Roads Catholic Community, St. Joseph and St. Luke, was formed as a collaborative in 2013, in response to the reality of declining churches. The reality of declining churches is a complicated problem without a simple or easy solution. But since day one we’ve been eager to jump in and work on it together.
Over the last six years, we’ve made mistakes to be sure--in communication, implementation, and more. One significant miss early on was to try to do more than was possible given our limited resources. We started off with an ambitious--and ultimately unrealistic--plan to transform all six Masses at both parishes.
We worked to make various changes to create a dynamic experience of worship that would help grow disciples as well as welcome back the overwhelming percentage of Catholics who have disconnected from church. Attempting to create an engaging, relevant, accessible, and transformative experience at six Masses simultaneously was unsuccessful.
Around 2017 we began focusing specifically on one Mass, the 10am Mass at St. Joseph. More than two years later we’re seeing some of the growth and fruit we’ve been praying for. People are growing in their relationship with God and deepening their commitment to following Jesus. Others are reconnecting with church for the first time in a long time. Children and families are overflowing. We consistently have over 60 children at Kids’ Church, our Children’s Liturgy of the Word program, as well as a dozen or more children in Tiny Disciples, our worship experience for kids ages 2-5.
On a weekly basis we are over 75% full at the 10am Mass, a metric that points to the need to add an additional Mass to accommodate our current size and continuing growth. We need to pause here and say: wow! God is at work here. Our vision at New Roads is to be a growing church and because of the people who serve at New Roads, this vision is becoming a reality. We’re at a point where we need to expand what we’re doing at the 10am Mass to an additional Mass time.
Meanwhile, all of our other Masses, at both St. Joseph and St. Luke, have continued the decades-long pattern of slow to moderate decline in attendance over time. This decline is not something with a single cause or an easy solution. Churches everywhere are facing this reality.
At St. Luke’s we are at the point where we do not have enough people coming to Mass overall to justify the number of Masses we have on Sunday morning. Given that, we need to reduce the number of Masses at St. Luke by one.
Initially, our plan was to continue the 11:30am Mass, in thinking like a collaborative and wanting to offer a variety of Mass times between the two parishes, as well as to create the least disruption in the current schedule overall. However, after conversation and consultation with the community over several weeks, it seems that a Mass time between our two existing Sunday Mass times at St. Luke (9:00 and 11:30) would be the best time for our community to invest in, to join together and to serve. Given that, at St. Luke we will continue our 4pm Saturday Vigil Mass and we will have a 10:00am Mass on Sunday mornings at St. Luke. This change will take place starting March 1, 2020, the first Sunday of Lent.
At St. Joseph, given the increase in attendance, we will have a 9:00am and 10:30am Mass, also starting on March 1, 2020. Both those Masses will be the same experience as the current 10am Mass at St. Joseph--the same message series, music, hospitality, and kids programs. To make this additional Mass at St. Joseph a reality, we’ll be expanding all of our ministry teams at the 10am Mass. If you’re wanting to join in and support this effort, contact anyone on our team for more information.
Those who currently attend or serve at the 9:00 or 11:30 Masses at St. Luke are invited to come and serve at the 10:00 Mass at St. Luke--or of course to any other Mass time in our collaborative. To be clear: there is no plan to close St. Luke’s. The vision of New Roads always has been--and still is--to become two healthy, growing parishes. The fact that we have successfully created a Mass in our collaborative that is growing is truly good news for both parishes.
Our plan, our hope, and our prayer is that the growth we are seeing at the 10am Mass at St. Joseph will one day expand fully to all Mass times at both parishes. We are excited and committed to continue to journey together toward that vision. It will take all of us working together to get there.
Thank you for your love for this church and commitment to it. Let’s keep it up. The future might not be certain, but what is certain is that realizing our vision of becoming a collaborative with two growing parishes will require more love, more commitment, and more collaboration from all of us.