Over the past weekend, The Washington Examiner newspaper published an article titled, “Traditional Catholic parishes grow even as US Catholicism declines.” The article begins, “Traditional Catholic parishes run by one society of priests are growing in the United States, defying the trend of decline in the broader American church over previous decades. Over the past year, parishes run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), a society of priests dedicated to celebrating the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, have reported large increases in Sunday Mass attendance.
The Examiner also quoted a pair of surveys stating that former Catholics tend to leave the church at a young age, with one survey showing almost 80 percent of erstwhile Catholics abandon the faith before age 23. About half of millennials, those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, who were raised Catholic no longer identify as Catholic. Two surveys of former Catholics from the past decade found people who left the faith usually did so because they slowly lost interest in religion, stopped believing the church’s teachings and did not have their spiritual needs met.
Even in the Diocese of Providence, there has been an increasing interest by young adults and families in the Extraordinary Form. Last week, at St. Mary’s Church in Providence, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, the auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, ordained a young man from the FSSP to the priesthood during Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. The Church was completely full, with close to 40 priests in attendance as well as many young families and children. Perhaps, as Pope Francis keeps reminding us, this is a manifestation of the “God of Surprises.” Pope Francis encourages us to be open to movement by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the increase in attendance at these Masses is a movement of the Holy Spirit.