Interesting article here about a Staten Island Polish church which is celebrating both its 85th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of its pastor's appointment there. The article says a lot about the inherent problems of ethnic parishes and the mixed-up priorities of modern Roman Catholics.
A little background: St. Stanislaus Kostka church was founded by Polish immigrants in 1923 and flourished for many years until dwindling numbers forced the church to be put under the supervision of a neighboring parish and almost led to its closure. And why did its numbers dwindle? The original immigrant generation died away, the succeeding generations assimilated into American life and felt little need to cling to an ethnic parish, and the local Polish families who were the foundation of the church moved away as the racial makeup of the neighborhood changed. And since the modern American Catholic Church does not evangelize in the least, the parish was only saved by a massive influx of Polish immigrants following the collapse of Communism. And when these new parishioners had the opportunity to represent their parish and their Faith in an interview with the local newspaper, what did they choose to tell the community at large about their church and themselves?
Did they witness to their belief in Christ and tell how their celebrated pastor has ministered to their souls and facilitated their relationship with God? Did they talk about how the parish is primarily a spiritual community where Catholic believers of Polish descent can worship in their own language, and can preserve and deepen their faith in a strange and spiritually hostile land? No, there was hardly any of that boring religious stuff. Apart from an off-hand reference to Saturday morning catechism classes for children (most likely limited to First Communion preparation), this article made it seem like the raison d'etre of St. Stanislaus church is to be a social club and Polish cultural society.
What were these parishioners excited about? What did they tell us about their pastor's main priorities and projects? Well, we are informed that he renovated the classroom where children learn Polish and he gussied up the parish hall where dances and other events are held. The church also offers art classes and martial arts classes and has a general focus on preserving Polish culture, language and traditions.
I ask where are the Bible studies, the rosary societies, the prayer groups, the adult catechism classes, the charitable endeavors, etc, et al. How could you talk about your church's 85th anniversary and only think to mention the cultural/material services it provides? Yes, a church also ministers to our corporal needs, but when that aspect predominates among either clergy or laity, then something is seriously out of whack. I admit that the media can be selective in its reporting and the reporter did only quote a few people. But is there anyone out there so charitable that they don't think those quotes are representative rather than anomalous?