Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Happy Pentecost!  May the gifts of the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten and strengthen us in service of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

During the season of Lent I sent out a parish survey and I’d like to share some of my analysis of the results with you.  The purpose of the survey was to help us think about our parish community’s present life and our plans for the future.  The survey not only asked several sets of direct questions about the church’s dynamics. It also included sets of broader questions regarding St. Francis’ current ministry and your own involvement and demographics.

A total of 893 individuals responded to the survey.  Of the respondents, only 6 were under the age of 25 and a total of 60 under the age of 35.  These numbers were surprising since the median age of the parish is 30 and the younger generation is more tech savvy than the older generation.  {In an effort to learn more, I conducted a qualitative focus group with young adults.  A summary of the group’s input was reported in the April 8 bulletin.}  “White collar” professionals made up 73% of the respondents; they most likely have easy and regular access to the computer during the day.

Responding to the question of increased / decreased faith, the responses were very similar and frequently noted three factors:  children, time, and attitude.  Children really dictate the level and nature of involvement of families in the church.  This is an area that deserves our attention.

There were 81 respondents (not a large percentage but significant in my opinion) who indicated that their participation has decreased because of a “more negative attitude toward our church.”  It is difficult to determine whether this negative is particular to St. Francis or toward the Roman Catholic Church in general.

What attracted you to St. Francis?  What keeps you here?  The highest two responses for both questions were the same:  worship and the Franciscan tradition.  People generally like the worship environment and experience.  They also are attracted to the Franciscan tradition.  This raises the question:  what do respondents understand the “Franciscan” tradition to be . . . what does it represent for them?

What one task does our parish do best?  “Offering worship that provides a meaningful experience of God” and “expressing the Gospel in contemporary language and forms” were two of the three highest responses.  The other was “engaging in acts of charity and service to persons in need.”  I was pleased that this combination was high. The connection between worship and service seems to be understood in the congregation.  It confirms that people gather to be fed by the Body of Christ and then go forth to be the Body of Christ in our world.

Which ONE task would you most like to see strengthened?  The responses were across the board.  “Helping members deepen their personal, spiritual relationship with God,” was the most often chosen response, but with only 87 “votes.”  There does not appear to be a consensus on one area in the parish to be strengthened, perhaps because the parish offers a great variety of ministries, activities, and opportunities for spiritual growth.

Questions about organization all received at least 50% “agree” or “strongly agree”.  The parish is well organized.  While this does not seem to be an area in need of special attention, it deserves our continuing focus in order to maintain its strength.

The responses to questions about the congregation’s identity and sense of who we are affirmed St. Francis’ spirit and mission.  All six questions in this area received at least 75% “agree” or “strongly agree”.  The highest affirmation, at 87%, was from those who like the parish “as it is, one with which I feel comfortable.”  There are a few people who clearly expressed their disdain for the identity and direction of the parish, most notably in the comment section. However, these comments were so few and anonymous, it does not seem worth giving them more attention.

In all, 444 respondents chose to add comments (over 50 pages single spaced).  Most comments centered upon worship and the Franciscan tradition.  Parishioners both affirmed and lamented the contemporary music.  And people both praised and criticized the leadership of the Franciscan friars (the pastor in particular).  Clearly there was no apathy among the respondents!

In the peace of Christ,

Fr. Mark

My apologies to Tricia Henry, our Coordinator of Community Life who celebrated her 5th anniversary of employment with us in April. She was inadvertently left off the list of honorees. Tricia began as a teacher in our preschool and with the opening of the Assisi Community Center has been wonderfully leading and building up our programs that build community among us.