Having some days in the United States gives an impression of how the church is faring here. The parish that I am at these few days is flourishing. Large attendances at Sunday Mass coupled with energetic enthusiasm from a committed parish population give a healthy impression. I am taken by the amount of young people engaging with and practising their faith. There is little doubt that the energy and drive of the pastor (parish priest) has had a big impact. An efficient pastoral outreach and an army of volunteers complete this parish picture. It would be nice to transport this model of parish home to Ireland!
There are many parishes in America like the one mentioned above. But all is not well, it seems, in Catholic America. Many people that I speak to say that the majority of Catholics in the United States no longer practice the full religion, and pride themselves on their self designation as "Cafeteria Catholics." Catholicism has become more of a cultural identity than a religious practice. Progressive liberalism (modernism) is blamed by many on the state of the church here and there is a strong appeal to orthodoxy to try and stem the tide. This is interesting. Also of interest is a recent Gallup poll which indicates that conservative Catholic youth now outnumber liberal Catholic youth by almost two to one. This will have an influence on vocations and the people shaping the church here into the future. Is something similar about to happen in Ireland? Time will tell.