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What if They Don’t Come Back to the Pews?


Dan Cellucci, CEO of the Catholic Leadership Institute, discusses his OSV Initiative Talk, “What If They Don’t Come Back?” 

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Dan’s talk focuses on how the Church can better respond to the ongoing pandemic in order to get people back in the pews, based on eight years of his research on the habits and mindsets of 225,000 Mass-going people.. “These are folks who were saying they were going to Mass weekly, prior to the pandemic, and also saying they were going, frankly, out of habit. You take that and now you break that habit for 10 months … I was talking to some bishops and their thoughts were ‘Well, when we reinstate the Sunday obligation, people will come back.’ The problem is, I don’t think people understand that there’s an obligation. There’s a whole generation that hasn’t necessarily grown up with that type of understanding. So it’s not that they reject it, they just don’t know it … I think we need to double down on our evangelization efforts.”

“We’re asking, ‘What if they don’t come back?’ Now let’s actually have a conversation and ask, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Let’s name that, but then let’s say, where do we go from there? There’s a mentality in crisis, but certainly in crisis in the Church, where we just sit still and hope it goes away. Ten months in, I don’t think we should be doing that. Let’s ask what the possibilities are. I think we’re going to spend a lot more time being productive if we are focusing on the possibilities.”

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Dan encourages parishes to reach out to their parishioners and maintain relationships, “One of the things that I always love about Busted Halo is that you guys have a relationship with listeners. Evangelization is relationships. I think that’s where you’re seeing the great winnowing happening in this pandemic — parishes that are actually thriving or even growing in this weird environment are the ones that are relationship-focused and reaching out through a lot of different ways as opposed to just expecting people to come.”