It’s a stark fact that more people (30,000) showed up to run 10 miles than to pray at weekend Masses in one archdiocesan vicariate’s 48 parishes combined. (Philadelphia-South had average weekly attendance of 25,871 in 2008.) Hopefully the fit Catholics running in last Sunday’s Broad Street Run attended Mass at some church. If not, they represent only the surface of a vast opportunity for evangelization.
Consider this week’s front page and Our Lady of Hope Parish. Father Efren Esmilla, the pastor, and his flock not only opened wide the doors to runners for 7 a.m. Mass, they delayed the start of the 8:30 Mass to cheer on thousands of runners passing by the church’s front steps. The church even allowed use of the bathroom facilities to whoever needed them.
A lasting impression surely was made among the visitors to North Philadelphia that morning. It was a fleeting glimpse of a Church positioned to welcome all to a life-giving encounter with almighty God in word and sacrament.
If every parish and every parishioner took a similar attitude, we could bring back to church some of those folks who often have something else to do on Sunday.