Bulletin, April 22, 2001:
“The rich get richer and the poor get children.” So goes an old saying. Another way of putting it is that, as people become well off economically they tend to have fewer children. Seattle is a case in point.
In Seattle we have witnessed increased prosperity, but at the same time a huge drop in the number of children. One indication of wealth is that at the turn of the millennium we were the U.S. city with the highest percentage of millionaires. Meanwhile, the number of children has dropped dramatically. According to the 2000 census, there were only 87,827 children under 18 out of a total population of 563,374. That is, one child for every 5.4 adults. Forty years ago Seattle had one child for every 2.4 adults (166,772 out of a total population of 557,087).
This drop in the number of children has happened not only in Seattle, but also across the country. It has many consequences for the future. The U.S. Social Security Administration pointed out a serious consequence of the decline of children:
"76 million baby boomers will begin retiring in about 2010, and in about 30 years, there will be nearly twice as many older Americans as there are today. At the same time, the number of workers paying into Social Security per beneficiary will drop from 3.3 to 2. These changes will strain our retirement system.”
These statistics should give us some sense of perspective on what is referred to as the problem of “overpopulation.” We are not even having children at the replacement level. According to demographers, each woman of childbearing age should have 2.1 children simply to maintain a stable population. In King County that figure has dropped to 1.7.
The United States is not yet at the point of some European countries whose overall populations are actually declining. The National Center for Policy Analysis gave these statistics regarding Europe: Last year, more people died in Italy than were born; in fact, babies are scarce throughout Europe and the continent is on the verge of a population decline. Birth rates have been dropping throughout Europe since the late 1960s. In some countries, such as Spain, Italy and Greece, the rates are now precipitously low.
· For example, in Italy, where the average woman produces just 1.2 children (the replenishment rate is slightly more than two), the population is predicted to drop from 57 million to 41 million by 2050.
· Germany's birth rate, at 1.3, is also low -- in fact, one-third of all couples of childbearing age in western Germany are childless.
· The United Nations Population Division issued a report this year estimating that Europe would need 100 million immigrants in the next 50 years just to maintain its current population of 729 million.
These trends should make us think. Europe, for centuries the heart of Christendom, has become secularized. (Secularism is the tendency to either deny God’s existence or to say that, even if he does exist, he has no bearing on our everyday concerns.) Secularization, together with post-war prosperity, has resulted in a suicidal population decline. America has not experienced such a drastic decline. Perhaps part of the reason is that we have not become so secularized as our European cousins. It has been observed that secularism is more evident in the U.S. elite (university professors, journalists, etc.) but the average American continues to be remarkably religious.
One sign of hope and faith is openness to children. People of faith tend to see children as a great blessing. The Catechism states, “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity.” (#2373) We should be doing more to encourage those who have chosen to have large families. I know a young couple with three children and a fourth on the way. The mom says that she is going to wait until later in the pregnancy to tell people so she does not have to endure so many negative comments. At the same time she and her husband have Christian friends who give them wonderful support and encouragement.
To return to the initial comment about the rich getting richer and the poor getting children, one must ask a further question: who is really better off? Of course, the majority would like to have both, but if pressed, I am sure most of us would consider children a greater blessing than material wealth.
Here at Holy Family we may not be the richest parish, but we are rich in children. Last year we had 250 baptisms. This year on Easter weekend at our Vigils, about 70 became members of the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. And on Easter afternoon Deacon Ted baptized a beautiful group of infants.
This influx of new members places a serious responsibility on all of us. We have problems at Holy Family, but I ask that you not turn away, but make a renewed dedication. We need the support of every parishioner if we are really going to advance, as God wants us to. To fulfill our mission requires the participation of all. Regarding financial support, envelope packets were sent out last week. We are using a different company at a considerable savings to the parish. If you did not receive envelopes, please call the parish office, 206-767-6220.
Over Easter weekend we had very good collections. A total of $16,948 was given at our seven Masses. Also $1152 was donated for the School Renovation Project and on Holy Thursday, $941 for the needs of the poor in our parish who are helped by our St. Vincent de Paul Society and Madre Teresa group. The Easter collection helps us move toward our budget goal for the current fiscal year (2000-2001) but we do need the support of every parishioner if we are to strengthen our parish programs and do the necessary maintenance of our buildings.
Next Sunday we will have testimonials at our Masses from committed members of our parish. What they have to say will inspire us all. The presentations will be in relation to the Annual Catholic Appeal that addresses our responsibility to the Archdiocese as well as some specific needs here in our own parish.
Speaking of children I want to encourage you to attend our school production U.F.O (Ubiquitous 50’s Operation). It is an original play by music director Pat Butler. The proceeds will go the Holy Family Parish Renovation Fund for seismic renovations of the school building – and some generous benefactors have pledged to match whatever amount is raised!
For those planning on getting married at Holy Family: Evenings for the Engaged begins next Sunday, April 29, 4 – 6 p.m. in the rectory (9622 – 20th Ave. SW). Please call 767-6220 for more information and to register.
One final reminder: our Ailbe House chapel is open round the clock for Eucharistic Adoration. Come any time, day or night, to spend some time in prayer before Jesus, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.