Liturgies with an emphasis on Scripture that speak to the hearts and emotions of people in the pews are essential to stemming, and reversing, the departure of Catholics — especially young Catholics — from the Church.And that means forming parish communities which warmly welcome and actively engage their assemblies — again, especially their youth — at Sunday worship and throughout the week.That was the essential message from the second in a series of formation days for liturgical ministers held Oct. 20 at San Buenaventura Mission, presented by the archdiocesan Office for Worship. Attended by 130 people from throughout the Santa Barbara Region (and some beyond), the day also featured breakout sessions for lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, music ministers, hospitality ministers and initiation team members.In his keynote talk, Dale Sieverding, director of music and liturgy at St. Monica Church in Santa Monica, drew from several recent surveys to illustrate how and why Christian churches (including Catholic parishes) are struggling to maintain, much less expand, their membership. Liturgy, he said, is a key ingredient — and many parishes, he noted, are falling short.“Somehow, our liturgies are not meeting people’s needs,” Sieverding observed, alluding to a Pew Research Center study released last month that showed the U.S. population now has its highest-ever percentage of religiously unaffiliated people. According to the nationwide survey, 29 percent of U.S. adults said they seldom or never attend religious services.“A big factor,” he continued, “is that these people have no sense of participation in their church; they are not being fed. They want an emphasis on Scripture, homilies that are based on Scripture. They see spiritual nourishment as more important than doctrinal issues. And they want a liturgy, and music in the liturgy, that touches the heart and the emotions.“They want to know who Jesus is.”Sieverding reiterated Catholic teaching that Christ is experienced four ways in the liturgy:—In the Word of God proclaimed.—In the Body and Blood shared.—In the ordained minister who acts as the person of Christ.—In the assembly gathered — especially, he said, in a community that is welcoming and hospitable.It is the latter area, he noted, that parishes struggle most, and yet it can be the most important in building an active, Christ-centered community.“We can’t wait for people to come to our doors; we need to go out and welcome them,” he asserted. “And not just welcome them, but walk with them, share the Good News with them. The Church may not have all the answers they are looking for, but the Church can help us know how to begin the walk in search of those answers.”In this regard, Sieverding alluded to another Pew study finding that should alarm all Catholics: two-thirds of Catholics who leave the Church to become Protestant do so before the age of 24. Looking at those gathered in the Msgr. Patrick O’Brien Center in which he presented his talk, he smiled. “Ask yourself: Who is not here today?” The attendees, virtually all older than 30, could only smile and shake their heads.“If you are not inviting young people into the conversation of the celebration of our liturgy, speaking to them about how liturgy and the Scriptures impact their lives, they are going to walk away,” Sieverding said. “Your parish liturgy committees need the 20-somethings, they even need teens. A young person can be a lector, a music minister, an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, a hospitality minister. If young people can see themselves in ministry, they will say, ‘It’s our church too.’”The realities of young people’s needs and desires for their faith lives was further noted in a Barna Group Survey from 2011 entitled, “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Churches.” This study looked at 15 years of surveys of people ages 18-29, via 350,000 phone interviews of all denominations. Among its findings:—People look to make connections with people of God. One-third of those surveyed said they never felt a connection with the people of God through their experience of worship.—People look for transformation in their liturgy. As a result of their participation in church, 46 percent — nearly half — said nothing about coming to worship had changed their lives. One-quarter of those surveyed said their lives were changed somewhat by their worship experience; another quarter said their lives had been “greatly” changed.—People look for new insight at worship. “Can you remember the homily that you heard last Sunday?” Sieverding asked his audience. Fewer than half raised their hands. “We come to Mass,” he said, “looking for new insight on how to be Christ in the world during the rest of the week.”—People who attend church look for a sense of community. And they seek a commitment to social justice.These realities, Sieverding continued, should elicit questions from the parish community along the lines of, “How do we engage our youth? Are we connected to the world the way they are? Do we use Facebook, Twitter, etc.? We need to use the means of communication that they use.”But regardless of age, parishes need to understand that the process of preparing good liturgies — life-giving, transforming liturgies and music — is everyone’s responsibility, and extend beyond the Sunday worship experience. However, Sunday worship provides an ideal starting point.“We need to embed the Bible in their lives,” Sieverding stated. One way, he suggested, is to begin all parish meetings (liturgically-related or not) by reading from the coming Sunday’s Gospel, given that the Gospel provides (or should provide) a foundation for the homilies and music. “Embed that in their minds and hearts,” he said.“We need to consider, what are the implications of our Sunday worship experience for us and our work in liturgy, or our work in catechesis, in pastoral care, in social justice? Let’s identify areas of concern in our parishes and communities in which we can have influence. Educate, form and inform through the liturgy. Ask and survey your communities how they are impacted by what we do.” Particularly as the Church embarks on this Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, Sieverding said the building of community is an ongoing process, as noted by Archbishop José Gomez in his recent pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith.” The archbishop declared, “This Year of Faith must be a moment of renewal of faith for each one of us and for our Archdiocese — for our parishes and schools; for our catechesis and religious education programs; for our social ministries!”In that spirit, said Sieverding, “We need to continually evangelize and catechize our people, help them know who Christ is, bring them to Christ, and then teach them the story of our faith. That means we need to help create ownership for them of our Sunday liturgy; to pastor the local community; to lead from a Christ-centered heart.”Future formation days presented by the Office for Worship will be held Nov. 10 at Holy Trinity Church, San Pedro, and Jan. 19 at St. Dominic Savio Church, Bellflower. For information, call 9213) 637-7262, or visit{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1102/sbliturgy/{/gallery}