Foxconn effect on local parishes

Mark Kemmeter with the Office of Planning and Councils at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee spoke before the All Common Committee at St. Paul the Apostle , 6400 Spring St., about how to plan for the potential 'Foxconn effect' in Mount Pleasant. 

MOUNT PLEASANT — While there’s been plenty of discussion about the potential “Foxconn effect” on public and private sectors, there’s been little discussion of how it could affect the “spiritual sector.”

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is looking ahead to the potential growth in parishes surrounding the future Mount Pleasant site. And parishioners at St. Paul the Apostle, 6400 Spring St., learned on Monday that their parish has been identified as one with the most potential to grow.

Room to grow

Mark Kemmeter from the Archdiocese’s Office for Planning and Councils ran through some of the projected numbers with members of the congregation before their All Common Committee meeting Monday evening.

Assuming the majority of the jobs go to people who move to the area, which creates more jobs in other sectors and all those jobs bring more people and families to the area, Kemmeter estimated the area’s population could grow by as much as 80,000 people.

Within the ten counties in the Milwaukee Diocese, the percentage of the population that identifies as Catholic is 24 percent, which is higher than the national average of about 20 percent. Assuming the people who come to the area for Foxconn match the national average, the diocese could be welcoming around 20,000 Catholics to the area, according to Kemmeter.

Other area parishes could absorb some of those newcomers but St. Paul was singled out in part because it is closest to the Foxconn site and because the diocese calculated the parish could accommodate up to 2,200 more members.

“Can you imagine?” Kemmeter asked. “It would be a dream come true for many parishes.”

But Kemmeter issued quite a few caveats to his predictions. First, it’s impossible to guess how the demographics will change until more jobs and households are filled. Also, the parishes themselves have to attract those newcomers and turn them into regular Mass attendees.

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‘Back to our roots’

During a question-and-answer session, one parishioner cited a recent opinion article from the Wall Street Journal about empty churches and the national decline in church attendance.

Kemmeter pointed to data that shows the fastest growing demographic is people who are not affiliated with any religion. But instead of lamenting, he encourages parishes to look at how they can change to bring in a younger crowd.

“This is an opportunity to take a look at who we’re inviting and who we’re welcoming,” said Kemmeter. “People are lonely, people are looking for meaning in their lives ... The biggest message Jesus gave was that he cared about them.”

He recommended getting more young people, not just in the pews, but involved in leadership, updating communications for a more tech-savvy generation and creating more opportunities to build community, such as through meals and small groups.

“We need to get back to our roots,” said Kemmeter. “When Jesus met with people, he built relationships with them.”

And should St. Paul and the other parishes succeed, Kemmeter said the Archdiocese is prepared to offer whatever additional support they need.

“You can count on us,” he said.

“This is an opportunity to take a look at who we’re inviting and who we’re welcoming ... People are lonely, people are looking for meaning in their lives ... The biggest message Jesus gave was that he cared about them.” Mark Kemmeter, member of the Archdiocese of
Milwaukee’s Office for Planning and Councils

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Christina Lieffring covers the City of Racine and the City of Burlington and is a not-bad photographer. In her spare time she tries to keep her plants and guinea pigs alive and happy.

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