“Come and Stay” is one of many cornerstones that St. Cecilia Parochial Vicar, Father Michael Nguyen used when developing The3thirty Program.
OVERFLOW CROWDS GIVE THEIR SUPPORT FOR THE3THIRTY PROGRAM
So, what is The3thirty Program?
The program uses the words of John 3:30, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” This is used to transform the former Sunday 4 p.m. Mass into an all-encompassing worship experience now to be celebrated at 3:30 p.m.
“We have become a factory of Masses, one after another all weekend long, rather than a vision of faith,” said Fr. Michael.
Mass, the sacraments and Catholic education, have been a large part of Fr. Michaels’ life growing-up in Orange County. Now as a priest, those same components of Catholic life have become more challenging to weave together.
“Nothing has changed in the last 30 years, and we need to do Faith Formation in a new way,” he said.
Throughout the Spring of 2022, Fr. Michael prayed, reflected and strategized on the issues that many parishes face – to keep the high school age youth and young adults engaged and active in the Catholic Church.
As chaplain of St. Cecilia School, he interacts with students on a regular basis. It was one comment made during the 2022 graduation week that resonated deeply.
According to Fr. Michael, the student said, “this may be the last time we all see each other.”
This was a viable comment, as students at our Orange County Catholic schools, oftentimes branch out to attend high school at different institutions. Fr. Michael wondered why? Why do our youth not come back to their home parishes? Why do young couples who marry in the Catholic Church, leave the faith?
Fr. Michael felt the beginning of the summer was the time to put all of the prayers, reflections and strategies into action. The plan for The3thirty Program was introduced to new parish administrator,
Fr. Khoi Phan, who approved the plan and The3thirty Program went into overdrive in order start as soon as possible.
Sunday Sept. 18 marked the beginning of the new 3:30 p.m. Mass. At 3:25 p.m., Fr. Michael could only count fewer than 100 parishioners in attendance. He worried that the new Mass time would not be accepted, and that the youth of the parish would not embrace this new concept.
Thanks to the Lord’s guiding hand, within the next five minutes, 500 additional parishioners streamed through the doors slightly delaying the start time for Mass. The3thirty program was becoming a reality and a resounding success!
Since the first Mass, the total attendance of all weekend Masses at St. Cecilia has risen by 700 parishioners with the average attendance for the new 3:30 p.m. Mass being 600.
This is a sizeable increase from an average of 150 parishioners for the previous 4 p.m. Mass.
The3thirty Mass at St Cecilia is not just a youth Mass. All are invited. Each Sunday is divided into the Mass, followed by 30 minutes of fellowship and socializing in the Hall. Faith Formation takes place on the first and third Sundays. Adoration, the Rosary and other activities fill-in on the alternate Sundays.
When asked for more details on this program, Fr. Michael said, “This program is similar to a dinner. Mass is the main entrée, but everyone at dinner asks, ‘what is for desert?’ Desert is Faith Formation, Fellowship and Community.”
The3thirty Program, Come and Stay!