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Growing our community

Director’s Reflection

Dear Companions on the Journey,

Fellow graduate of the University of St. Michael’s College, Marianist James Heft, issued a report (based mainly on work from the Pew Research Center 2014). He summarized his report with “Seven Facts”:

  1. Catholics are more than 50 million of the U.S. population, but have declined from 24% in 2007 to 21% in 2014 [and lower now].
  2. Catholicism has experienced a greater net loss than any other religious tradition in the U.S.  There are 6.5 former Catholics for every convert.
  3. Catholics are racially and ethnically diverse: 6 in 10 adult Catholics are white and 1 in 3 are Latino.  The Catholic Latino population has been growing.
  4. Catholics are evenly spread throughout the country. Catholics in the Midwest and Northeast have decreased 5% between 2007 and 2014.
  5. Many Catholics want significant change: e.g., allowing priests to marry, women to be ordained, and nearly half want gay marriage recognized.
  6. Catholics are split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
  7. A large majority of Catholics admire Pope Francis, but recently have some discontent.

But Father Heft claims that, from his findings, most of those who leave the Catholic Church are not “gone”:

  1. About 1 in 10 Americans are former Catholics.  Among young adults, half have left the Church; only about 10% return.  Most who leave the Church do so during adolescence and young adulthood.
  2. Except for atheists, most unaffiliated Catholics continue to believe in God and pray.
  3. Disaffiliated Catholics often live on the West Coast, are not married, and if married, are not wed to another Catholic.  The majority of Millennials (born between 1981-1996) raised Catholic typically report that they are now unaffiliated.
  4. Most unaffiliated Catholics agree that churches bring people together, strengthen community, and play an important role in helping the poor and the needy.
  5. Most unaffiliated Catholics think that the Church is too involved in politics, focused on rules, and concerned about money and power.
  6. Most unaffiliated Catholics accept LGBT folks and favor gay marriage.
  7. Weekly Sunday attendance has dropped significantly. In 1955, 75% of Catholics attended weekly Mass; today less than 40%. Of those between 21-29 years of age now, only 25% attend weekly Mass.

More to come.Although the Pastoral Council is still poring through the results of our Roundtable Discussions in early October, I found one theme in many of the reflections:we need to grow our community.

What do you think?

And let us pray for/with one another.
The Paulist Center