Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘CARA’

The class of 2011

April 27th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has released the results of its annual survey of candidates for ordination to the priesthood.  The Class of 2011 includes 480 members, 329 (69%) of whom participated in the survey. Of those 329, 275 are scheduled for ordination as priests for 128 different dioceses and archdioceses, with the remaining 54 anticipating ordination as members of religious orders.

Some of CARA’s findings include …

  • The average age of ordinands for the Class of 2011 is 34. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 31.
  • 8% are converts.
  • 82% report that both of their parents are Catholic.
  • 34% have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
  • 53% come from families of four or more children.
  • 47% attended a Catholic elementary school, 39% attended a Catholic high school and 39% attended a Catholic college.
  • 70% reported praying the Rosary regularly and 65% reported regular participation in Eucharistic adoration.

The same two figures that caught my attention last year continue to seem noteworthy:  About half of the potential ordinands come from large families and about half of them attended Catholic elementary schools.  As I wrote then,

Large Catholic families and Catholic schools continue to be seedbeds of vocations (see here and here for similar results from another survey). It’s too bad we don’t have very many of either in DOR.

Also of interest is the fact that 12% of the diocesan ordinands report that they had lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained less than a year before they entered the seminary.  Last year this number was 10%, while in 2009 it was 17% and in 2008 it was 16%.  CARA does not speculate as to the reasons for this phenomena or its apparent decline the last two years. It is, however, an open secret that many orthodox men who were raised in a “progressive” diocese like DOR and who have felt a call to the priesthood, have found it necessary to seek ordination elsewhere (see here).  In other words, DOR’s “priest shortage” is, in part, a self-inflicted wound.

Full CARA report here.

Lexington Diocese leads in Catholics per ordinand

February 20th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

From, the web site of the Office of Vocations of the Diocese of Lexington …

Lexington, KY ranks at the top of the list in Catholics per Ordinand. The results are for the three ordination years of 2007-2009. Lexington ordained 7 priests, with a total of 46,798 Catholics in 2009, making it 6,685 Catholics per Ordinand. The nationwide numbers were; 1,411 priests ordained, with 65,611,808 Catholics in 2009, making it an average of 46,500 Catholics per Ordinand.

The data is from the Winter 2011 CARA Report (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) from Georgetown University, which also published this table of  of the top 20 dioceses, as determined by their Ordinand-to-Catholic ratios.

CARA also reported on the top 20 dioceses (actually, due to a tie, the top 21) in total ordinations over the last 3 years for which data is available.

The report goes on to add …

CARA has compared the results of the five top-20 priest-to-parishioner comparisons for ordination years 1993–1995, 1997–1999, 2000–2002, 2003–2006, and now 2007–2009. Only 26 dioceses placed in the top 20 two or more times. In summary:

• Only the Diocese of Lincoln was in the top 20 all five times [Why am I not surprised?]
• Four dioceses were listed four times: Bismarck, Fargo, Peoria, and Wichita
• Nine were on the list three times: Alexandria, Atlanta, Birmingham, Knoxville, Omaha, Savannah, Sioux Falls, Tyler, and Yakima
• And 12 were listed twice: Charleston, Charlotte, Covington, Duluth, Gaylord, Mobile, Owensboro, Pensacola-Tallahassee, Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Steubenville, Tulsa, and Wheeling-Charleston

At the other extreme, for the three years 2007-2009, 11 dioceses with a total of almost 1,350,000 Catholics had no ordinations, and another 13 dioceses with almost 1,360,000 Catholics had only one.

On a local note, the Diocese of Rochester with its 309,773 Catholics had 4 ordinations during 2007-2009, which works out to 77,443 Catholics per Ordinand, as compared with the national average of 46,500.

Update: Rich Leonardi provides us with some of the history behind the Diocese of Lexington’s success story.  See here.

A different slice of the pie

December 16th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

I recently called your attention to an article by CARA’s Mark Gray on the interpretation of statistics related to the U.S. Catholic population and Mass attendance. It began with this intriguing line,

Are you Catholic and in need of something to be thankful for this year? The Catholic Church in America is growing and may be primed to grow significantly in the next few decades.

Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington has also read that article and has come up with his own take on the numbers.  For instance,

In the early 1950s there were about 35 million Catholics in the US. Today there are are over 75 million. This number however does not distinguish between practicing and non practicing Catholics. It is estimated that just over 80% of Catholics attended Mass each Sunday in the 1950s. Today it is estimated that about 25% of Catholics go each Sunday. That means that in the early 1950s about 28 million Catholics were in Church each Sunday. Today that number, even with a growing Catholic population, has dropped to 19.2 million. In other words, almost 9 million fewer Catholics are in Church now as compared to the 1950s.

Msgr. Pope’s conclusions are worth pondering – and praying over.

In the end, I find looking at the CARA analysis helpful in distinguishing the true problem. The overall number of Catholics is, in fact rising. However the critical factor seems to be that Mass attendance has dropped dramatically since the 1950s, from over 80% to around 20-25% now. This indicates a very critical condition indeed. Tell me any organization in which 80% of its members were inactive that you would call healthy. Our condition is critical. It is helpful to know that we seem to have stabilized at this number. That is, we haven’t gone lower in over ten years. However I am concerned that the 25% number is soft and wonder if it will be stable for long. Rampant secularism, the moral malaise of many, a hostile culture etc. all stand to likely erode that number even further…

In the end, the greatest tragedy is not the numbers per se but the fact that almost 80% of our Catholic brothers and sisters are away from the sacraments, away from the medicine they need, and not having the gospel preached to them. These 80% live in a poisonous culture wherein their mind will increasingly darken without the help of the Sacraments and the Word of God. This is tragic and if we have any real love for them we will not rest until they are restored to God’s house. God asked Cain one day, “Where’s your brother?” And God still asks this of us. We may protest that we have murdered no one. And yet, many of them will die spiritually if we remain indifferent. “Where is your brother?…Where?”

Msgr. Pope’s full article is here.

Documenting the decline

October 29th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

Within the last year or so the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has added a “research blog” to its web site.  This new feature, dubbed Nineteen Sixty-four, appears to be a repository for relatively short, statistics-based articles (some of which even seem to stray just a tad from the objective professionalism of the classic CARA report – see here, for example).

One of the blog’s more disturbing entries, however, is classic CARA Catholic statistics and analysis.  In There will likely be fewer Catholic baptisms and marriages next year… again CARA points out that the absolute numbers of both Catholic marriages and baptisms have been falling since 2001.  While the rates (i.e., numbers per 1,000 Catholics) of the celebration of these two sacraments have been in overall decline for decades, the increase in U.S. Catholic population, primarily due to immigration, had been large enough to keep the total numbers rising until 9 years ago.

While the ongoing decline in the number of Catholic marriages is disconcerting, the drop in the total number of baptisms could mean even more trouble ahead for our nation’s Catholic schools.

… it is… of great concern that the absolute number of Catholic infant baptisms continues to dip annually. For example, the number of baptisms, when projected five years into the future, is correlated with entry-level Catholic school enrollment. If baptisms are falling, most likely enrollments will fall at the same pace. Are fewer Catholics choosing to baptize their children? Or are Catholics just having fewer children, as the national trend indicates?  The answer to these questions implies very different potential responses.

CARA then goes on to answer its own question.

The data indicate that almost all self-identified Catholics having children are baptizing those children (most within a year of birth and some in later childhood years). In 2009, the crude birth rate for the United States was 13.8 per 1,000 population whereas the crude Catholic baptism rate was 12.7 per 1,000 Catholics. Historically, these two rates are strongly correlated (R=.984). Most of the decline in Catholic baptisms is attributable to the decline in birth rates from the Baby Boom peak years.

Translation: U.S. Catholics, like the rest of the nation, have been having fewer kids but, by and large, those kids have been getting baptized.

The DOR Story

So how is this story playing out in the Diocese of Rochester?  Well, as the following chart shows, the rate of Catholic marriages in DOR has been running slightly higher (the average is 1.5 units higher) than the national rate, at least for the last 30+ years. (This data comes from my collection of Official Catholic Directories, which only dates back to 1977.  We are therefore looking at the equivalent of the right half of the CARA chart, above.)

The rate of baptisms, however, seems to be a story with two chapters.  In the first chapter, which runs from 1977 to 2004, DOR’s baptismal rate tracked the national rate quite closely, averaging just 0.2 units less than that rate over those 25 years. But in the second chapter, which started in 2005 and is still ongoing today, DOR’s baptismal rate has been showing a marked departure from the national rate.  Indeed, in the last 6 years we have been baptizing infants at a rate that has averaged 3.0 units lower than the national rate.

(By the way, there is no reason to believe that the actual birth rate among local Catholics has collapsed in the last 6 years. While specifically Catholic data is not available, NY State Health Department data shows that the average live birth rate in the 12 counties comprising DOR was 11.5 births per 1,000 residents from 2000 through 2004 and 11.3 per 1,000 from 2005 through 2008.)

So what does this mean for our local Catholic schools?  Well, if our baptismal rate had continued to run about 0.2 units less than the national rate over the last 6 years (as it had done from 1977 to 2004), we would have baptized approximately 26,120 infants since 2005.  However, the actual number of baptisms recorded during that period was 20,646, an average of 912 fewer per year.

Put another way, in the last 6 years DOR’s pool of potential future Catholic 1st graders has become about 20% smaller.

The obvious question is: Why?