Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘DoR Stats and Surveys’

“… the catastrophic failure of modern catechesis”

September 7th, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

A few months ago CARA‘s Mark Gray noted a recent decline in the number of Catholic infant baptisms …

From 1995 to 2004 there was about one Catholic infant baptism for every four births in the United States. This is how Catholicism remains a quarter of the population … But after 2004 the pattern begins to shift with several years of more births (until the recession) and fewer Catholic infant baptisms. In 2011, for the first time since 1946, there were fewer than 800,000 Catholic infant baptisms in the United States.

Gray illustrated the decline with this chart …

2013-02-07 - Gray - CARA

Gray offered two possible interpretations for the trend he observed:

  1. Catholics are just as likely to baptize their children now as in the past but they are having significantly fewer children than non-Catholics. Possible but unlikely.
  2. Catholics are just as likely as non-Catholics to have children but are less likely to baptize these children than in the past. More probable.

So what’s the infant baptism situation in DOR? Data from the OCD[1] and the NY State Department of Health[2] can be combined to produce this chart …

OCD DOR Data-Resized

As the chart indicates, from 1997 through 2003 DOR averaged 5,232 infant baptisms per year, which represented  28.8% of all live births in the diocese during that period. From 2004 through 2011, however, the diocese averaged only 3,227 infant baptisms per year, which represents just 19.5% of all live births in its 12 counties during those same 8 years. (The 2012 DOR infant baptism number is 2,460 – 186 [or 7%] fewer than in 2011 – but NY State has yet to publish county-by-county live birth data for 2012, so the above chart ends, for now,  at 2011.)

Following Gray, it seems unlikely that DOR’s Catholics suddenly began having substantially fewer babies than their non-Catholic peers 8 years ago. Rather, it seems more probable that a significant number (about 38%) of DOR’s new Catholic parents are now less likely to present their infants for baptism than they had been in the relatively recent past.

What Does This Mean For the Future of Catholic Schools?

The number of infant baptisms in any given year is a good indicator[3] of the size of the pool of potential Catholic kindergarteners 5 years later, the number of potential Catholic 1st graders 6 years later, etc., etc. Thus it is possible to use infant baptism data to estimate the maximum number of Catholic children available to our Catholic elementary schools over time.

Here is what that estimate looks like compared with actual registration numbers[4] for the country as a whole …

USA Potential and Actual Catholic K-8 Students, 1981-2017

As the chart shows, the number of K-8 aged Catholic children peaked at 9.27 million in 2005 and has been in decline ever since, while the actual Catholic population of our Catholic schools has been in decline since 1995, when it stood at some 1.78 million.

DOR presents a similar but more disturbing picture[5] …

DOR Potential and Actual Catholic K-8 Students, 1981-2017 copy

Here in DOR the peak in the number of K-8 aged Catholic children came in 1994 when it reached 63,487 and that number has been falling off the cliff ever since (it will reach 28,274 in 2017). Furthermore, the number of Catholic children in our Catholic schools has been in decline since 1996 when it stood at approximately 14,300. In 2012 it was down to about 3,550.

The Catecetical Story at a Glance

Catholic schools are but one of two formal means employed to educate our children in the faith, with the second being Religious Education (RE) programs (referred to as CCD programs in many dioceses). One may estimate the number of Catholic children receiving some kind of formal instruction by adding the enrollment data for Catholics in Catholic schools and that for RE programs. Furthermore, this sum, when compared with infant baptism data, can also provide an estimate of the number of Catholic K-8 aged children receiving no formal education in the faith[6].

Nationally, the data looks like this …

USA K-8 Formal Catechesis, 1981-2012


As can be seen, there has been a slow but steady nationwide increase in both the number and percent of our Catholic children not involved in any formal program of instruction.  For example, from 1981 through 1983 65% of our K-8 aged Catholic children were receiving some kind of formal instruction in the faith (25% in Catholic schools and 40% in RE programs), leaving some 35% formally uncatechized, but by 2010 through 2012 only 46% of our children were in formal programs (14% in Catholic schools and 32% in RE), while 54% were receiving no formal instruction.

Here’s what that data looks like for DOR over the same time period …

DOR K-8 Formal Catechesis, 1981-2012


While the DOR data is somewhat choppier, the overall trend is clear. From 1981 through 1983 we were doing much better than the national averages, with 87% of our K-8 aged Catholic children receiving some kind of formal instruction in the faith (31% in Catholic schools and 56% in RE programs), leaving only 13% formally uncatechized. However, by 2010 through 2012 our numbers had deteriorated to slightly worse than the national averages, with just 42% of our children in formal programs (10% in Catholic schools and 32% in RE) and 58% receiving no formal instruction in the faith.

Sacraments of Initiation

In addition to infant baptismal counts the OCD data also includes totals for first communions and confirmations. The counts for these last two sacraments are mostly for children receiving them at the usual ages, but they do also include people receiving them later in life (e.g., converts). Since over 95% of all baptisms in any given year are infant baptisms, it would be expected that a similar percentage of first communions and confirmations would be made by those who were baptized as infants. In other words, ignoring the numbers of first communions and confirmations made by converts should not lead to significant error.

For the purposes of this analysis it will be assumed that those who were baptized as infants celebrated their first communions at age 6 and their confirmations at age 13.  (This is not universally true but a difference of a year or two won’t affect the results, as the numbers of first communions and confirmations do not vary significantly from year to year.)

With this in mind it becomes possible to estimate how many children born and baptized in any given year go on to receive their first communion and then continue on to be confirmed: All one needs to do is to offset the annual first communion and confirmation numbers on the chart by 6 and 13 years, respectively. When we do this for the national data we see the following …

USA Sacraments of Initiation by Year of Birth, 1990-2012

As the chart shows, there is only a 10-year period (from 1990 to 1999) in which we have baptismal, first communion and confirmation data for the same groups of children. During those 10 years 86% of the children baptized as infants went on to receive their first communions and 61% of them continued on to confirmation.

The data for DOR  looks like this …

DOR Sacraments of Initiation by Year of Birth, 1990-2012

Although the DOR data is choppier than the national data (again), it does show that in those same 10 years 77% of those baptized as infants received their first communions and just 50% of them went on to celebrate confirmation. Both percentages are about 10% lower than the corresponding  national numbers.


Citing a lack of data and being wary of what he termed “common sense” explanations, CARA’s Mark Gray did not want speculate on the precise reasons behind the drop infant baptisms he reported. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that, among the long list of possibilities he does mention, a decades-long failure of catechesis is nowhere to be found.

Fr. Joseph F. Wilson of the Diocese of Brooklyn, however, is not so reticent. Over a decade ago he wrote,

Forty years ago, we dismantled an extremely effective method of catechesis, the handing on of the Faith from generation to generation. We replaced it with coloring books, rap sessions, freethinking, freewheeling and finger painting, and that is NOT an exaggeration. At least two generations of Catholics have grown up almost entirely ignorant of Catholic doctrine, and securely in possession of a do-it-yourself morality.

And a decade before that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger proclaimed,

the catastrophic failure of modern catechesis is all too obvious.

With all due respect to Dr. Gray, the above data would seem to show that decades of abysmal catechesis is one “common sense” explanation that deserves serious consideration.



[1] Official Catholic Directory. Data for a particular year is contained in the following year’s edition. For example, data for 1990 will be found in the 1991 edition of the OCD.

[2] 1997 data may be found here. Data for any year from 1998 through 2011 is available at, where YYYY represents the 4-digit year.

[3] A good indicator, not a perfect one. Some of the reasons are: (1) The reported number of infants baptized will almost certainly include not only those less than one year of age but also slightly older children. (2) Not taken into account is the loss of DOR-baptized children due to their families having moved out of the diocese prior to the children having reached high school age. It would be expected, however, that this loss would be essentially offset by the arrival in the diocese of families with similarly-aged children baptized elsewhere.  (3) Minor baptisms would also increase the pool of potential Catholic K-8 students but they are ignored here for two reasons: (a) no national count of minor baptisms is available from OCD for any year, and (b) DOR did not begin reporting minor baptisms as a separate category until 2008.

[4] The number of K-8 Catholic school students reported by the OCD has been adjusted to reflect the fact that our schools serve non-Catholic as well as Catholic children. Thus the chart shows only Catholic children. Data reported sporadically by the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) makes this adjustment possible. This data shows that the percentage of non-Catholic students has varied almost linearly (R squared = 0.9517) from about 11% in 1981 to 15% in 2011. See chart here.

[5] It is difficult to ascertain the percentage of non-Catholic children enrolled in the DOR Catholic school system. A thorough search of the diocesan website, the Catholic Schools website, the Catholic Courier website and the Catholic Courier online archives has produced no such number for any year. However, there do exist online articles which indicate that, if anything, the percentage of non-Catholics in our schools is higher than the national average.

See, for example, this excerpt from a 1986 article in the Courier Journal, when the nationwide non-Catholic enrollment was 11.5% …

In Monroe County, the average Catholic elementary school serves 16 percent non-Catholics, according to the Urban School Study, which was conducted for the diocese by Taddiken, a consultant for the Center for Governmental Research. In the City of Rochester, however, the average school includes 31 percent non-Catholic students. And the percentage in some individual city schools is as high as 90 percent.

And in 1997, when the nationwide figure was 12.8%, the following comment appeared in the Catholic Courier …

… non-Catholic students make up the majority — from 85 to 90 percent — of the student bodies in Rochester’s inner city Catholic schools, according to Timothy Dwyer, diocesan superintendent of schools. Dwyer added that about 20 percent of the students in schools located in outer Rochester and the suburbs are non-Catholic. In schools outside Monroe County, 10 to 15 percent of the students are non-Catholic, he said, with a lower percentage, 4-5 percent, particularly in rural areas.

Given this, it seems appropriate to apply the NCEA’s non-Catholic student percentages to the number of DOR Catholic school students reported by the OCD. Doing this should, if anything, result in a slight over-estimate of the actual number of Catholic students in our local Catholic schools.

[6] The OCD does not collect data on home-schooled Catholic children. Since they attend neither Catholic schools nor RE programs this analysis will necessarily include them in the formally uncatechized group. However, an estimate from 5 years ago places the size of this group at 80,000 to 100,000 nationally (presumably including high schoolers), or less than 2% of the calculated size of the formally uncatechized group.

Locally, the St. Thomas Aquinas Homeschoolers of the Rochester Area (STAHRA) is an organization which provides “information, experiences, and a supportive community for Catholic families who choose to educate their children at home.” The organization reports a membership of approximately 60 families. Even if one assumes a generous 5  K-8 aged children per family (i.e., 300 children in all), the local Catholic homeschooled children would only represent about 1% of the calculated number of formally uncatechized children in DOR.

It would be difficult to imagine worse

August 20th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

I was pretty busy last week and it wasn’t until the weekend that I had a chance to respond to Ben’s invitation to post my thoughts on our next bishop on the D&C web site.

What follows is a somewhat longer version of my comment (the original did not have bullet points 5 through 10 as they struck me as overkill at the time).

The results of Bishop Clark’s 33 year experiment with progressive Catholicism are in – and they are not pretty:

  • 93 out of 200 (47%) Catholic parishes, missions, stations and chapels closed;
  • 53 out of 78 (68%) Catholic elementary schools closed;
  • 4 out of 9 (44%) Catholic high schools closed;
  • 220 out of 238 (92%) teaching sisters gone;
  • 18 out of 20 (90%) teaching priests gone;
  • 33 out of 33 (100%) teaching brothers gone;
  • 16,130 out of 21,006 (77%) Catholic elementary school students gone;
  • 4,355 out of 7,488 (58%) Catholic high school students gone;
  • 28,323 out of 39,402 (72%) Catholic elementary school religious education students gone;
  • 7,165 out of 8,767 (82%) Catholic high school religious education students gone;
  • Catholic marriages down by 67% (from 2,076 to 689) ;
  • Interfaith (or “mixed”) marriages down by 76% (from 1,321 to 320);
  • Infant baptisms down by 61% (from 6,742 to 2,646);
  • Weekend Mass attendance in free fall (down by over a third in a mere 10 years);
  • 251 out of 341 (74%) active diocesan priests gone (with most of the remainder rapidly approaching retirement age);
  • Vocations to the priesthood down to a barely discernible trickle; and
  • All of this in a diocese that saw its number of registered Catholics drop by 16% while its total population grew by 3% during those same 33 years.

Given these fruits of progressive Catholicism-run-rampant, it would be difficult to imagine that any bishop who made it his business to teach what the Church teaches – no more and no less, who insisted that all diocesan/parish employees – including priests – did the same, and who made it absolutely clear that things like dissent from Church teaching and liturgical “creativity” would not be tolerated – it would be difficult to imagine that such a bishop could do any worse.

Perhaps it’s time to give real Catholicism a chance?

(The Mass attendance data is here. The OCD data is here and here.)

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me–Part XXI–Survey

November 24th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Throughout the pain of the St. Januarians in Naples, when parishioners were refused the right to speak of their concerns at Care of the Community meetings and when Pastor Robert Ring was denying that there were any concerns (let alone valid ones!) about the Sanctuary demolition, the laity continued with what was within their control:

  1. withholding funds that would only be used to damage their church
  2. complaints and petitions to the Bishop (useless)
  3. complaints and petitions to Rome (also useless in spite of Canon Law which is supposed to guarantee their rights)
  4. leaving the church for another Catholic Church (and unfortunately for Protestant churches or NO church)
  5. Newsletters, publicity, and dialogue among parishioners
  6. and SURVEYS to document opinions and damage.


When opinions are disrespected, valid surveys at least refute the denials and do establish truth of parishioners’ opinions.  There were three important surveys, all of which have excellent response rates compared to most consumer surveys (usually less than 5%).

Original Sanctuary

Newsletter Survey 2009:

The first St. Jan’s survey was in November 2009, after Fr. Ring invited parishioners to a so-called “Care of the Community” meeting to discuss issues of concern.  There were 40 parishioners who came and then Fr. Ring refused to let them speak on anything of significance.  Thereafter, and as a result of the muting of parishioners, a survey was done by the Newsletter “It Really Matters” on the key issues, and had a 15.7% response rate.  That survey disclosed that more than half the respondents wanted Fr. Ring and Cris Wensel (DRE) to leave;  it showed 75% opposition to the then-unfolding sanctuary plans, and a strong desire to keep the organ (worth $75,000-$100,000) which Fr. Ring was entertaining to sell for $3,000.

What LaBella Promised

Parishioners’ Survey 2010:

In June 2010, a group of St. Januarius parishioners gathered on their own time and at their own expense to survey all St. Januarians, asking a simple “thumbs up or thumbs down” question on the LaBella plans to demolish the sanctuary and to change forever the people’s worship space.   They offered Fr. Ring, pastor (and Fr. George Wiant, retired) the opportunity  to collaborate with them on the survey.  The pastor turned it down.  The parishioners’ group intensively followed-up for replies (regardless of which side a respondent favored).   Results were reviewed by an outside consultant, and showed 72.8% were opposed to Fr. Ring’s intentions and LaBella’s plans.  The simplicity of the question and the intense follow-up yielded a very high 32.2% response rate.

What LaBella Delivered

Sheepfold Survey 2011:

Finally, now that the unwanted renovation work is completed, yet another group in Our Lady of the Lakes has conducted a Survey of what St. Januarians think of the results.  This survey group is the Sheepfold Steering Committee, organized in 2007 to resist the church closings and amalgamation changes being pushed by Fr. Ring under the guise of  “pastoral planning.”   This group guided the 174 original mandaters to Rome asking for intervention and relief on combining 6 parishes over more than 700 square miles into one (unworkable) parish.  The “Sheepfold” is responsible for this final survey of St. Jan’s registered parishioners and attendees, to ascertain if people have become more accepting of the Sanctuary changes over time, now that they see the results, or if the distaste and criticism remains.  The purpose of this blog post is to present those results obtained by the Sheepfold Steering Committee.  It is excerpted from both the Final Report to participants as well as from the October 2011 edition of the Newsletter “It Really Matters.”  

[Note regarding the last picture above: the shadows from the crucifix seeming to “lurk” in the background were not included in the survey, as it had not been noted in parishioners’ pictures.  However, this is the staged picture on the OLOL website (presumably therefore it is Fr. Ring’s choice to illustrate the results, and shows those shadows of the crucifix caused by the lighting.  (Isn’t an architect supposed to anticpiate such problems?)  The photography is apparently from a stepladder, which forces an alighment of the back edge of the altar to the wrought iron pipe railing, minimizing the  conspicuous wrought iron railings and shadows.]  No pictures were included with the survey.

Description of Sheepfold Survey

This current survey was sent to 227 St. Jan’s households on Oct. 14, 2011, with a 2-week response time, no follow-up, with a return envelope but without postage.  A response rate of 18.9% was received.  There were 17 points regarding the Design Elements which respondents could judge on an A-F scale, and 10 points regarding Project Management and Communications to grade on the same scale.  The survey also had an (ungraded) comment-only section for the 4 elements which had been promised to donors to be accomplished but which were not (repair or replacement of divider screen, immersion baptismal font, face-to-face addition to confessional, and a quiet room for children and families).  Finally, there was an opportunity to set forth the one item of the completed renovation which a respondent would change if possible (most commentary was on either not doing the project at all, or at least not moving the Tabernacle aside).  There were also general comments made on the project, all of which are shown below.


  • The Design Elements were graded as “C-minus.”
  • Project Management/Communications were graded as “D-minus”
  • The overall weighted grade is “D plus” grade.
  • Respondents also had the opportunity to give a numerical grade on a 0-100% numerical scale.  It averaged out to be 37%, well below a failing grade.  The numerical grade of 37%, much poorer even than the consensus letter grade, would seem to indicate that there are other points of objection, pain, anger etc. which were not covered in the points surveyed
  • See also comments in gold below. for the Design Elements (the seven for which the sum of D plus F grades exceeded 50%) and for the two items for which the sum of A plus B grades exceeded 50%.  Other results are shown without comments, to try to shorten this post, but can be supplied to those who are interested.  We show all comments in gold and without correcting respondents’ typos and without trying to explain what they meant.   x2 indicates two respondents from the same household giving same response, counted as 2 votes.

1. Characterization of Respondents:

  • Anonymity:  71% of respondents identified themselves; 29% were anonymous.
  • Attendance: 43% indicated they no longer attend St. Jan’s.  This corresponds closely to the 47% of parishioners lost to St. Jan’s during Fr. Ring’s reign.  A number had left due to the way the sanctuary renovations were being handled.    What was surprising is that those who left still care enough about St. Jan’s to spend time doing a survey, giving their thoughts on the issues, and reflecting their pain.  The 43% of respondents who no longer attend St. Jan’s is made up of 23% who go to another Catholic Church (St. Mary Canandaigua, the VA in Canandaigua, St. Jude, Transfiguration, St. Pat’s and St. Mary Honeoye); 18% who no longer attend any church whatsoever, and the small remainder now at a Protestant church (CrossWinds and St. John Episcopal).   It  is appropriate to include the survey results of those who left since a number had said they would be back when Fr. Ring is gone, and already the attendees have increased about 10% under the new pastor in just two months.  From a practical point of view, there would be no way to distinguish who has left and who has not left for the purposes of an even-handed survey mailing.
  • Years of attending St. Jan’s:  Av: 28 yrs.  Range: 6 – 76 yrs.

Comments on no longer attending St. Jan’s:

  • We left because of the leaderships lack of caring and wrong priorities.
  • When I go!  Use to go every morning during the week
  • I do go back to St. J’s from time to time and are still registered there
  • I still go, but not as often or not at all
  • I go when it is impossible to get north to Canandaigua.
  • Catholic church was not honest about Father Emo. Said he had a nervous breakdown.
  • it became unpleasant to go there.

2. Shift in Opinions after Project Completion:

The Sheepfold Survey tried to assess shift in attitudes since project completion.  Of those who responded, 76% state that they do not like the results.  Several have refused to return to view the results.  The percentage is statistically unchanged since the project was first disclosed (2009).

Donors’ vs. Non-Donors’ Opinions:  The resistance of 3/4 of parishioners shows up again with those who donated (25% of respondents) and those who didn’t  (75%).  The results below separate donor’s opinions of the opinions of  non-donors for ease of reading and identifying the issues.  What is interesting is that 60% of those who donated now report they don’t like the results or don’t like something about the results.  Among non-donors, 10% now report that they like the results.

  • Donors’ Opinions and comments:  
  • We need a united parish community in the beautiful area and, at the time, we thought we should support the project.
  • The amount of work planned for originally, and what was ultimately done / completed, did not give good value on the $ spent.
  • Lighting is an improvement, the overall appearance not as good. Some parishioners, for the most part, were deceived. (x2)
  • The Sanctuary look much cleaner, more cohesive.  There is much more room in the sacristy
  • looks like a stage setting. Act I Scene II
  • Excellent job.
  • the workmanship is beautiful, but it looks out of place.
  • I’m OK with the changes made — although didn’t think they were necessary. Upset about the apparently false impression about the financing of the project.
  • Lesser amount when told true story of Wegman family and their donation.


  • Non-donors’ opinions and comments:  
  • Wood backdrop not attractive — rather view a tabernacle
  • Better before
  • A “catholic” looking ornate and beautiful environment now is drab, plain, non inspiring and “protestant” looking
  • It now looks, more protestant …
  • it is lob sided. It covers up the beautiful church it was
  • It isn’t a case of liking or disliking. It’s a case of deceit and wasting money that could be used for the needy.
  • There was no need for a renovation. The deceit that has gone on in this church is beyond reproach!
  • I know a person who donated but said it had to be for something outside the sanctuary!
  • I was terribly disappointed to see our beautiful altar go.
  • Why?  But we are again back to our church — our place of worship
  • It was not needed. It has changed the atmosphere making it a cold rather than warm as a church should be.
  • I love Mary and Joseph statues, the chorus area is wonderful, love the file cabinets off the altar.
  • Hate how low everything is can’t see anything not even the song numbers.
  • At this point it does not matter — it’s a done deal — time to move on! It’s over
  • I feel this project was clearly pushed through by Pastor Ring, Bishop Clark and a select few parishioners — St. J’s first survey proves this.
  • I like the open
  • Did not like the dishonesty in how the project was handled.  We probably should have put on a new roof for that amount of money.
  • Now we have made the church “pretty” — I find it more difficult to ignore all that blond wood and concentrate on theMass.
  • I find it not conducive to meditating — too bright, too distracting.
  • waste of money — better spent somewhere needed
  • Place looks more sanitized — not holy!
  • It’s horrible design work. There is no flow of religious spirit — they are blocked out!

3. Design Elements and Commentary:

There were 17 elements of the Sanctuary design for which respondents were invited to grade A, B, C, D or F.  The following percentages indicate the combined D plus F ratings.  The ratings are shown in descending order from worst to best of all those which had a 50% response or greater for the sum of D and F ratings:

Seven criticisms garnering D plus F votes in excess of 50% (sum of A+B votes shown after each topic):

73% =D+F     Removal of the stone “shrines”  (A+B= 17%)

  • that was wrong. I liked them.
  • that was part of the church’s charm
  • too bad
  • never cared for them
  • I loved them — sad they’re gone
  • they were pretty bad (x2)
  • they were unique
  • miss them (x2)
  • they were ok
  • they were beautiful

71% = D+F    Moving Tabernacle from center to the side (A+B=13%)

  • promotes fuller understanding of Eucharist
  • front & center is and was better
  • dumb
  • not needed
  • needs to be in center
  • It should be front and center — raised
  • less prominent
  • It ought to be central (x2)
  • disrespectful!

67%=D+F      Position of keyboard and other choir elements   (A+B=20%)

  • couldn’t see them at all
  • cannot see them
  • did not notice
  • not part of church/ isolated
  • okay glad no more metal cabinets
  • looks like we’re hiding them. Why? (x2)
  • hidden (x2)
  • organist can’t see priest

62%=D+F    Wooden table and backdrop for Tabernacle  (A+B=17%) 

  • if backdrop is curved, why is that table square?
  • our original was beautiful
  • not needed
  • lopsided arrangement
  • grotto was nicer
  • misplaced (x2)
  • doesn’t match other side
  • table — A / backdrop — C Wish it echoed the curved wall

57% = D+F    Wrought iron railings (A+B=33%)

  • again very distracting
  • don’t need it
  • could have been wood to blend         
  • awful! Breaks up appearance (x2)
  • who uses these?
  • don’t match wood
  • too harsh. Use wood

53% =D+F    Wooden curved wall behind the altar  (A+B=25%)

  • different shades of wood, some almost white to dark brown.  I find that the backdrop of wood is more distracting because it is different shades of wood colors & I find my eyes following a strip of wood from top to bottom
  • Awful —— no feeling of warmth & caring — cold!
  • Not Pretty
  • not needed
  • it looks detached / out of place
  • pretty
  • separates me from natural ambience of church
  • but I don’t like it (x2)
  • Hides organ / looks like shooting star

53% =D+F    Crucifix atop the wooden curved wall.  (A+B=25%)

  • liked the risen Christ better
  • the original inspired me
  • I miss my beloved statue of Jesus       
  • Great! The flying Jesus is gone! (x2)
  • miss the suspended one (x2)
  • At least it’s still there
  • Where is the “Risen Christ”?
  • hides organ
  • could have been bigger, not proportionate

There were two accomplishments achieved by the sanctuary design, as evidenced by the combined A and B grades exceeding 50%.  (The percentage shown represents the sum of A and B grades; the sum of D+F is shown after the item.)

  55%=A+B        Extra space in front for wheelchairs     D+F=16%

  • Good
  • did not notice
  • okay
  • Love this!
  • who uses this space?
  • OK (x2)
  • Needed
  • All this for one or two wheelchairs.? disabled

55%=A+B    Lighting in the Church (nave)   (D+F= 22%)

  • OK
  • now very bright in church
  • Excellent
  • needed new lights
  • great improvement
  • Brighter — like the old
  • need reostat  to turn down as needed (x2)
  • too bright
  • more is better

Other Design Elements Rated: 

The following 5 items were also reviewed and received more D+F votes than A+B votes.  Comments are not shown below, to minimize size of this post.  The percentages shown on the left are the percentage of votes receiving a D or F, and percentage on the right is A+B.

  1. 48% Ramp installed from the nave to the sanctuary floor  26%
  2. 48% Installation of Mary and Joseph statues from St. Mary Rushville  22%
  3. 46% Positioning of the organ and its pipes  18%
  4. 45% Lowering of the altar to two steps above the nave (main floor)  23%
  5. 38% Raising the sanctuary floor from 1 to 2 steps above the nave  23%

Similarly, the following 3 elements of design garnered more A+B votes than D+E votes.  The percentage on the left  refers to the percent of A plus B votes combined and on the right to the percentage of D+F votes:

  1. 42% Lighting in the Sanctuary  (17%)
  2. 40% Carpeting in the Sanctuary (14%)
  3. 38% Ambo (pulpit) raised from one to 2 steps above nave.  (24%)

 Overall Grade:  this section on Design Elements received 66 “A” votes, 83 “B” votes, 126 “C” votes, 79 “D” votes and 149 “F” votes, for 503 votes cast in this section.  If we use the grading system of A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1 and F=O  then the composite grade for this Design Elements Section is C minus. 

Those who made donations gave this Design Elements section a composite grade of C and those who reported they did not donate gave this section a composite grade of D+.  Those who gave their names gave the design section a composite grade of D+ and those who answered anonymously gave this section a composite grade of C.

4. Project Management and Communications: 

There were 13 “A” votes, 24 “B” votes, 34 “C” votes, 25 “D” votes and 141 “F” votes, for 237 votes cast in this section. The overall grade for project management and communications was a D minus, which is an “F” in many schools.

The following all had the D + F grade total in excess of 50%, in descending order, with the most negative ratings first:  (The combined D+F grade is shown on the left; the combined A+B grade is shown on the right)

91% Communications from the Diocese of Rochester   (4.5%)

90% Communications from LaBella Architects    (10%)

86% Disclosure of Financial Elements of the project (11%)

83% Communications  from Sanctuary Steering Committee  (9%)

77% Communications from Pastor, staff, OLOL Council  (11%)

76% Information in OLOL bulletins (24%)

74% Information from newsletters, Naples Record, other  (17%)

70% Overall effectiveness of project planning and execution  (7%)

52% Issuing of time table and adhering to it or not  (13%)

In the Project Management and Communications Section (no item received A+B votes as more than 50% of the votes cast) but there were more A+B votes (43%) than D + F votes (17%) for:

“Handling of Masses during the construction period”

The composite grade for this Project Management and Communications section is D-minus. 

Those who were donors gave this section a composite grade of D+ and those who reported they did not donate gave this section a composite grade of D-.  Those who gave their names gave this section a composite grade of D- and those who answered anonymously gave this section a composite grade of D+.  Again, whether someone donated or not, or answered anonymously or not, the grades for communications and project management were quite devastating.

It is somewhat surprising that in spite of the divisiveness of the sanctuary project, there is not a bipolar distribution of data (e.g. with donors all clustered around a grade of  “A” and non-donors around a grade of “F.”)  Rather, even among the divided there seems to be a consensus that the results were poor, and an attempt to be fair in evaluation.

5. If you could change one thing about the renovation, what would it be?

  • Put the tabernacle in center and “secure it.”
  • put the tabernacle back in the center.
  • Jesus (God) is the reason for the Mass and should be right up front.
  • should not have done
  • The area where the musicians sit should be camouflaged / made nicer — it looks too stark and bare
  • I liked it the way it was with no changes
  • not have it done in first place. No warmth.
  • move the tabernacle back to the center
  • get rid of the curved wall
  • have waited
  • raise everything up and put my statue of Jesus above us again
  • leave the sanctuary as it was!
  • Move the tabernacle back to center
  • return the altar to its original state
  • removed wood walls sound system problems of late (x2)
  • to have not done it at all or to have addressed the real issues regarding the structure
  • Get rid of the black iron pipe railings — wasn’t there anyone with interior design credentials involved? (x2)
  • take the wall down they put up and put the tabernacle back up
  • respond to will of the parishioners (x2)
  • Phase II should have been first
  • Phase II was all that was necessary
  • remove wooden Xmas tree
  • wish tabernacle wall was curved
  • In this financial crisis, all that money should’ve gone to helping community members in need. St. Januarius church has acted wastefully, selfishly and materialistically.

6. Letters/Notes Accompanying Surveys:

 The impact on souls is not just a matter of numbers.  Some expressed themselves eloquently in the side notes or margin comments they included.  Some struggled to express what they meant.  Some filled out the questionnaire; some did not.  Here are all the additional opinions expressed:

  • What has happened to the Catholic Church helping out in the Naples Community — Trinity Federated is doing more for the community and has much fewer parish-ioners — we should be ashamed to have done this unnecessary renovation when people in our town are going hungry and in need of heat, clothing and food. Shame-shame on us.
  • I ask Fr. Bob — he said he had nothing to do with renovation.  Ask Mrs. Clutes.  She said don’t ask her.
  • Have never entered St. Jan’s since all the turmoil began so we’re unable to comment except to say we regret we never were allowed the opportunity to keep the wooden rails donated in [my wife’s] parents’ memory.
  • Sad, sad lack of compassion on the part of spiritual leaders. We chose not to donate — did not believe in this project and therefore were ignored.
  • There are people starving in Naples. The Trinity Federated is involved in the Angel Ministry. They are doing a back pack lunch program in the schools. We don’t take the lead — never!  What is the church about — Buildings not people.
  • Totally unnecessary — but what is done is done.  Too bad the wasted money could not have been used where needed.
  • The renovation was the least thing needed by our wounded community. The clergy elected to make taking care of their own wants a priority. In my years of employment, I spent 50 – 60 hours per week at my desk. My office was painted once. A given priest might spend 3 hours per week using this “enhanced?” environment. I am embarrassed to try and defend the reasons why the much loved old sanctuary was changed to the drab thing it is now. The Naples folks of other faiths can’t understand why such a beautiful sanctuary was changed. They have known about our troubles! (Long before the Naples Record articles.) My children and grandchildren have questions I cannot answer. How sad!   P.S. I know few (very) folks who like the new sanctuary.
  • I am returning your “last survey”. I refuse to be apart of dragging this renovation out forever. How many “NO’s” do you need to give it up? [Personal attack portion of this letter deleted.]
  • A HUGE MESS — It was frustrating to feel like my opinions / our opinions were not even heard. The project was forced and inconsiderate with too many opposed. It should not have been rushed.
  • I went to S_ [funeral]   Mass. Sat in the hall. Couldn’t hear. Speaker was not working. Most of the time I saw the back of somebodys head. Only thing I liked was the new lights.
  • Why did they have to break something that wasn’t broken and didn’t need fixing anyhow.  The curved backdrop and the squared off tabernacle are architecturally off and dumb. And for all the talk about different shades of wood before, well look at it now (before the woods –railings, altar, etc. were all separated by the space between them) now the backdrop is several different shades and they are all together in the backdrop — so who’s kidding who??
  • Because we no longer are able to attend St. Jan’s because of the hostile atmosphere caused by Beigel et al (actual threats) we have not seen the changes.
  • For 63 of my 65 years I was a faithful and contributing Catholic: parish council, Board of Education, CCD teacher, fund raiser, usher. A significant part of my life is gone because of Ring & Beigel.  Why is there no outreach to all those who left?
  • Turn on the heat.  God bless of Church.  Get rid of Cris Wensel.  The outside of the house and church need to be fixed up!  Have the church unlocked a half hour before the Mass!!!
  • Sheepfold:  You are beating a dead horse. The church renovations are complete. Let us put the past behind us and support our new pastor. I am sure we will see improvements in our parish, St. Januarius and in Our Lady of the Lakes Cluster in the next 2-3 years. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide our new pastor in his duties in our Cluster.
  • It should have been totally left as it was before.
  • We were given no accounting of the amount of money collected for this project or for what it cost.
  • This (communications) was done through Pastor, staff, OLOL council, Sanctuary Steering Committee and LaBella Architects.
  • Why can’t we be happy?
  • Re: Sheepfold Steering Committee: Why? Who? What will they do, re-do the re-do?
  • Overall: A Design is cleaner, fresher, brighter [omitted] Question #4: Overall: A  Meetings were held — steps explained.
  • Re question 4: Project management.  ONE BIG MESS!
  • I do not think the renovations were done in aesthetic good taste.  Who decided on the new design?  Parishioners should have had a say / vote!
  • I no longer feel connected to the church I grew up in. (I’d have a hard time setting foot in there again)
  •  I can’t support the motives of the church.

Thank you for your interest in the story of St. Januarius Sanctuary, the treatment of parishioners and donors, and an “after-the-fact” survey of St. Januarians.  If you’d like to register your own opinion of the survey results, here is an opportunity:

Your Own Survey!

Those who have considered the opinions of the people who have lived through and are living with the third picture shown above (the renovated sanctuary shown next to “The Sheepfold” Survey) and would like to express their own opinions are welcome to do so, either in a reply post here, or by emailing your opinions to to the following abbreviated Design Element questions:  (Please use a grade of A, B, C, D or F so that we can compare results).

1. The curved wooden wall behind the altar: 

2. Lowering the altar by 2 steps

3. The crucifix atop the wooden wall

4. Ramp and its wrought iron railings

5. Moving the Tabernacle from the center to a side table

6. Appearance of the Tabernacle table

7. Positioning of music and choir elements

Other Comments:



Church weddings (and baptisms) in decline

July 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

News Tribune, a North Central Illinois newspaper, has posted a report on a local trend away from church weddings. The story includes this analysis …

Among the reasons why civil weddings have grown in popularity:

  • Flexibility: Churches may restrict not only the venue but other elements such as music selection and personalized vows
  • Brevity: Civil weddings can be concluded in minutes
  • Participation: Guests may be more likely to witness the exchange of vows at a non-religious ceremony held at the same site as the reception
  • Interfaith marriages: Couples of differing faiths may prefer to bypass required pre-marital counseling or religious instruction.

With regard to its local Catholic Church the report says,

One denomination that does track marriage numbers regionally is the Roman Catholic Church. In the 26-county Diocese of Peoria, the number of church weddings has fallen 27 percent since 2000 — from 923 weddings performed in 2000 to 672 in 2010  — according to the Official Catholic Directory.

The Rev. William Gardner, pastor of St. Valentine and St. Mary churches in Peru, said he wasn’t surprised by the trend.

Gardner said he’s observed a growing shift toward secular ceremonies and attributes it to a societal change: Marriage is viewed more as “a partnership of life and love,” he said, and less as a solemn institution for raising children.

By way of context, the number of Catholic church weddings nationwide declined 33% from 2000 to 2010.

Here in DOR the story is even worse. The 2000 OCD reports 1,962 local Catholic marriages while the 2010 edition shows 1,049, for a drop of some 47% in just 10 years.

Given that trend it is not too surprising that DOR’s number of infant baptisms is also in sharp decline, falling 44% (from 4,637 to 2,579) over the same time period. (The nationwide drop was 16% over those same 10 years.)

Decades of “Jesus loves you – don’t litter” catechesis would seem to be having their predictable effect.

UPDATE: Mark Gray of CARA has also addressed the subject of the declining number of Catholic marriages.  See here.

DOR loses 1/3 of its Mass goers in 10 years

February 28th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

71,901 souls were attending Mass in parish churches in the Diocese of Rochester last year, down from 75,376 in 2009 and 108,000 in 2000. This represents a one-year drop in parish Mass attendance of some 4.6% and a 33.4% drop in a mere decade.  Put another way, we have been losing  an average of 4.0% of our parish Mass attendees each year for the last 10 years.

DOR’s Average October Attendance numbers since 2000 look like this …

Plotted on a graph the numbers show a steady decline that gives no indication of slowing down (the uptick in 2001 is almost certainly due to the widely reported national surge in church attendance in the weeks immediately following the tragic events of 9/11/2001) …

Nationwide, Mass attendance is about 35%. In the Diocese of Rochester, noted for its widespread liturgical abuse and dissent from Church teaching, Mass attendance is now running at 23%.  Contrast this with the 62% Mass attendance rate in the Diocese of Lincoln, known for its fidelity to Rome.

“By their fruits you will know them.” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 7:20

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.

Sisters in decline

January 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

On January 1, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Sister Anita Kurowski made her first profession of vows as a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  The ceremony, which marked the completion of the novitiate phase of Sister Anita’s  formation, took place at Our Holy Family Chapel in Rochester.  More details may be found here and here.

It struck me that the welcoming of novices or the profession of vows are infrequent events, not only for the Sisters of St. Joseph but also for DOR’s other larger order of religious women, the Sisters of Mercy, and this got me wondering how well the membership of these two groups is holding up.

Below is a graph showing the “Total in Community” (TiC) for each order, as reported by the Official Catholic Directory for the years 1997 through 2010.

There are two sets of data for the Sisters of Mercy (the red and yellow lines), due to a consolidation undergone by that order in 2008.  The bottom (yellow) line shows the TiC data for the Sisters of Mercy in Rochester from 1997 through 2007.  Starting in 2008 the Rochester community was consolidated into a larger group along communities located in Buffalo, Erie and Pittsburgh. (The Buffalo community also includes a community located in the Philippines.) Therefore the top (red) line shows the sums of the TiC numbers for those four congregations from 1997 through 2007, along with the TiC numbers for the consolidated congregation from 2008 through 2010.

The data shows that the membership of the Rochester Sisters of St. Joseph has been declining by about 3.5% per year over the 13 year period, while the Rochester contingent of the Sisters of Mercy was showing a 2.1% annual decline through 2007 and the consolidated New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific and West R.S.M. congregation has been losing members at the rate of 3.2% per year over the entire period.

These trends definitely do not bode well for the long term future of either organization.

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?

We’re winning! … er, better make that, We’re losing!

September 21st, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

Rich Leonardi is blogging about an article in Sunday’s Cincinnati Enquirer detailing the decline in weekend Mass attendance in both the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Diocese of Covington, just across the Ohio River in Kentucky.

… bishops and priests recognize the trend is headed in the wrong direction. Mass attendance fell by about 41,000 in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in the past decade and by about 7,000 in the Diocese of Covington – a drop of almost 20 percent for each diocese.

Well, Rich, the Diocese of Rochester will see your 20% and raise you another 10.

In the 10 years ending in 2009 DOR’s Average October Attendance at parish churches has fallen by over 30% (30.2%, to be precise).**

One Cincinnati reader gave her diagnosis of the problem in this LTE:

Regarding the article … on the declining attendance at Catholic schools and parishes, I think it can be attributed to a post-Vatican II failure of Catholic education of both children and adults, leaving them ignorant of the faith and susceptible to being misled by people twisting Vatican II teachings to their own wishes. Catholics given a high-carb and, in some cases, junk-food education, having missed out on the meat and potatoes and fruits and vegetables, will end up stunted “cafeteria Catholics.” I think that many of our Catholic educational institutions, while not in academic emergency, are in catechistic emergency.

I cannot say for certain how true that is for the Cincinnati area, but it is spot on for the Diocese of Rochester.


**[To be perfectly fair, in 2008 DOR began collecting October Mass attendance numbers from such non-parish locations as prisons, nursing homes, campus chapels, monasteries, senior living centers, migrant ministries and motherhouses and that data does show a significant number of Catholics to be attending weekend Mass at such sites (3,853 in 2008 and 5,313 last year).  This data, however, does not exist for the years prior to 2008 and so, in the interest of comparing apples with apples, the recent, non-parish data has not been included in the above 10-year chart.]