Parish life in the United States

Citation: 
The Parish Project. "Parish life in the United States : final report to the Bishops of the United States." Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1983.
Abstract: 

Parish Life in the United States is a full report of The Parish Project; however, a portion of the report reveals some of the preliminary findings of the Notre Dame survey of parishes. Results included information on demographic characteristics, staffing practices, parish activities, and sources of vitality. <p>While the more active parishes were the ones more likely to respond to the Notre Dame questionnaire, return profiles showed an encouraging similarity to actual profiles. In fact, the average difference between the return and actual profiles in descriptors such as region, locale, and parish size was only about one percent. <p>Results reveal that parish size grew during a five year interval, but the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states still retained a majority proportion of all parishes. The average number of Catholics residing in a parish, regardless of its size, was 2,330, with the largest locale being small towns, followed closely by urban parishes. Suburban parishes, third in locale order, still held a ten-percentage point margin over rural and resort parishes. The predominating nationalities of ethnic composition were Irish and German; for a variety of possible reasons, the eighteen percent of Hispanic predominated parishes did not accurately reflect the total number of Hispanic Catholics. In addition, despite a predominately large parish size, only 12.7 percent of parishes reported that they had established any structural subdivision that would aid in promoting a sense of community. <p>Fifty-two percent of U.S. parishes had one full-time priest, twenty-five percent had two, fourteen percent had three, and five percent had more than three; only three percent had no full-time priest. Thirty percent had laypersons in some professional role; while in thirty-eight percent of parishes, religious filled certain non-school ministry roles. Eighty-two percent of priests had been in their present parishes less than ten years, and fifty percent of those had been in residence less than five. The average residency is 6.7 years. <p>Schools were a significant part of parish activity, as were educational programs for children and adults. Religious provided a large contribution to the work and planning for schools and educational programs. Parishes also gave time to liturgical planning and ministry to the sick and elderly, while their councils helped in the planning of such activities. Finally, two main sources of vitality were identified as the involvement of laity in the parish’s activities and the quality of the staff. In conclusion, the report compared these statistics and results with a previous study done on effective parishes and gave further reflection upon the results.

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