I know some people don’t care too much about numbers and statistics, they can sometimes quote the Old Testament where David was punished by God for counting the number of their people, but others find them very interesting and sometimes useful. For those who find them interesting I am passing on some information from the Archdiocesan Office of Pastoral Planning. Every year since 2011 every parish in the Archdiocese has been asked to count the number of people at Mass for four consecutive Sundays in October to get an idea of how many people are in our pews. Now I’m sure there are a lot of variables involved with how different parishes have done it and other concerns regarding the accuracy and everything from weather to football games that can affect individual data points, but here are just some of the overall numbers.
This change correlates to national trends that have been reported by groups such as CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate), the NORC (National Opinion Research Center) and by the Gallup organization.
While this also isn’t the most encouraging information, it does show that our numbers in St. Louis correlate well with the national numbers. One other piece of information the Archdiocese reported with this was how full our pews are for various Sunday Mass times, as follows:
So what does all this mean? The most basic conclusions (other than that many like to sleep in on Sundays) are Catholics are not attending Mass as frequently as they used to, even though we do have space in the pews for them. There could be, and probably are, numerous different reasons. The two general ones I can think of are that not as many consider it as important to attend Sunday Mass as they used to, and second, that they have other alternatives on Sunday mornings (work, sports, stores, entertainment) that just weren’t there as much in the past.
So what do we do? Well if you are reading this you most likely were at church, so I will just encourage you to continue to do so, hopefully recognizing why you are making this choice, this commitment in your life. That we value our relationship with God in this community of the Catholic Church and the sacraments God offers. That we do this because we believe God asks us to, that God tells us it is good for us, but also because we have recognized the graces God has given us in this and other ways and we love God and know that God loves us. If we are aware of why we have made this choice in our lives hopefully we can more effectively invite and encourage it in others.