Sunday, March 6, 2016

Archdiocese of Milwaukee 15 Year Average Mass Count December 2015

This report is posted at our Archdiocese's website.

Counted Sunday Mass attendance declined from 224,953 in 2001 to 139,626 in 2015. The total decrease was 85,327, or 30%.

The average attendance decrease was about 5,688 per year. If that numerical average rate of decline continues, I calculate attendance will be zero in 2040. The report does not include any demographic breakdown. My subjective impression is Mass attendees are aging along with me, and we'll all be dead or otherwise unable to attend by 2040.

The report shows a 1,326 increase from 2014 to 2015. While that might be that start of a trend, there was a larger increase of 2,146 between 2009 and 2010 which was not. These are the only year-to-year increases since 2001.

Overall membership numbers vary. The hard number is 2014 Status Animarum Membership of 462,503. Kennedy Report 2015 Membership refers, I assume, to The Official Catholic Directory published by P.J. Kenedy & Sons, and shows membership of 568,448. The Archdiocese's report there says "(CARA = 10% Higher)" which I interpret to mean The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimates actual membership at 10% higher than the "Kennedy" figure, or about 625,293.

Mass attendance percentage varies depending on the membership number used. The higher the membership, the lower the attendance percentage.

The CARA estimate is probably the basis for membership numbers currently used publicly by our Archdiocese, such as "over 600,000 Catholics" in the blurb for the 2016 Catholic Stewardship Appeal at the foot of the Bishops page at its website. It wasn't so long ago that the soft number used was 700,000. That's the number that still appears at the Faith In Our Future page at its website.

This May it will be 20 years since I went through "discernment" for Parish Council. The only issue I raised, or "surfaced", was increasing Mass attendance. Our then-pastor was adamantly opposed. If not eye-opening, that was eye-focusing.

(via our current pastor's column in today's bulletin)


P.S. After posting the above, I recalled this 2006 post at my blog about a conference on evangelization at our Archdiocesan headquarters, and on an article on it by Sam "stoic expressions" Lucero. In the post I noted the rate total Church membership in our Archdiocese was then reported to be declining and extrapolated from that rate to zero membership by ... 2040.

25 comments:

  1. Forgive me, Matt, but...

    What exactly is stunning about it?

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    1. A 30% decrease in 15 years. Dolan began in 2002, so these are all post Weakland numbers (yes, I'm aware his staff remains). I would love to see these numbers compared to the national average. And to circle back around, the recent archdiocesan synod has no real plan to address the issue.

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  2. How do the numbers look for the Diocese of LaCrosse? Attendance at Mass in my parish has certainly been dropping over the years.

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    1. Yes, I've seen a steady decrease in my parishes. I've actually been talking to a few people. The numbers aren't published by the diocese, but I've been hoping to obtain them. It's not like they are scientifically taken either. I think it's like one month a year an usher in the back counts?

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  3. I'd like to see that, too, Matt. You're right about the Synod, of course. "Let's keep doing the same stuff, but do it better." That's...not gonna work.

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  4. I believe that the Diocese of LaCrosse counts the attendees at Mass every weekend in either September or October. The people doing the counting are supposed to do an actual count...not just estimate the number of people attending. It should give a pretty good sense of Mass attendance.

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    1. Right, well it gives an idea of September - October. Obviously Christmas has a higher number, but my point is just that statistical analysis is done more rigorous, but yes, like you said, it does give an idea of what the numbers are. These kinds of insights are obviously very important to understand not only which parishes to close or merge, but also population trends, and maybe what that parish may be doing right or wrong.

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  5. Milwaukee archdiocesan leaders either have to recognize the obvious, i.e., that what they've been doing for 40 yrs., (under Weakland, Dolan and Listecki) is failing miserably, and present a clear, bold alternative that represents a clean break from Weakland's ecclesiology. Or they can simply turn a blind eye to the the obvious and forge ahead with wrongheaded solutions that go nowhere and give us the statistics you present here.

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  6. Dim distant memory here is that about 1/3rd of Catholics attend Mass regularly; if that's the case, then ~220,000 Mass-goers correlates with the PJ Kenedy ~600,000 members of the Archdiocese.

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  7. Also interesting: "Milw SE" has a much smaller % decrease than the average, only around 22%. That's the Hispanic area.

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  8. Final thought: see the "priest shortage" essay here: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2016/03/priest-shortage-self-inflicted-wound/

    One wonders if the 1965-date "attendance" numbers are consonant with the "priest" numbers.

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  9. Good work VII, mission accomplished. I bet if I looked at the TLM growth in Wisconsin in the last five years it would look like the same chart turned upside down.
    John

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  10. Often ignored in these Catholic lamentations is simple demographics. In Milwaukee, blacks now outnumber whites (who made up the large majority of Catholics). "White flight" is a decades long demographic reality in the area. And in the entire state during the same period, population growth as a whole has been stagnant/marginal, while at the same time, Hispanic population growth has been 75%+. So what does that tell you? To me, it's simple: the Archdiocese is not reaching out to Hispanics effectively. If it had, you would not have seen such a sharp decline in Mass attendance. Like it or not, that is the demographic reality: the future of the Church in much of the US is Hispanic. The whites aren't having babies and many are leaving the NE and Midwest. Demographics is destiny.

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    1. You are correct. The Church is not reaching Hispanics effectively. That said, what do we mean by "reaching"? Masses in Spanish with mariachi bands aren't necessarily the answer. What about serious catechesis and formation? What about presenting Hispanics with an alternative (that is conspicuously Catholic) to what secular culture is giving them?

      The demographics at Traditional Latin Mass parishes are off the charts. The future of the Church is not to be found in a race or ethnicity, but in an alternative (counter) culture, however small, that offers Catholics, white and hispanic, something other than the status quo that exists at 99% of parishes. Sadly, Hispanics Catholics are being absorbed into a bland, Protestantized Catholic culture in the U.S. that is poor on formation and poor on authentic liturgical life. In that sense, they are not dissimilar to white Catholics.

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    2. Effective ministry to Hispanics begins with the sacraments, starting with the Mass in their language. (The "mariachi" comment is silly. My vicars and I celebrate 8 Spanish Masses each weekend, and our music is decidedly not mariachi.) So what does this mean? It means priests trained in Spanish. Once they are coming to Mass, you baptize their children. Once their children are baptized, they make the parish their home. Once it is home, they get involved in formation and evangelization. Then you teach the children who are baptized and give them First Communion (and so on to Confirmation). We baptize 600+ children each year, and guess how many are still there come First Communion time? 80%+ (and getting better). There are no English parishes that I know of that break 50% (most are far lower than even that - the "cultural catholic" phenomenon is more prevalent among English speakers). And Mass attendance (as a % of self-identified Catholics who go to Mass weekly) for Hispanics is double that of the English.

      But what about language and demographics? All those kids we baptize are being raised in US schools and are perfectly bilingual. The next generation will only be able to speak Spanish to their grandparents. They are being catechized in English. We are slowly moving towards celebrating Mass in Spanish, but preaching in English.

      You are correct that Hispanics are in danger of going over to Protestants, Evangelicals, and Charismatics. Where does that happen? Where there is no effective Catholic sacramental presence in their language.

      Where does the TLM fit into all this? It doesn't. Despite being supported since before Benedict, all the TLM Sunday Masses in our region are lucky to draw a combined 1000 attendees, less than what we draw at one Spanish Mass in my one parish.

      The point? What you imagine is happening at TLM parishes (good liturgy, rich sacramental life, with attention to formation and a supportive parish family environment) is *already happening* on a *much larger scale* in many parishes with effective Hispanic integration. It is not happening in many English parishes for simple demographic reasons: they're not reproducing. Nearby English-only parishes count 20 as a big First Communion class (we had 550 last year).

      I'm sure Milwaukee has some very good Spanish ministries and parishes. What the demographics apparently indicate is that it is not good enough, and they're probably 15-20 years behind the population growth. In my diocese, we identified the need 30 years ago, prepared for it (teaching young priests Spanish), and now Hispanics are half of the Catholic population (<2% 30 years ago), and far fewer of them have gone over to non-Catholic churches than have in other regions of the US.

      Take care of the demographics first and the demographics will take care of you. Who knows, maybe soon, when some of the seminarians coming out of our parish are ordained, we'll have the luxury to add a Spanish-oriented TLM. If, OTOH, the pastor 20 years ago decided to learn Latin instead of Spanish, I'd be pastor now of a small English-only parish in a town full of Hispanic Protestants.

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  11. The Weakland Plan is working........yeaaaaaaa!

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    1. Thank you for again invoking the spectre of "Weakland". Will he be an eternal cause of all problems? What about the thin veneer of Timothy Dolan who was all about himself and getting on to bigger and better things? What about the hardness and iciness of Jerome Listecki who battled in the bankruptcy to vanquish all those who challenge the church because of past sins and crimes done against them? Oh, the statute of limitations...

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  12. Anony 8:33 P:

    'White flight' is not a factor in the stats presented above; in fact, the suburban/exurban attendance-trends are WORSE than the one in SE Milwaukee--which happens to have a large Hispanic cohort.

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  13. Attendance declines began long before the period covered here. It's a nationwide problem.

    I've seen reports of small increases elsewhere which survey responses indicate is due to the appeal of Pope Francis.

    If some dioceses or parishes have found effective ways of increasing attendance, I haven't seen it reported. If you have, please pass them along. Of course, there are dioceses which have dramatically increased ordinations, but that doesn't seem to be enough to convince most bishops to adopt them, as the post by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf which Dad29 (March 7, 2016 at 6:41 PM) linked indicates. So even if there are similar successes in increasing attendance, they might also be rejected.

    If Catholics are leaving the Church in many Latin American countries, and non-Hispanics have been leaving the Church here, I don't see why we should expect Hispanic immigration to make much difference here. Especially not long-term.

    If there are hard numbers on TLM attendance and demographics to indicate it could be a way out of this, I haven't seen them. If you have, please pass them along. The hostility to TLM, though, seems largely a symptom of many clergy and staff regarding the pre-Vatican II Church as a Museum of Trent. It wasn't, as those of us who lived in it remember, but the present Church is often run as a Museum of Vatican II. TLM is seen as a threat to this preferred anachronism.

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  14. Our Parish in Milwaukee (Wauwatosa area) has increased over the last 3 years.....I think due in part to we are no longer "business as usual". The approach to serving the parishioners is more orthodoxy (minus "exclusivity") and less progressive attitude; we're finding it a good approach. I do feel however, we really need to do WITHOUT the happy-clappy approach to music.

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    1. Has the parish published any attendance statistics you could share?

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  15. St. Stanislaus (ICKSP) did publish some of their numbers over the past 8 years.

    http://badgercatholic.blogspot.com/2015/07/summorum-pontificum-turns-eight-today.html

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  16. The path forward is simple, but one few understand. We can no longer operate under the premise of providing a Catholic version of contemporary fads and trends, whether Protestant or secular. Souls are thirsting for a clear alternative; one that is not a form of pandering or compromise, but a counter-cultural option that is distinct and conspicuously Catholic.

    Ever since VII, we've tried watering down our identity in the hope of being more palatable to the world and non-Catholics. (Thank you, Bugnini.) How has that worked out for us? It's been a disaster. One reason among many why TLM parishes are growing is because the parishioners know that what they are experiencing there is authentically Catholic and uninfluenced by the influences of Protestantism and secularism. We should focus on building up these small pockets/communities of true Catholic identity and, from there, we will be in a better position to evangelize because we'll have something clear and undiluted to present to the world.

    We may, as Ratzinger once predicted, become a smaller Church for a long time as a result of this pruning, but it is necessary.

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  17. Effective ministry to Hispanics begins with the sacraments, starting with the Mass in their language.

    Also note TLM Mass attendance in the link above.

    That "Sacraments" reference is a good one. For example, what are the hour(s) of offering THAT Sacrament? At the TLM it's almost continuous on Sunday mornings; at Holy Hill it's the same. Other parishes??

    That post also contained another significant nugget:

    It is not happening in many English parishes for simple demographic reasons: they're not reproducing.

    Shall we re-visit Catholic 101: using artificial birth control is SIN for married couples.

    So how long has it been since THAT was mentioned by your parish priest?

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