I think many of us have read about the trends of religious affiliation and practice in the United States. Surveys conducted by Gallup, Pew Research Center, and others have uncovered some rather sobering trends. Research shows “the rise of the nones,” those who, when queried about their religious affiliation, say “none.” It appears that between 20-25% of American adults are now “nones.”
Among millennials, those between the ages of 23-38, 4 out of 10 say that they are religiously unaffiliated. While it was thought that many would return to practice religion after marriage or the birth of a child, there is mounting evidence that millennials may be leaving religion for good.
In terms of the Catholic Church, fewer than 4 in 10 Catholics attend church in any given week. Catholic attendance is down 6 percentage points over the past decade. I know that so many parents ask me what they did wrong because their children aren’t practicing the faith. It isn’t their fault. There are clearly wider societal trends at work.
Studies also show that each serious new revelation of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church brings with it a percentage decrease in Mass attendance.
The Archdiocese of Portland asks each parish to take a Mass attendance census for two consecutive Sundays in the month of November each year. The census shows that Holy Redeemer Parish saw a drop-off in Mass attendance of 17% from 2010-2017. While perhaps surprising, many parishes in the Archdiocese saw a similar or even greater decreases in Mass attendance. In areas of Portland where the population is growing, parishes often posted sizeable growth in attendance. Fr. Michael carried out his own Mass census for each Sunday of the months of October and November. Based on the average monthly attendance figures, our Mass attendance is stable but not growing.
It is helped by our Hispanic families who now comprise close to 50% of our parish membership. They also now comprise 50% of all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Portland. In 2019, 90% of all registered sacraments in the Archdiocese were of Hispanic Catholics. Nationally only 4 percent of Hispanic children attend Catholic schools. At Holy Redeemer, 10 percent of our school’s student body is Hispanic.
Ultimately, our concern can never be about numbers but about each of us becoming missionary disciples, by virtue of our baptism, to bring others to know Christ. It is also striving to embrace the gift of our immigrant families and their children more authentically. For those of us in parish leadership, it is reviewing those programs that are proving effective at awakening faith in others. In many ways we are returning to the early Church, where Christians lived as leaven in a mostly pagan world. Our world is now highly secular and mostly indifferent to religion, yet never has Christ’s message been more relevant and needed than now.
Yours in Christ, Fr. Pat