Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Survey a `Reality Check' for Church Leaders

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Survey a `Reality Check' for Church Leaders

Article excerpt

A new survey that found the number of priests serving American parishes down 28 percent in the last 15 years and the number of lay ministers up 54 percent should be a "reality check" for church leaders, according to the survey's coordinator.

The "National Catholic Parish Survey" finds the average parish with 1.8 priests and 5.1 ministers. With the number of priests, religious men and women and deacons all in sharp decline, the survey concludes "there is no way that parishes can serve their members in the future, even the near future, without the continued, even accelerated, growth of lay ministry."

The survey appears at roughly the same time that Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has issued a new pastoral letter, "As I Have Done For You," affirming growth in lay ministry as "a genuine fruit" of the Second Vatican Council (NCR, May 5).

The results of the survey, released May 4, are based on questionnaires mailed to more than 3,000 parishes, generating over 700 responses. According to its authors, the survey has a 4 percent margin of error.

Project coordinator Jim Castelli told NCR that he hopes the findings will jar church leaders into a clear recognition that lay ministry is here to stay. He conducted the survey with Fr. Eugene Hemrick of The Catholic University of America and the Washington Theological Center.

"Increases in vocations in the Third World or the occasional diocese with a jump is not going to change the big picture," Castelli said. …

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