By Patrick Mott Editor, Orange County Catholic     12/24/2014

The latest CARA Report, a periodic update on issues and trends in the Catholic Church published by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, spotlights international priests ministering in the United States, how college religious experiences can promote vocations, and the millions of U.S. Catholics who remain uncounted, among other issues.

  • In 2012 the top three countries of origin for men who completed priestly formation in a foreign country were India (972 priests), the Philippines (702) and Nigeria (616). There are 36 dioceses in the U.S. in which half or more of the presbyterate is foreign born. A total of 88 percent of international priests say they are “very happy” with their life as a priest. Likewise, parishes receiving international priests mostly say they are pleased with their ministry. “Generally,” says the CARA Report, “parishioners see the international priest as a positive asset for their community.”
  • CARA research showed that 1.4 million never-married Catholic men say they considered a vocation “at least a little” and 350,000 did so “very seriously.” But the great majority of the men were never encouraged to consider life as a priest or brother. The men who enter priestly formation are “about as likely as the broader Catholic population to have attended Catholic elementary or high schools, but 44 percent of ordinands attended a Catholic college compared to only about 7 percent of the overall Catholic population.”
  • The generally accepted total of 66.6 million Catholics in the United States comes from data submitted by parishes through dioceses to The Official Catholic Directory, and is largely based on parish registrations and counts of weekend Mass attendance. However, repeated polls by what CARA calls “large, well-respected national polling firms” sets the number of self-identified Catholics in the U.S. 11.1 million higher than the “official” tally. The undercounting is particularly prevalent in the South and West, where it is speculated that many Catholics—especially recent immigrants and younger Catholics—are not registered with a parish.
  • A total of 55 percent of Catholics responding to a poll by the Pew Research Center said they would be unhappy if someone in their immediate family was going to marry someone who does not believe in God.
  • Since 2000 the Catholic Church in the United States has experienced a net loss of 1,753 parishes (9 percent), resulting in displaced parishioners becoming members of new and larger territorial parishes through consolidation. This trend, combined with the newer and larger parishes being built in the West and the South, has created what CARA called “a ‘supersizing’ effect” that has led to “the million dollar parish.” According to CARA’s recent National Survey of Catholic Parishes, 28 percent of U.S. Catholic parishes now have annual revenue that exceeds $1 million. About one in ten of these parishes collect more than $1 million in offertory giving alone.
  • The National Catholic Educational Association’s annual report on U.S. Catholic elementary and secondary schools showed that in 2013-2014 enrollment in those schools decreased by 27,162—1.4 percent. Total Catholic school enrollment for the period was 1,974,578. Non-Catholics enrolled totaled 323,542, or 16.4 percent of the total. Reflecting the trend, 133 schools consolidated or closed, and 42 new schools opened. A total of 1,986 schools had a waiting list for admission. There are 6,594 Catholic schools in the United States—5,399 elementary and 1,194 secondary. The student/teacher ratio is 13 to 1.