OK, maybe we should talk batting average.
it's warm enough for spring training, you know.....in Florida.
% of Catholics in W. Mass is about 33%.
if this is true for Berkshire Co., then a batting average of .333 is pretty good, right?
33 Catholics out of every 100 in general pop.
that would put us in Stan Musial territory (.331).
figures show that only 29% of those go to mass once a week.
ok, .290, we're still in Dave Winfield territory.
when you consider that the message is "go out to all nations", etc., maybe we should find the batting average (loyal adherents) for the whole population of Berkshire Co. after all, the RCC has been around for a while and the message is presumably out there.
now the batting average is .095
that's only 9.5 loyal Catholics out of every 100 in the general population.
so my question is: how can the batting average be improved?
I think of this analogy every time the bishop says something like "we have lost a third of our Catholic population; in 1980 there were 380,000 Catholics in this diocese and now there are 221,000" as a justification for suppressing parishes (he said this in Dec. of 2008).
When Msgr. Bonzagani was explaining Pastoral Planning he noted that "The state is undergoing a net decrease in population". A Catholic Observer editorial deplored the loss in population: "... our diocesan family has become significantly smaller in the last 30 years because our region has itself become smaller... "
Just the other day, Mark "Mariano" Dupont made the same pitch: "“The population has fallen by one-third in our diocese as the industrial base has declined. The bishop is determined to right-size the diocese in terms of parishes and not over-extend our priests,” (Religion News Service, written by Solange De Santis).
These various offical statements make sense until you look at the real numbers. The U.S. Census, an admittedly secular source and thus probably biased, reports that the population in the four counties that make up the Diocese was 791,258 in 1980, 812,322 in 1980, 814,967 in 2000, and 817,291 in 2006. So, the Diocese is not shrinking. Similarly, the Commonwealth is not shrinking. U. S. Census projects steady growth in Massachusetts for every 5-year period from 2000 til 2030.
In a recent radio interview on WAMC a figure of 216,000 Catholics for the Diocese was reported. If we take that 216,000 as gospel, that's a lot of people for 100 parishes or so, an average of 2,160 adults (children under 12 are not counted) per parish. Is that enough to sustain a parish?
It would be, if they were all inspired to attend. They aren't, and they don't. As noted above, about a third (720, in our hypothetical example) make the effort to attend weekly mass. As a cross-check, about 30% of the Catholics in the Diocese have contributed to the Annual Catholic Appeal over the last few years, according to the figures I have from Stacey Dibbern, administrator of the ACA. Anyway, about 700 or so sounds about right for your average weekly parish attendance, right?
May I suggest to Bishop McDonnell and Mark Dupont that the Catholic church hereabouts is not being victimized by the U.S. Census or the declining industrial base or anything else? Could it be that we simply need to improve our game?