By the Numbers: Fewer U.S. Parishes
The number of Catholic parishes in the United States peaked in 1988 at 19,705. Since that time, the Church has experienced a net loss of 2,222 parishes and now has 17,483 parishes (-11.3%). The Church still opens new parishes each year. In 2013, 61 new parishes were opened. In the same year, 190 parishes were closed.
Many closings occur in the Northeast and Midwest. In 1950, 46% of the U.S. Catholic population resided in the Northeast and 30% in the Midwest. Today, only 28% of U.S. Catholics live in the Northeast and 23% in the Midwest. Additionally, many Northeastern parishes were constructed in urban areas. Now many Northeastern Catholics reside in the suburbs. New parishes are often opened in the West and South where the Catholic population is growing. However, the pace of new construction is too slow to counter closures in areas where the Catholic population is no longer increasing. One of the factors limiting more new parishes is the diminishing numbers of clergy. For more see CARA's Frequently Requested Church Statistics.
Fifty Years of CARA research About the Church
CARA celebrated its 50th Anniversary on October 27, 2014 with a Mass, reception, and presentations at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School. CARA Board Chair Bishop Gerald Kicanas hosted the event and Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap. celebrated Mass. CARA honored the Oblate School of Theology with the Cardinal Cushing Medal for the Advancement of Church Research. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, The Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to the United States, made closing remarks. Download the program here.
CARA History: Although usually considered a product of the Church's increasing openness to science and research resulting from the Second Vatican Council, CARA's origins go back even farther. As early as 1951 the superiors of U.S. missionary institutes called for a national research center to help reshape the missioner's role in the emerging churches of the developing world. But the immediate impetus for such an organization was an article in 1961 by Richard Cardinal Cushing, on "The Modern Challenge of the Missions," in the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston. Subsequently the major superiors of mission-sending orders voted about $5,000 to evaluate the need for "A Catholic Center for Coordinated Research and Cooperation." A study group delivered a favorable report in late 1963. CARA was officially incorporated in the District of Columbia on August 5, 1964. Its founding board of directors included Archbishop (later Cardinal) John P. Cody and Bishop (later Archbishop) Fulton J. Sheen of the Propagation of the Faith. CARA's founding documents established principles that have guided the organization for 50 years. In summary form, these are to gather new information, to store and retrieve such, and to disseminate useful data for practical use by Church decision makers. Two additional principles soon became CARA hallmarks: absolute independence and objectivity. As one commentator put it, CARA's objective is "to search dispassionately for truth."
Trends Among Religious Institutes of Women
CARA Special Report, Fall 2014
CARA has completed a longitudinal study of women religious in the United States drawing on data reported by the religious institutes of women listed in the Official Catholic Directory (OCD). The contributions of women religious in the United States continue to be evident today in Catholic institutions of education and healthcare across the country, but there are, and have been, countless other contributions as well. Over the years, these valiant women have adapted to changing circumstances and forged ahead despite challenges to their way of life and ministry. The U.S. Catholic Church is indebted to the ministerial efforts and sacrifices made by women religious in the past and present. This CARA Special Report is an effort to disentangle the story of women religious in the United States that is hidden in the numbers.