CARA gets many inquiries from Church agencies and the media about the numbers for vocations, seminary enrollments, priests and vowed religious, parishes, Mass attendance, schools and the Catholic population. Below are some comparative statistics from 1965. Generally, these data reflect the situation at the beginning of the calendar year listed. The sources for this information include The Official Catholic Directory (OCD), the Vatican's Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae (ASE), and other CARA research and databases. All data are cross checked as much as possible. For the U.S, the numbers reported here include only figures for those 195 dioceses or eparchies who belong to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and all U.S. military personnel stationed overseas. This page also includes links to other areas of the CARA website that provide answers to frequently asked questions.

For more information about CARA research and statistics, including our national and parish surveys, demographic studies, trend analyses and projections, and focus groups visit CARA Services. For more information about CARA's beginings read the following Review of Religious Research article from 1967 by Francis X. Gannon entitled, "Bridging the Research Gap: CARA, Response to Vatican II."

Follow up-to-the-minute updates about CARA research here:

 

United States data over time:
 
1965
1975
1985
1995
2000
2005
2013
Total priests
58,632
58,909
57,317
49,054
45,699
42,839
39,600
Diocesan priests
35,925
36,005
35,052
32,349
30,607
27,250
26,558
Religious priests
22,707
22,904
22,265
16,705
15,092
14,137
12,350
Priestly ordinations
994
771
533
511
442
454
511
Graduate-level seminarians
8,325
5,279
4,063
3,172
3,474
3,308
3,694
Permanent deacons
na 
898
7,204
10,932
12,378
14,574
17,325
Religious brothers
12,271
8,625
7,544
6,535
5,662
5,451
4,407
Religious sisters
179,954
135,225
115,386
90,809
79,814
68,634
51,247
Parishes
17,637
18,515
19,244
19,331
19,236
18,891
17,413
Without a resident priest pastor
549
702
1,051
2,161
2,843
3,251
3,554
Where a bishop has entrusted the pastoral care of the parish to a deacon or some other person (e.g., a religious sister, religious brother, or other lay person)
na
na
93
314
447
553
428
Catholic population (The Official Catholic Directory)
45.6m
48.7m
52.3m
57.4m
59.9m
64.8m
66.8m
Catholic population (self-identified, survey-based)
48.5m
54.5m
59.5m
65.7m
71.7m
74.0m
78.2m
Catholic elementary schools
--
8,414
7,764
6,964
6,793
6,122
5,636*
Students in Catholic elementary schools
--
2.557m
2.005m
1.815m
1.800m
1.559m
1.441m*
Catholic secondary schools
--
1,624
1,425
1,280
1,297
1,325
1,205*
Students in Catholic secondary schools
--
884,181
774,216
638,440
653,723
653,226
590,883*
Mass Attendance
CARA Catholic Poll (CCP): Percentage of U.S.adult Catholics who say they attended Mass once a week or more (i.e., those attending every week). 

For more background information on measurement, see: The Nuances of Accurately Measuring Mass Attendance
--
--
--
--
22%
23%
24%

*Most recent estimates of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). School data for previous years is from the ASE.

   
Additional Data on Vocations

The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) has compiled several CARA research studies in an easy-to-use fact sheet on vocations to religious life. Included on this sheet are statistics on the average age of entrance to religious life, numbers of men and women currently in formation for religious life, and challenges to pursuing religious life, including educational debt, encouragement and discouragement of vocation, and changing Catholic demographics in the United States. Click here for the Vocation Fact Sheet:

Fact Sheet

World data over time:

 
1970
1975
1985
1995
2000
2005
2013
Total priests
419,728
404,783
403,480
404,750
405,178
406,411
412,236
Diocesan priests
270,924
259,331
253,319
262,418
265,781
269,762
277,009
Religious priests
148,804
145,452
150,161
142,332
139,397
136,649
135,227
Diocesan priestly ordinations
4,622
4,140
4,822
6,444
6,814
6,614
6,863
Graduate-level seminarians
--
--
43,476
54,154
55,968
58,538
58,140
Permanent deacons
309
2,686
12,541
22,390
27,824
33,391
39,564
Religious brothers
79,408
70,388
65,208
59,515
55,057
54,708
54,665
Religious sisters
1,004,304
968,526
917,432
837,961
801,185
760,529
721,935
Parishes
191,398
200,116
212,021
220,077
218,196
217,616
221,055
Without a resident priest pastor
39,431
46,074
55,343
60,705
55,729
52,509
49,172
Where a bishop has entrusted the pastoral care of the parish to a deacon or some other person (e.g., a religious sister, religious brother, or other lay person)
na
na
1,635
3,278
3,373
3,122
2,537
Catholic population
653.6m
709.6m
852.0m
989.4m
1.045b
1.115b
1.196b
Percent of world population
18%
17%
18%
17%
17%
17%
17%
Catholic elementary schools
89,112
79,424
78,160
85,043
89,457
91,480
92,847
Students in Catholic elementary schools
20.396m
19.584m
22.390m
25.246m
26.097m
28.084m
31.151m
Catholic secondary schools
25,552
27,542
30,404
33,349
35,559
39,096
43,591
Students in Catholic secondary schools
7.667m
9.522m
12.066m
13.232m
14.027m
16.232m
17.794m
Notes on International Mass Attendance
--
--
--
--
--
--
-

 

Additional Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is Catholic Mass attendance becoming less frequent? Graphic and Report (pgs. 20-22)
  • How many Catholics go to Mass in any given week and how many go every week? Article
  • Why do Catholics say they miss weekly Mass from time to time? Graphic and Report (pgs. 48-50)
  • How often do Catholics receive Eucharist at Mass? Report (pgs. 44-45)
  • What percentage of Catholics go to Confession frequently? Graphic and Report (pgs. 57-60)
  • What percentage of Catholics give regularly to their parish offertory collection? Report (pg. 9)
  • How many Catholics consider a clerical or religious vocation? Graphic and Report (pgs. 69-75)
  • How many Catholics receive ashes on Ash Wednesday or abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent? Article and Report (pgs. 84-88)
  • What percentage of the U.S. adult population identifies as Catholic? Article
  • How many people raised Catholic stop considering themselves Catholic later in life? Article
  • Who do Catholics vote for? Since 1952 and more specific articles for the 2008, 2004, and 2000 elections
  • How many Latinos/Latinas self-identify as Catholic? Article. What are the differences and similarities in the religious beliefs and practices of Latino/a Catholics and non-Latino/s Catholics? Graphics
  • How likely are Catholics to be married to a Catholic? How likely are they to divorce? Graphic and Report
  • What percentage of Catholics have celebrated their First Communion and have been confirmed? Graphic and Report (pgs. 27-30)

Press Releases