As religious institutions open their doors after the pandemic, Catholic Churches in the United States are struggling with membership. The National Catholic Register reported that multiple archdioceses are experiencing low numbers in attendance to their churches and that they are in a 'battle' to have people return to the pews.
The article covered the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Denver, and Detroit, among others, and the efforts that they do in their respective communities. Dan Celluci, the CEO of the Catholic Leadership Institute said that there has been an 18% to 30% drop in attendance when it comes to the dioceses. However, he added that when it comes to returning parishioners, rural churches are doing better than those in urban communities.
Decline in Numbers of Churchgoers in The United States
The article said that according to the General Social Survey, the Catholic Church in the country has been facing a decline in attendance even before the pandemic. Also, it found out that there was a rise in attendance to protestant churches and people who do not attend church at all.
Timothy O'Malley, the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame said that the restrictions during the pandemic accelerated the trend.
The Institute for Family Studies reported that only 63% of Americans identify as Christians, a huge drop from the 75% of the last decade. In an April/May Study in 2020 by the Barna Group, it found that one in three practicing Christians dropped out of the church completely during the pandemic. Additionally, the pandemic caused a lot of churches to close down their doors.
U.S. Catholic Churches Invite People to Go Back to Church
As of the moment, the U.S. Catholic Church has its goal of 'Eucharistic Revival' to face the issues. This has empowered churches in the different archdioceses to create programs that reach out to the communities.
In the report, it said that one of the priests of the Archdiocese of Kansas, Father Jaime Zarse celebrated masses in cornfields and church parking lots before the return of indoor masses. It added that the pastor also made sure that his church continuously reached out to people in need and shut-ins. When services resumed, the pastor made sure to write letters and make phone calls to invite people back to the church in person.
As for the Archdiocese of Denver, it is holding its 'national multi-year Eucharistic Revival.' With the program, churchgoers will be given additional Catholic formation. It aims to develop active churchgoers so that they can become a witness to others to return to the church. Andrew McGown, the executive director of evangelization and family life ministries of Denver, said that it is 'more effective than any doctrinal apologetics.'
Further, the Archdiocese of Denver is also doing outreach initiatives as well as church development.
As for the Archdiocese of Detroit, the church has apparently shifted its focus to deputizing the parishioners to reach out to one another, make visitations, send emails, and make calls. The church said that the parishioners are slowly coming back and that there are younger Catholics bringing their children.
For Vickie Figueroa, the associate director for cultural ministries for the archdiocese, it is a sign that people are feeling safer to return to the church. Further, it is a sign of hope among the congregation.