Friday, September 14, 2007

The 40% solution

In the St. Al's bulletin last Sunday our new pastor announced the series of three Wednesday evening "town hall" meetings. I went to this week's on liturgy.

Eventually someone else brought up the parish Mass attendance statistics. Father Jurkus responded that it's good liturgy that keeps people coming back. I asked if, assuming that to be so, St. Al's last place Mass attendance told us anything about our liturgy.

He volunteered that St. Monica, his former parish, was also in last place in its district. He went on to say that the parish checked if people on its books were actually still members. After purging those who weren't, the attendance percentage went from 21% to over 40%. He said he would try to have the St. Al's parish records updated this same way.

As a St. Al's parish council president once said to me after I passed along one of former pastor Father Aiken's explanations, that makes things even worse. St. Monica's 21% was derived from 1,419 attendees out of 6,773 parishioners. To get even 40% attendance from 1,419 attendees, they had to reduce to 3,578 members, a drop of 3,195. There's an Archdiocese-wide goal of increasing the percentage of members at mass by 20 percentage points. I wonder if St. Monica was deemed to have met that end by this means?

St. Al's 27% attendance was derived from 2,365 attendees out of 8,817 members. To get 40% attendance from 2,365 attendees would take a reduction of members to 5,913, a drop of 2,904.

If that turns out to be the case, that's about 6,000 Catholics off the rolls, an almost 1% drop for the entire Archdiocese from just two parishes. It raises the question how many parishes have out-of-date membership records. Based on what Fr. Jurkus said about St. Monica, the Archdiocese could have hundreds of thousands fewer members than it reports.


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