Parishes are restructured

June 12, 2018-Reading time: < 1 minute

The Catholic parish in the United States has played a powerful role in maintaining the presence of the Church in a majority Protestant country. The parish was a haven for Catholic immigrants, a place of volunteerism and a source of Catholic identity.

For more than a century, the largest number of Catholic parishes were logically located where the Catholics were: in the Northeast (New York, Boston, Philadelphia) and in the Midwest (Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee).

Now, however, the Catholic parish is undergoing a radical change. A new work by five Catholic researchers, entitled 21st Century Catholic Parishes, explains this change. One of the biggest developments is its geographic location, with more and more Catholics moving south (Raleigh, Miami, Atlanta, Houston) and west (Denver, Los Angeles). 

In fact, the Catholic population is now almost evenly divided between the Northeast, Midwest, South and West of the country, due, on the one hand, to the migration of people within the territory, seeking employment or a lower cost of living; and, on the other hand, to immigration.

The challenge, the authors point out, is that "people move, but parishes and schools don't." The Northeast and Midwest are left with shrinking parishes. The Archdiocese of New York recently underwent a massive reorganization, and 20 percent of its parishes were closed or merged. At the same time Houston and Atlanta are noticing the need for more parishes. 

On the other hand, about four out of ten Catholics are Hispanic. And there are more and more parishes that have Hispanic ministers and Mass in Spanish. 

The Catholic parish in the United States is clearly going through a historic transition, but there are many signs that this transition will lead to its revitalization.

The authorGreg Erlandson

Journalist, author and editor. Director of Catholic News Service (CNS)

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