success stories

Study: National Catholic Parish Survey
Authors: James Castelli, Eugene Hemrick
Castelli Enterprises Inc.
Copies of study may be obtained by e-mail Jim Castelli cathoparishsurvey@aol.com

Executive Summary:

The picture of a collaborative parish staff team led by a priest, but composed of priests, deacons, religious, and laity, is rapidly taking shape in American Catholic parishes. But Pastors seem to like the change — 91 percent of pastors say they are satisfied with their overall parish ministry.

There is an average of only 1.8 priests serving each parish today, and 19 percent of those priests are either retired or in residence at a parish while performing another job. The average parish today has 2,831 members and 5.1 ministers. There is no way that parishes can serve their members in the future, even the near future, without the continued, even accelerated, growth of lay ministry.

Numbers tell the story. Since 1982:

Average parish membership has grown by 23%

Average parish ministerial staff has grown by only 9%

The number of priests serving the average parish has fallen by 28%

The number of religious serving the average parish has fallen by 33%

The number of deacons serving the average parish has fallen by 33%

The number of lay ministers serving the average parish has grown by 54%

The percent of parishes with a least one lay minister grew from 30% to 68%

This is a capsule view of parish staff ministry today:

There are more lay ministers than priests serving in parishes today; the average parish has two lay ministers and 1.8 priests. Omitting resident and retired priests, the average parish has only 1.5 priests.

Below the level of pastor, only 24% of parish ministers are priests, while 58% are lay. Excluding resident and retired priests, only 15% of ministers below the level of pastor are priests, while 65% are lay.

53% of parishes today have only one priest on staff. Excluding resident and retired priests, 72% of parishes have only one priests on staff.

Only 23% of parishes are staffed only by priests.

11% of the parishes in the survey had a part-time canonical pastor.

In 5% of parishes, the pastor is the only staff member.

In other parish positions:

32% of parishes have an associate pastor.

39% of parishes have a pastoral associate, pastoral administrator, or someone with a similar title; 25% are lay.

84% of parishes have a Director of Religious Education (DRE); 80% are lay.

55% of parishes have a youth minister; 94% are lay.

45% of parishes have a liturgical minister; 82% are lay.

22% of parishes have a social action minister; 75% are lay.

Ninety percent of parishes had a parish council and 90 have a finance council. A total of 87% have both. Finance councils have grown dramatically since the early 1980s:

The NCPS reveals that two factors contribute significantly to pastor satisfaction. First, pastors are particularly happy when they have a large parish membership, budget, staff, and number of programs. Second, pastors are happy when the level of parishioner’s participation, unity, and spiritual development are high and when they are highly satisfied with their parish pastoral and financial councils.

Other key findings:

Half of all American Catholics belong to only 18% of all parishes, those with memberships of 5,000 or more. Most large parishes are in the suburbs; 49% of all Catholics belong to suburban parishes.

The average pastor is 57 years old.

The average age of parishes is 88.

The average budget was $581,845; the per capita budget is $206, or about $4 per week.

41% of parishes use either e-mail or a web site.

12% of parishes report a dramatic change in its demographic make-up in the past 5 years.

74% of pastors report that at least 1% of parish members are physically challenged.

22% of pastors report that at least 1% of members are openly gay or lesbian.

81% of parishes provide the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, up from 32% in 1982.