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The Latest Church Statistics from the Official Catholic Directory

As Reported by the Catholic News Service

The 5 percent increase during 2001 in the number of U.S. Catholics is keeping pace with the growth in U.S. population, according to statistics in the newly published 2002 edition of The Official Catholic Directory.

The latest edition of the directory, widely known in church circles as the "Kenedy directory" after its publisher's imprint, reports that there are now 65.3 million Catholics in the United States, an increase of 5 percent over the 2001 edition total.

During that time, the U.S. population increased at a nearly identical rate to 285 million people. The portion of the U.S. population identified as Catholics therefore remained steady at 23 percent.

The book reports information received from the 207 dioceses and archdioceses in the United States at the beginning of the year.

In 2002 it reported 65,270,444 Catholics in the United States and its possessions, up nearly 1.6 million from last year's total.

The directory showed strong increases in the number of patients served by Catholic hospitals, the number of permanent deacons and the number of students in Catholic colleges and universities, but declines in most other areas.

It reported that there are 30,429 diocesan priests, down 226 from last year, and 15,244 priests in religious orders, a drop of 142.

The number of permanent deacons rose by 416 to 13,764, and the number of religious brothers increased by 125 to 5,690.

The number of religious sisters continued a decline that began in the 1970s, however, falling by nearly 4,000 to 75,500.

The 19,496 parishes in the United States were 48 fewer than last year, while the number of missions was down by 39 to 3,036. Thirty-five new parishes were established in the past year to offset parish closings.

The nation's 597 Catholic hospitals served 82.4 million people, a 6 percent increase over the previous year. Another 483 health care centers served some 5.8 million people, and 1,431 specialized homes cared for another 1.2 million people.

Dioceses reported 2,450 special centers for social services, assisting 23.5 million people, an increase of 2.5 million over the previous year.

Diocesan and religious seminaries reported 4,719 students at the start of the year, down 198 from the year before.

The country's 238 Catholic colleges and universities enrolled a record 724,065 students, 19,006 more than the previous year.

Catholic high school enrollment in parish, diocesan and private schools was up by 500 to 681,446, while private and parochial elementary schools experienced sharp declines. Enrollment in parish elementary schools fell by 52,091 to 1.9 million, while Catholic private school enrollment was down by 31,056 to 86,720.

There were more than 15,000 fewer high school students in parish religious education programs -- 766,754, compared to 782,102 the year before. At the elementary level, the drop was 69,703 to 3.5 million students in religious education programs.

The number of infant baptisms fell more than 23,000 to about 1 million in the year 2000. Adult baptisms were down 3,342 to 79,892, and the number of already baptized Christians received into full communion declined by 14,059 to 81,240.

First Communions were down by 17,247 to 892,532. Confirmations decreased by 23,302 to 628,141.

After experiencing an increase in 2000 for the first time in 11 years, the number of marriages recorded in Catholic parishes declined by 12,471 in 2001 to 256,563.

This year's directory reported 164,704 lay teachers in Catholic elementary and secondary schools, an increase of more than 8,200 after a rise of nearly 6,000 the previous year.

The number of teaching sisters in those schools increased slightly to 8,233, while teaching brothers rose by 101 to 1,194 and teaching scholastics increased by 17 to 58.

The number of teaching priests, however, declined by 35 to 1,899 after experiencing an increase the previous year.