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Catholic Mass attendance in Cincinnati declines again in 2017

Michael Mason was a happy member of a Protestant church when he began studying the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, one o...

Posted: Jan 22, 2018 6:16 AM
Updated: Jan 22, 2018 6:16 AM

Michael Mason was a happy member of a Protestant church when he began studying the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the great theologians of the Roman Catholic Church.

His studies led him to believe that the Catholic church offered a better, truer model for following Jesus Christ, so he and his wife, Jennifer, converted in 2013. They moved to the tri-state that same year, and Michael now teaches at a parochial school, Roger Bacon High School in St. Bernard.

"The Church breaks through the glass ceiling of evangelicalism to a deeper, more well-rooted Christian experience," Mason, 36, said.

Local Catholics would like to have more Michael Masons. But national statistics tell them that for every one convert like him the Church gets, six more leave the Church, said Mike Schafer, director of the new office Department of Communications & Mission Promotion for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

That fact is reflected in the count of how many people go to Mass on given Sunday. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati makes such a count every October, and information about October 2017's count just became available from Schafer.

Schafer declined to give the total number of attendees at the archdiocese's 211 parishes, but said that there were 1.9 percent fewer than in October 2016. Attendance has declined from between 1.3 to 4.3 percent every year since 2012.

Similar figures were not immediately available from the Diocese of Covington.

So then, Mass attendance is on the decline. What about the other sacraments of the church, like marriage and baptism? What do those numbers look like?

Not so encouraging either.

Ten years ago, there were more Catholics in the archdiocese, more marriages and more baptisms, said Father Thomas Gaunt, executive director for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which tracks figures like this for the entire country.

Gaunt said that according to the Official Catholic Directory, in 2017, the archdiocese had:

450,000 Catholics, 8 percent fewer than in 2007;

5,347 infant baptisms, 17 percent fewer than 2007;

1,631 marriages, 25 percent less than 2007;

285 diocesan priests, who typically serve as parish priests, 10 percent fewer than in 2007;

And 697 nuns, or 32 percent fewer than 2007.

The numbers for the Diocese of Covington also show declines:

88,874 Catholics, 4 percent fewer than in 2007;

889 infant baptisms, 24 percent fewer than 2007;

352 marriages, 32 percent fewer than 2007;

88 diocesan priests, 5 percent fewer than 2007;

And 323 nuns, 7 percent fewer than 2007.

The numbers don't look too bad from the point of view of the rest of the nation's Catholic population, except for one (see chart). The number of Catholics nationally rose to 68.5 million in 2017, an increase of 6 percent from 2005 to 2017.

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