Salt Lake diocese trends mirror national study

The number of Catholic priests in the United States has decreased over the past decade, while the average number of people attending a typical weekend Mass is increasing, according to a study released July 18 by the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership project, a joint effort by the National Association for Lay Ministry, the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development, the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators, the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association and the National Federal of Priest Councils.

The Diocese of Salt Lake City mirrors some of the changes noted in the study, which surveyed 846 randomly selected U.S. parishes in 2010. However, the local church is atypical in one very noticeable way: While the number of parishes in the U.S. has declined by 7.1 percent in the past 10 years, the Diocese of Salt Lake City has grown. There are now 48 parishes and 19 missions in Utah, compared to 47 parishes and 15 missions in 2001.

And, although the study shows that 29 percent of parishes nationwide celebrate Mass at least once a month in a language other than English – up from 22 percent in 2000 – 33 percent of parishes in the Diocese of Salt Lake City offer at least one weekend Spanish Mass. This is in addition to the regular Masses offered in Vietnamese and Korean, as well as native-language Masses for Filipinos, Tongans and Africans.

The Diocese of Salt Lake City’s Hispanic Ministry has grown tremendously, said Maria-Cruz Gray, who heads the department. Ten years ago they offered one Spanish-language class for catechists, now there are four, she said. In addition, “We have now probably four more missions, and they have their needs,” she said.

Established parishes also have seen an increase in Hispanic parishioners, she said. “The ones who used to be 200 people now are 1,000 people in the Mass, like the Cathedral,” which last year added a Saturday Vigil Mass in Spanish. [more]

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