CARA commissioned to conduct landmark study of US Catholic parishes

WASHINGTON –- Researchers are working on an in-depth study of Catholic parish life in the United States.

The study is being conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington, on behalf of the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership Project.

“This research will provide the U.S. church with the most comprehensive and accurate picture of parish life” since a Notre Dame study of parishes was conducted in the 1980s, said Mercy Sister Mary Bendyna, CARA’s executive director and senior research associate.

“Among other things,” she said the study will “examine the new models and new structures for parish ministry that are emerging as parishes are reorganized and the people they serve are more diverse.”

The first phase of the research – currently under way – involves a series of surveys that have been sent to representative samples of Catholic parishes in the United States. The initial surveys will be followed by an in-depth study of parish leaders and parishioners at approximately 60 parishes, including a sample of 35 parishes that reflects the diversity of geographic region, demography, and size of U.S. parishes.

The study also will examine parishes that do not have pastors because of a lack of priests as well as multicultural parishes and parishes using multiple-parish ministry.

Researchers hope the data will provide pastoral leaders with a comprehensive overview of Catholic parishes and a detailed picture of emerging trends in areas such as:

– Opportunities and challenges in multicultural parishes.

– Young adult involvement in parish life and pastoral leadership.

– Changing patterns in parish staffing and compensation.

– Ministry in parishes that share a pastor and/or staff.

– The roles of business managers and finance councils.

– Experiences of parishioners in parishes administered by parish life coordinators.

The Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership Project, which commissioned the study, is an initiative of the Washington-based National Association for Lay Ministry with the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development in New York City; the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators, based in Cincinnati; the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association, which has offices in Washington and the Chicago area; and the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, which is in Chicago.

The project is funded by the Lilly Endowment, and recently received a $1 million renewal grant from Lilly for research initiatives focused on parish leadership.

Since 2004, the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership Project has conducted a series of research symposiums and surveys on such topics as the best practices of pastoral leaders; pastoring multiple parishes; the next generation of pastoral leaders; human resources; and diversity in Catholic parishes.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.