Study of Catholic Parish Life (Notre Dame)

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Tue, 12/01/1981
End Date: 
Wed, 08/31/1983

The Notre Dame study of Catholic parish life, begun in 1981, was one of the first large-scale investigations of organized parish life. Previously, reviews of parishes were either restricted to one location or the emphasis was directed toward the parishioners' beliefs and practices. However, this national survey polled a properly diverse ten percent of all parishes, revealing not only demographic information concerning region, locale, size, and ethnicity, but also information on staffing practices, planned activities, and sources of vitality. <p>Demographic results showed that the Middle Atlantic and East North Central regions accounted for the largest proportion of parishes, and small town locales held the biggest percentage of parishes, followed closely by urban parishes. Almost two-thirds of parishes had a Catholic population over 1,000, while less than half of the parishes had actual Mass attendance over 1,000 per parish. Finally, the top three ethnic groups that predominated congregational composition were Irish, German, and Italian. However, almost eighteen percent indicated that either the predominant or the second most prominent group was Hispanic, and yet this number fell far short of actual percentages of Hispanic Catholics. <p>Over half the parishes were staffed by one priest, while all but three percent of the remaining half had two or more. Half of the pastors had been with their present parish less than five years, while thirty percent of the remaining half had been present less than ten years. Apart from religious education and the almost fifty-five percent of parishes with schools, liturgy planning and ministry to the sick are the top two organized activities of parishes and their counsels. Lastly, involvement of the laity and quality of staff were the most reported sources of vitality for parishes.