Dwindling congregations?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,686
    I am curious about current trends in Mass attendance, particularly in the U.S., and especially in the Northeast.

    My congregation seems to have hit a peak (for regularly-scheduled Masses, not Christmas) in December, at about 90 for the most-populous Sunday Mass, still less than the 25% occupancy permitted by the State.

    Since January we have seen a steady decline: current high attendance for the most populous Mass is at about 50; well below the 40% now permitted.

    Has anyone else noticed a similar drop-off in attendance?

    (Daily Masses have seen a similar decline: from 20 to 6.)

    EDIT: Just to clarify: I'm NOT comparing pre-CoVID and post-CoVID; the two sets of figures above are both after re-opening. I'm curious as to whether anyone has experienced a rise in attendance after re-opening, only to have it subsequently fall off.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 641
    Covid obviously hit everyone hard. Interestingly, our attendance has been very slowly increasing. Ash Wednesday marked a bump in weekly attendance, and we expect to go up a little bit more at/after Easter. I think people are finally warming back up to the idea.
    Thanked by 2CCooze rich_enough
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,188
    I'm not in the NE, but I would say our Masses are slowly increasing. Our 8:30am Mass gets between 25-40, which is pretty much what it was before the pandemic. Our 11:00am Mass got around 100 before the pandemic and gets 45-60 now. Thank heaven our collections haven't decreased.
  • With the vaccine into more arms and distancing/masking still in place, more people are feeling comfortable coming back at my parish. We are noticing an uptick (suburban Chicago), and we expect it to continue. We can only hope it continues as vaccination efforts continue and we can start relaxing the restrictions.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    Our attendance has decreased over the years but I think much of that has to do with our location. The suburban parishes on the far ends of town are thriving but the center city churches are losing people. The exception would be the cathedral but it isn't exactly city center. As to your original observation, mass attendance is down everywhere from what it once was.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Our parish is growing, but I'm not in the Northeastern United States. I attribute the growth to the TLM.

    Sunday Mass attendance, now spread over 3 Masses, is holding more or less steady at or near the capacity allowed by draconian county regulations and a governor who is likely to be recalled.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,704
    Akron OH.
    TLM attendance has been down, but there' s also a new TLM in town with a better Mass time and a more lenient mask culture. Combined numbers I heard were up about 50% from us alone. Numbers looked pretty good today though. The 11AM P & W has had fewer cars in the lot.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • Mass attendance at my parish is pretty much back to normal and rising, with the help of our overflow space. Fortunately, our state's governor never imposed hypocritical capacity limits on churches. The parish's TLM seems to be getting more popular, thus aiding the attendance uptick. But, I'm not contracted to oversee that Mass - anecdotal evidence suggests as such to me.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 711
    The numbers in my parish are down to probably around 50% of usual attendance, with the English Masses at, say 70% of normal. Those numbers are boosted by the Spanish congregation filtering in because of more space. Their Mass is down to around 33% because there is no room to seat the usual crowd.

    The TLM around here is BOOMING.
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 583
    At the 4-5 different locations where i go frequently Masses are at or over capacity (every other seat or row is taped off to keep people spread out, so that would put Masses at about half the previous capacity).
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,025
    Our TLM is doing well, and only seems to dwindle on days when RCIA is doing things during the earlier Mass. More Hispanics are even coming to the Latin Mass, which is great! It definitely shows that the idea that a Latin Mass would be too foreign to them is nonsense. The Spanish Masses are quite full, as always, and there are now 2, because of the stupid ropes, used to limit seating.

    In all of this, though, I think it's ridiculous that people keep saying, "the more ___,___,___ we have, the more people feel safe to return," and completely neglect those who aren't around because of the mask mandates. Apparently their return isn't important.
    (And I have a theory as to why, and it is the same as why liberal, anti-traditional complaints are heard and cow-towed to, but conservative complaints and suggestions are met with fury... and it's why TLMs are booming, while others are still hesitant to, if ever, "return.")
  • We have been held to 30 people at Mass for a while, but soon will be allowed 120 (1/3 our capacity). I expect it to fill up at that amount as our parish has been growing before and during this pandemic.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,686
    N.B.: I edited the O.P. because I wasn't clear on a couple points.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 711
    In response to the edit:

    The numbers rise, fall, and rise again. Mostly, the change seems to coincide with things like holidays, weather, and time changes. For instance, the church emptied when we hit sub zero for two weeks straight. The next week when it was much warmer, the church was packed. This week with the time change, there was a substantial drop-off in attendance at the last Mass. I have a feeling that a lot of late-risers rose a bit too late.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,209
    at my parish, attendance appears to correlate inversely, on a slight lag, to reported rates of local transmission.
  • CatholicZ09
    Posts: 72
    Our most popular Mass at the parish where I go (not my geographical one), is Sunday at 10:00 a.m., and it seems we are increasing the number of congregants each week. We have some weekends where we’re over-capacity because people end up standing. I’m in the northeast. The winter months are always hit-or-miss because of weather, but Lent typically brings more people back, especially in the latter weeks closer to Holy Week and Easter. I think with increased vaccination rates and lowering COVID-transmission rates, more and more people are feeling comfortable coming back to Mass. The warmer temps also bring more people back (especially the elderly).
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 213
    I think it depends on where one is in the US. We were at the forefront of COVID in Michigan (along with NYC). We finally had restaurants open for indoor dining last month. We have continued to see steady increase - to the point where people will have to start using our overflow seating to maintain their social distance. I have heard people say that if they can dine out, they can come to mass. Makes sense.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 434
    In my parish, Covid has played a major factor in attendance but also we experienced a couple mass schedule changes which were not Covid driven. The latest schedule will begin Palm Sunday. I think too we have an older congregation which has been a factor. Getting everyone to wear masks as required is a factor and keeps some people from coming due to safety concerns. Sadly, some of the TLM parishioners don't were mask.
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 603
    Between 150 and 200 for each of the four (3 N.O., 1 TLM) regular Masses this weekend, plus a capacity crowd for the Confirmation Mass on Sunday afternoon.

    Collections are at their highest level ever since I've been here.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • stulte
    Posts: 273
    Sadly, some of the TLM parishioners don't were mask.

    Good!

    To reply to the original question, some parishes around me experienced a drop-off after restarting public Masses. Others didn't.
    Thanked by 2CCooze tomjaw
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,686
    If this devolves into an argument about masks, etc., I will ask the Moderator to delete this thread.
  • stulte
    Posts: 273
    If this devolves into an argument about masks
    It doesn't have to go in that direction.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • PaxMelodious
    Posts: 343
    and completely neglect those who aren't around because of the mask mandates


    The number who genuinely cannot wear masks for medical or psychological reasons is very small, and probably are vulnerable-enough that they shouldn't be out in the community yet in most areas.

    Those who choose not to are unlikely to be interested in a religious belief which includes the a require to love your neighbour as you would love yourself.
    Thanked by 1MarkS
  • Salieri,

    I will second your request, but since the topic under discussion is diminishing congregations, and since this is the CMAA's forum, is it fair to ask if masks make singing choir members less willing to sing?
    Thanked by 2CCooze tomjaw
  • stulte
    Posts: 273
    Those who choose not to are unlikely to be interested in a religious belief which includes the a require to love your neighbour as you would love yourself.
    This sort of gratuitous accusation is completely unneccesary.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,025
    is it fair to ask if masks make singing choir members less willing to sing?


    I am only singing in my choir because my bishop said "face coverings" are required... and what I sing in, well, there is something between my face and fresh air. Even in this lack-of what one might laughably call a "barrier," the warmth from my breath still stays in front of my face. It's crazy.
    The few times I did sing, wearing a mask, I became light-headed, over-heated, got a sore throat, and lost my voice. Only those times.
    The only other time I lost my voice was this past weekend, because spring allergies come early in the southeast, and I couldn't stop sneezing.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,255
    Your results could vary, but I've never been able to attribute light-headedness, over-heating, a sore throat, nor voice loss to a normal face covering. I did suffer from a severe fit of giggling the first time I saw these SFO feedbags, but then I found out about the water-drinking port.
    Btw, warming up by singing into your elbow is a very handy trick when the neighbors are still asleep.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    I am not bothered by masks so much as to breathing, but they surely do fog my glasses. None of the supposed fixes for that, including an anti-fog spray seem to do much good.

    Many folks in my area haven't been to a mass in almost a year. When normal mass schedules resume, I wonder how many people will never come back.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,255
    I use reading glasses too. A little tape on the top edge, if nose-wiggling fails.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CatholicZ09
    Posts: 72
    Has the Sunday obligation been reinstated in any of your dioceses? Ours hasn’t been.
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 583
    Ours has not been.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 923
    Sunday Obligation was restored in my diocese as of March 10. With exceptions for those who are in at-risk categories or those who are afraid of catching the virus. Saturday Mass increased slightly from the previous week, but still around 25% of what we used to get on Saturday.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    In this diocese it hasn't been reinstated. Being Byzantine, I tend to pay not much attention to those obligations. I have been doing the "Reader's Service" each Sunday which substitutes for liturgy when liturgy is not available. However, we easterners are dealing with the same Covid situations as the Latins.
  • The obligation hasn't been restored (to the best of my knowledge), here.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,025
    When bishops post things like:
    Have you ever thought of your life as a lifelong Mass?

    If we are “baptized into one body” and are “temples of God” (1 Corinthians 12:13; 3:16) and share in Christ’s “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), then the Mass is not just something we participate in once a week, but something that must be lived every moment. If the Mass is to be lived in our heart throughout our week, then we must live the offertory and continue to invoke the Holy Spirit in all that we do so that the creative and renewing action of the Holy Spirit can bring Christ into the world about us. This is the “liturgy of the heart” that Father Jean Corbon writes of so beautifully in his book, The Wellspring of Worship, which I most highly recommend.

    one must wonder if they are feeding people's possible desire to not return to public worship, at all.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    Again, my suspicion that some have been away for so long, they may not come back when restrictions are lifted.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 457
    The Church has taught that the liturgy, especially the Mass, is the source and summit of the Christian life. That entails that the Mass is not isolated nor severed from life: as the source, it nourishes for Christian life when not at Mass; as the summit, it fulfills and liturgically expresses the highest aim of Christian life.

    Indeed, if our lives are to be lived as a total offering to God, then it makes sense to speak of Christian discipleship as a lifelong Mass. The liturgical Mass is the sacramental representation of Calvary, Christ's total, loving, sacrificial, redemptive offering of himself for the salvation of humanity, an offering with which we unite ourselves at but not merely at the liturgical Mass. Our offerings of our own lives to God through Christ should not be confined to attendance at Mass; our lives should be a continuous offering to God: in a sense, a continuous Mass, which is nourished and fulfilled sacramentally by our participation in the liturgical Mass.

    What the unnamed bishop wrote was good theology. Nothing wrong with it. There's no implication in it whatsoever that he is advocating life without Mass.

    But I agree with commenters who have speculated that the Mass-attending habit and sense of obligation has been broken in all but the most ardent Catholics, and it's not going to be easy to get people back in the pews.
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 583
    Do any of you personally know anyone who goes to Mass on Sunday solely because it's obligatory?
    Thanked by 2Liam PaxMelodious
  • The Sunday obligation was reinstated here in August (Sioux Falls) - I think maybe this was the first diocese to do so in the states? We had already been open since May, and to be honest I didn't notice any jump in numbers with the obligation in place. Masses were back to normal numbers within a few weeks of reopening. Nor have I seen a dwindling since August. The obligation, at least here, seems to reflect prevailing practice rather than affecting it.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,474
    As one priest recently observed on his FB page, a lot of church web sites give absolutely no indication of whether a dispensation is in effect; when you add in how unclear the Mass times and confession times often are, it shows they have no idea what people use the web for.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 923
    I really don't like using FB. I really don't like that our local city government uses it as the main way to communicate with the public.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,209
    Catholic parishes are, typically, terrible with in-time updating and evolution of their online presence; information is typically perfunctory - or beside the point insider stuff - and grudgingly updated, if updated at all (it's handed off as an afterthought to volunteers or underpaid staff that are never accountable for the work in any fruitful way). And that's being charitable. I believe it's evidence of residue of a longstanding unspoken assumption that, because Catholics are obliged to be in the pews (aside from COVID-tide), there's no need to attract a flock.*

    * Illustrative mentality: "We're the One Holy Roman and Apostolic Church(TM). [Hands over an offertory basket.] Remind us who you are again?"
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    While parishes may vary all over the place, the Latin diocese here does an excellent job of keeping people informed as to what is going on. They have a Facebook presence and a diocesan website and keep both current. Giving credit where credit is due.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,016
    For those that want to go back in time here is our diocese website, http://rcsouthwark.co.uk/indexold.html
    Don't worry they are working on a modern website! So this bit of history will soon be gone.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,889
    Internet archives. Nothing is ever gone.
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 641
    While I'm sure there will be a handful of people who return once they get their covid shots, I suspect that after a year, the majority of people planning on coming back have found their way back by now.
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 583
    Catholic parishes are, typically, terrible with in-time updating and evolution of their online presence


    It's remarkable. There are some parishes and groups that are very active in outreach (and usually have lots of younger people involved - young adults as well as teens and young families). Outreach may mean they post announcements on the parish bulletin board, or on Instagram. Or they may have a YouTube channel.

    But by and large if you go to Mass you will be advised at the end of Mass what is happening in the next several days. This will be a verbal announcement. This will be the only information provided about upcoming activities.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,203
    CatherineS... ah yes, the ‘verbal parish billboard’ as you’re riding out of Mass... an icon in the AmCat tradition! I wish they would also advertise cheap used cars for sale... make, model, year, price, and most importantly the Vin number. (It would be best if it was set to a psalm tone, and PLEASE, a different one each week... I cannot bear repetitive sounding VIN numbers for weeks on end)
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Elmar
    Posts: 321
    We still live in the illusion that the only limiting factor of mass attendence is the maximum allowed number of 30.

    Regarding online communication: I took the initiative for a weekly newsletter in March 2020, but had to submit every issue twice to the pastor (the concept version as well as the final one that included the required changes) for approval; sometimes that grew out to three or for times. This procedure drove both of us crazy - but no way he would say anything like 'these are my guidelines, go ahead, I trust you'.

    Needless to say that in the second lockdown since November we don't have a digital newsletter any more; neither do we have any useful announcements in the parish bulletin (nor on the website for that matter, only the pastor is allowed to submit content, after the young priest left who has set it all up).
    Thanked by 2ServiamScores CCooze
  • MarkB
    Posts: 457
    I hazard to guess that over the next 10-15 years there will be a tremendous winnowing among Catholic parishes almost everywhere in the United States.

    The current number of parishes, even after some dioceses have restructured by closing and merging parishes, is much larger than can be sustained once the Baby Boomer generation is no longer able to attend Mass. Baby Boomers still attend Mass and contribute financially in large numbers, but that won't last much longer.

    Parishes will have to compete for the remaining practicing Catholics among Gens X, Y and Z, and among Gens Y and Z the retention rate after Confirmation has been about 10% of those raised Catholic.

    After a year of dispensation from attending Mass, even those younger Catholics who still bothered to go to Mass not only have had the Mass attending habit broken but some of them have observed that not attending Mass has had no negative effect on their lives. For them, the realization is one of, "Huh... church doesn't seem that important because I've gone a year without it and I'm not any worse off."

    We're not likely to get them back with no effort on our part.

    The Catholic parishes that survive will be those that shift from a mentality that there will always be enough Catholics to fill the pews and the collection basket to those who recruit parishioners both by offering quality worship and catechesis and social activities, and by seeking out the lost sheep.
  • quality worship and catechesis and social activities,


    Define, please.