When I began this blog 14 months ago my first post detailed the precipitous decline in weekend Mass attendance in the Diocese of Rochester over the 7 year period ending in 2007. During that time Average October Attendance had fallen from 108,000 to 84,000.
Last year's number is now available and it shows that this trend is continuing unabated. DOR's 2008 AOA was 80,710.
DOR has now lost over one quarter (25.3%) of its weekend Mass attendees in a mere 8 years. Put another way, we have been losing an average of 3.58% of our Mass attendees year in and year out since 2000.
Here is the AOA data from 2000 through 2008 in tabular form:
In graphical format it looks like this:
Spirit Alive! is having no effect
In 2007 the diocese launched Spirit Alive!, a 3-year effort that is DOR's idea of what a diocesan-wide spiritual renewal ought to look like. One of the purposes of Spirit Alive! was to help stem the decline in Mass attendance.
I had my reservations as to how any program lacking a healthy dose of catechesis could have any real effect (see CCC #8) and it now appears those reservations were well founded. Whatever good things Spirit Alive! might be accomplishing, keeping folks in the pews is not one of them.
National attendance trends are steady
Eugene Michael at Rochester Catholic has recently posted an article dealing with declining Mass attendance in the Irondequoit area and citing sources showing that decline to be an anomaly. He quotes Dr. Mary Gautier of the CARA Research Center at Georgetown University as saying that nationally,
The percentage of Catholics attending Mass has remained stable over recent years (my emphasis).
In other words, things like the pedophile priest scandal and the "generational shift" have had no real effect on our national Mass attendance rate.
The question remains
There's no denying that DOR's weekend Mass attendance is in a death spiral and that there is no nationwide statistical explanation for it.
And so the question remains, why is the Mass attendance rate in DOR falling off a cliff?