Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.


What Should You Eat On Friday?

(Image not intended as an answer to the question above. Not an endorsement!)

CARA’s national surveys indicate that more than six in ten self-identified adult Catholics in the United States will abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Unlike many of the other trends we track, this is not a practice in decline and is just as likely to be done by young adult Catholics as their elders. It also fits well in the social media age where people can have fun posting images of their non-meat foods. If you run a food establishment that is open for business on Fridays during Lent you are also likely financially concerned about the impact of 31,995,000 Catholic consumers (extrapolating from the survey data) looking for something to eat made of something other than meat.

Last Lent I gave up meat for the whole season. I am sure I just wasn’t doing vegetarianism “correctly” but I have to say it was the least healthy I have ever felt. When Lent ended, I went on a high protein diet (lots of meat) and now feel much less likely to die any time soon. Therefore, this Lent I had to think about what in the heck am I am going to eat on the days where I have to abstain from meat again (all Catholics, ages 14 or older, are called to abstain on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent).

This question called for some statistical analysis. The most challenging meal for many working age Catholics might be lunch. You aren’t at home and there likely aren’t any parish fish dinners available at this time. This often means one might buy a quick meal from a restaurant. I dug into the 2019 non-meat offerings at national fast and fast-casual chains and our findings might surprise some. I assume that a Catholic diner is looking to skip the meat but get as much protein (and fiber) as they can as a nutritional goal. I also assume they look to keep calorie and carbohydrate counts reasonable and minimize fat (...well maybe not keto Catholics), sodium, and sugar. Unfortunately taste is too subjective to be considered.

Although it varies by activity level, the average American needs around 2,000 calories per day and should try not to exceed 65 grams of fat and 2,300 milligrams of sodium. A healthier intake of sugar would be about 35 grams per day. To keep the comparisons fair, one Lent-friendly meal per establishment is evaluated and the base meal is a fish sandwich and medium fries (drink excluded). Some of the restaurants offer neither so the closest equivalent is considered in these cases. How do the menus this Lent stack up within these guidelines? I ranked them all on each nutritional outcome and the figure below shows the average rank (i.e., a lower rank indicates a better outcome given my assumptions) for each meal and establishment.

For me, someone looking to eat somewhat healthy and get as much protein as possible, Panera Bread’s tuna sandwich on focaccia with potato chips might be ideal. It is ranked overall as the 5th “healthiest” option this year (quotations are used because I am a doctor but not that kind of doctor…) providing 800 calories, 43 grams of fat (66% of daily limit), 75 grams of carbohydrates, 30 grams of protein, 1,520 milligrams of sodium (63% of daily limit), 5 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of sugar.

The “healthiest” option overall, given my assumptions, would be a Subway’s 6-inch tuna sandwich on Italian bread with potato chips. It is only 610 calories (no cheese but your choice of any vegetables allowed), but it has significantly less protein than Panera at 21 grams. On the positive side, Subway also offers less fat (35 grams), fewer carbs (53 grams), and lower sodium (780 milligrams).

The next “best” option to Subway may surprise—it’s the original fast food Lent offering. McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish with medium fries is surprisingly lighter than many other options. This meal comes in at only 610 calories with 35 grams of fat, 82 grams of carbohydrates, 21 grams of protein, 780 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of sugar.  Outside of elevated fats these nutritional targets measure close to 1/3 of what one would expect in a day’s eating. This was a meal specifically designed for the Catholic consumer in 1960s Cincinnati. Nutritionally, it is still not a bad option.

Which meal meets or exceeds some generally recognized daily nutritional goals? It’s one where there was not an equivalent to the fish sandwich and fries and this may have made it a less than fair comparison. If you wanted Chipotle you might order a sofritas burrito bowl (also including beans, rice, fajitas, cheese, salsa, lettuce, and sour cream) with a side of chips and guacamole. This amounts to 1,530 calories with 79.5 grams of fat, 165 grams of carbohydrates, 38 grams of protein (best of any meal evaluated), 2,800 milligrams of sodium (exceeding daily total maximum), 27 grams of fiber (best of any meal evaluated), and 14 grams of sugar. So if you are looking for maximum protein and fiber this is the choice but it comes with some other less desirable outcomes. This could also be a better option by cutting out the chips and guacamole and keeping the cheese and sour cream out of the burrito bowl. This option would only provide 545 calories, 15.5 grams of fat, 21 grams of protein, 81 grams of carbohydrates, 1,770 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of sugar. But would this be a meal that is really an equivalent to a fish sandwich and fries? It’s probably a bit too far on the lighter side.

While KFC does not appear to have a meat-free Lent option (unless you are lucky enough to be in Guam), Chick-fil-A does. A fish sandwich joins the lineup (at participating locations) for Lent. While the sandwich does not have complete nutritional information from the company, it appears to be similar, based on other sources, to McDonald’s once one factors in the side of fries. It comes in as the third “healthiest” relative to the recommended daily values. If you want a more calorie packed (and flavorful?) fish sandwich and fries you could try Wendy’s, Burger King, or Arby’s. These all exceed 850 calories, 100 carbohydrates, 40 grams of fat, and about 1,500 milligrams of sodium or more. Arby’s comes in with the highest numbers for the fish and fries meal for fat, carbs, sodium, and sugar (…this is the franchise with the tag line “We have the meats!” so it may not surprise that it is not likely the first option for a Friday during Lent).

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have offered a beer battered fish sandwich in the past. However, as of Ash Wednesday, it was not an option that was active from their menu windows online. Instead, under their “Better for you options” they currently offer a Veg It Thickburger, which appears to be a toppings loaded burger without the meat. We utilized this for our analysis (with medium fries). The fish sandwich from previous years would have been less “healthy.” Taco Bell also requires some selective ordering. We went with the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito with Nacho Fries for the analysis. It offers the lowest protein option but ranks second highest in fiber.

As we have noted in the past, Catholics are a relatively healthy bunch in the United States. Hopefully, our review of 2019 offerings helps you make some menu decisions this year. A recent scientific study showed that knowing what you are consuming may be one of the easiest steps to maintaining your health. 

McDonald’s background image courtesy of michaelgoodin.


Where the Parish Doors Have Closed … and Opened

One of the most common news stories about the Catholic Church in recent years involve parish closures. These events often gain local attention and time from time get coverage nationally. When the story is national, the closure(s) sometimes seems as if this is something generalizable. The national data seem to fit this characterization with the Church now operating 1,437 fewer parishes than it had in 1971.

What often gets lost in these stories (and in the national numbers) is that closures are a much more regional and local phenomenon. CARA has often referred to a “Tale of Two Churches” (1, 2) where pastors in different parts of the country tend to be worried about different things (keeping the lights on vs. finding space for more pews and parking spaces).

The net loss of parishes has been most heavily concentrated in dioceses in a handful of states. Really two states lead the pack in reducing their numbers of parishes. Pennsylvania has reduced its number of parishes by 532 since 1971 and New York by 500 during the same period. Other states have experienced increases in parishes, offsetting some of these losses including Texas, which has added 293 parishes, Florida which has added 165 parishes, and Arizona and New Mexico (the Diocese of Gallup crosses state lines) which added 121. The states in blue on the following map (click the map to see a larger version) have fewer parishes now than they had in 1971 and those in green have more now than in 1971.

The pattern in parish losses and gains follows economic and social mobility changes in the country more generally. The Sunbelt in the South has attracted population growth while the Rustbelt in the Northeast and Midwest have seen population drains over the decades. The Catholic Church, diocese by diocese, has responded to these changes by closing parishes in areas with losses and opening them in the states where population gains have occurred. It is important to note that these population gains have also included new arrivals from outside the United States as well.

In some urban dioceses that attracted the first waves of Catholic immigration from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, churches were built to serve the needs of people from particular countries like Italy, Poland, Germany, and Ireland. In some cases, parish buildings were built in close proximity to each other in cities catering to the language and culture of the specific immigrant groups needing pastoral care and access to the sacraments. Now many years removed from this immigration and often with Catholics having left long ago for the suburbs or the Sunbelt, parish buildings are underutilized. This is part of the story of what happened with some of the parish closures in areas of New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. In some other areas, shortages of priests have led to reorganizations that involve parish closures and clergy being assigned to administer multiple parishes. However, there are limits to how many parishes a single priest can realistically administer geographically. Finances also play a role. Since 2000, the average Catholic family has given $10 a week to their parish. In some cases, the number of these active families present in parish communities are not sufficient in numbers to make the operation of a parish viable in the long-term. Closures here have also been made due to this lack of funding.

In many ways, it has been easier for the Church to close parishes than build new sites. While growth is evident throughout the South (outside of Louisiana) and West, the Catholic population of this region has increased much more quickly than new brick and mortar construction. Nowhere is this more evident than in Georgia where the Catholic population has increased from about 110,000 in 1971 to more than 1 million today (+858%). While the state has added 67 parishes during this period, the number of Catholics per parish has increased from 1,396 in 1971 to 7,235 in 2018.

States with fewer Catholics today than in 1971 include Pennsylvania (-17% fewer), Rhode Island (-17%), Michigan (-16%), Vermont (-16%), Massachusetts (-14%), Louisiana (-10%), Ohio (-9%), Connecticut (-9%), Illinois (-4%), North Dakota (-2%), and Wisconsin (-2%). Other than Georgia, states with significantly more Catholics now than in 1971 include North Carolina (+922% more; 73,600 to 752,500), Nevada (+635%), South Carolina (+582%), Utah (+370%), Florida (+298%), Tennessee (+285%), and Virginia (+265%).  
New York has experienced no real net growth nor loss in the total number of Catholics residing in the state. Thus, there is more to the story of parish closures in New York than simple population change. Here, the geographic distribution of this population and of the parishes (particularly in urban areas) is likely central. It is also important to note that even with the net loss of 500 parishes in New York, there remains 1,203 parishes open and the number of Catholics per parish has only increased modestly from 4,048 in 1971 to 5,743 today. By comparison, in Nevada, a state that has gained 20 parishes since 1971, the number of Catholics per parish today is 12,639.

Parish photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism.


Jesuit Global Demographics in 2018

This post is by Georges Alsankary and Thomas Gaunt, SJ and is released for the feast day (tomorrow, Dec. 21) of St. Peter Canisius, SJ (1521–1597). It is the third post in a series (1, 2) in which CARA tracks changes among the Jesuits worldwide.

The Jesuits are the world’s largest religious order with active ministries spanning across six continents. They steadily increased in number from their restoration in 1814 until 1965 when they reached their peak membership of 36,000.  Since 1965 the total number of Jesuits worldwide has declined to 15,842 in 2017 but most notably the membership of the Jesuits has dramatically realigned by culture and ethnicity. Recent developments show a change in growth and expansion of the population of Jesuits: the largest national group used to be the US Jesuits, but now is the Jesuits of India. Africa and Asia have numerous young Jesuits, whereas Europe and North America are challenged by a large number of elderly Jesuits.

Worldwide the changing number of Jesuits is driven by three factors: the number of men entering the novitiate, the number of men departing the Jesuits, and the number of Jesuits that die each year. A growth in the number of Jesuit usually implies entrance groups being larger in number than the groups who leave or die. A steady decline would be the reverse of this.

For administrative purposes the Society of Jesus is organized into 76 provinces and independent regions.  They then grouped into six geographic conferences or assistancies:
  • Africa – All of Africa and Madagascar except North Africa.
  • Latin America – All of South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
  • South Asia – India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Bhutan.
  • Asia Pacific – Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, East Timor, New Zealand, and Myanmar.
  • Europe – Europe, Russia, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa.
  • North America – United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, Haiti, Jamaica, Belize and Micronesia
Note: Canada used to be part of the European assistancy, and Puerto Rico used to be in the Latin American assistancy. Both are currently in the North American assistancy as of 2016. Data has been adjusted to reflect these changes.

Overall Numbers:
The Data below shows the total number of Jesuits at ten year intervals (1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017).
Both Africa and South Asia are showing steady increase in the number of Jesuits, while both Latin America and Asia Pacific are decreasing in numbers. The Assistancies of Europe and North America show a steep decline in membership, more than 50% over the same 30 years.  If the trend continues the South Asia Assistancy will soon be the largest outnumbering Europe, North America, and Latin America.

Entering novices:
The number of novices entering the novitiate of each province can vary significantly year by year, therefore a more accurate picture is provided if we look at how many men enter the novitiate over five year intervals.  The graph below shows a stabilization over the past ten years in the number of novices entering in the Society of Jesus, even in places where there was previously a sharp decline.

The distribution of entering novices remains largely the same with respect to what it was 5 years ago: South Asia has the largest number, followed by Africa and Latin America. The clear majority of the younger Jesuits (64%) are still coming from Asia and Africa.

Departures from the Jesuits:
The Jesuits, like all other religious institutes experience a departure of a large number of the men who enter the novitiate, these departures usually occur in the years of formation before ordination (often ten years after entering) or final vows (often 15 to 20 years after entering). The general pattern of departures follows the earlier pattern of entrances for each assistancy, and the number of departures across the assistancies are close to what they were 5 years ago, and markedly lower than the past number of departures 15 or 20 years ago.

Entrants minus Departures:
The sustainability of the membership of a religious community relies on their being more entrances than departures over the course of years.  The graph below shows the gain or loss for each assistancy of the Jesuits in five-year periods over the past 30 years.  South Asia and Africa have had large sustained gains in members in each period of time.  Asia Pacific has shown a smaller, but stabilizing gain, and Europe a diminished but stabilizing gain. The North America has shown periods of a loss of members (more men departing than entering over a five-year period), although it now shows a net gain in recent years, while Latin America has only recently shown a small increase.

Number of Deaths
The vast majority of older Jesuits who entered prior to 1960 are in Europe and North America, and there are fewer older Jesuits in Africa and Asia. The Jesuits in Europe and North America have consistently accounted for about two-thirds of all the deaths over the past 30 years while the proportion of European and North American Jesuits have gone from 60% to 44% percent of the Jesuit membership.

Entrances minus Departures minus Deaths: Net Gain or Loss
When the number of men leaving the Jesuits is subtracted from the number entering and then the number of deaths are subtracted from that figure, we have the net gain or loss in Jesuit membership.  In combining these three basic demographic elements we see clearly the large and continuous impact of the declining number of Jesuits in Europe and North America, and to a lesser extent Latin America.  Only Africa and  Asia Pacific consistently record any net gain in Jesuits year over year, and that gain is dwarfed by the losses of Europe and North America. While Africa and South Asia may have a net gain of 100 to 200 Jesuits over a five-year period, Europe and North America have a net loss 1,200 to 1,300 Jesuits.

The membership trends observed five years ago have not significantly changed: the number of Jesuits are stabilizing across the board in all parts of the world, and there are no dramatic shifts in any particular region; there is a slight decline in the number of men entering the novitiate, but it is accompanied by a stabilization in the numbers of deaths, which makes for a reduced net decrease over time.

The very large number of Jesuits in Europe and North America who die each year is the main demographic factor driving the geographic shift of Jesuits as the net decline in the number of Jesuits worldwide is slowing down.

The continued growth in the number of younger Jesuits in Africa and South Asia means that there will be a continuing re-alignment of where Jesuits are serving the Church.  If the trends continue, the Society of Jesus will in the coming decade or two be defined more by the cultures and experiences of Asia and Africa, and less by Europe and North America.

Image courtesy of Sharon M Leon.

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