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.


U.S. Catholics Adapting to New Realities

At CARA, we utilize our surveys and Google search term trends to estimate weekly Mass attendance. Mass attendance fell to below 10 percent during Lent in 2020 with the emergence of the pandemic. Did former weekly attenders begin to watch Mass weekly online or on TV? Has Mass attendance begun to increase now as vaccines are administered and lockdowns eased?

A CARA survey conducted during the summer of 2020 of young adult Catholics (ages 18-35) indicated 11% were watching Mass "very often" and 14% were viewing "somewhat often." According to our tracking of Google search trends, this matches what we might call "Mass participation." The figure below shows how Mass attendance changed with the green bars approximating attendance and the orange bars estimating viewing. 

While in-person attendance has been difficult, Mass participation or engagement has been more consistent. Prior to the pandemic about 27% of Catholics were attending or viewing Mass per week. This would rise significantly on days of obligation and Ash Wednesday. During the pandemic engagement has averaged 22% per week. Yet, this does not rise as much on days of obligation and Ash Wednesday (for more on Mass attendance trends see our previous post). 

In the aforementioned survey of young adults, 30% said they lived in a household that contributed financially to their parish's weekly offertory collection, giving, on average, $10 per week prior to the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, only 13% say their household has been contributing. However, among these households, the average given per week has been $20 per week (for more on financial giving see our previous post).

According to Gallup, affiliation with Catholicism in 2020 was 22% and this was unchanged from what it was in 2019 or 2018. 


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