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Catechesis & the Average Catholic

Ever wonder what the “average American Catholic” looks like?

Mark M. Gray, in an article in America magazine (May 18), paints the picture for us. Gray is a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), which has been studying the Catholic Church for over fifty years. In the past five, CARA has conducted multiple national surveys of self-identified Catholics, from which a portrait of the “typical” or “average” can be discerned.

Your average American Catholic, Gray writes, is a 48-year-old, non-Hispanic white woman married to a Catholic spouse, with whom she has two children, a teenager and an adult child who no longer lives at home. She is “probably named Mary,” Gray writes, since that was the fourth most popular girl’s name in the year our subject was born. (For a look at the decline of Mary as a popular choice for girls, see our New Oxford Note “Individuality: The New Conformity,” Apr. 2013.) Mary, who attended college, works full time, owns a home, and lives in a western state. Her family’s annual household income is above $65,000.

Born after the close of Vatican II, Mary attends Mass at least once a month, and always on Easter, Christmas, and Ash Wednesday. (Gray doesn’t mention whether, or which of, her family members attend Mass with her.) She puts $10 in the offertory collection, on average. Mary is not very active in her parish and, Gray writes, “does not use much Catholic media other than the [parish] bulletin.” Hence, she will “probably never see” his America article — or this New Oxford Note, for that matter.

Mary’s faith is “important to her,” Gray concludes, “but there are other things in her life that are equally important.” In other words, she’s got her faith comfortably compartmentalized.

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