Growth in the Sunbelt

U.S. parishes have faded in the north and blossomed in the south



Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. The blog periodically posts research findings which are often accompanied by helpful graphs and charts. A pre-COVID post at Nineteen Sixty-four offers data on U.S. Catholic parish closures and openings, and it describes closures as a much more “regional and local phenomenon” than is commonly believed. As a map-graphic makes clear, closures are generally a northern phenomenon and openings are generally a southern phenomenon, with some exceptions. A link to the whole post is at bottom. First, some highlights:

  • States that in the now-distant past boasted large Catholic populations have closed many parishes. The state of New York has lost 500 parishes between 1971 and 2018, and Pennsylvania has seen 532 closed in the same time period.
  • Although New York has closed many churches, the state “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.”
  • Parishes in populous Midwestern states have fared a bit better, at least according to the numbers. Ohio has lost 171 parishes, Michigan and Illinois have lost 140 each, and Wisconsin has lost 165.
  • Now the good news, in the Sunbelt: Texas has opened 293 new parishes between 1971 and 2018, Florida has added 165, and Arizona and New Mexico together have added 121.
  • The blog notes, “The pattern in parish losses and gains follows economic and social mobility changes in the country more generally.”
  • The number of U.S. parishes peaked in the early 1990s, at 18,988 total.

For details, follow this link:


Barbara E. Rose is Web Editor of the NOR.

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