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CURRENT ISSUE:  July 6, 2009
VOL. 47, NO. 13   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Vatican to U.N.: Don’t forget
world’s 1 billion hungry

Bishops urge G-8 to remember poor, address climate
Teens, young adults invited to rally, Mass at cathedral
Pace of parish closings quickens
(See story below)

CNS graphic/Emily Thompson and Nancy Wiechec

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Parish closings are nothing new in the history of the U.S. Catholic Church, but the pace of closures and mergers has accelerated over the past 20 years, as several factors have converged.

The third American Religious Identification Survey, conducted by Trinity College of Hartford, Conn., found that the U.S. Catholic population has shifted away from the Northeast toward the Southwest.

Catholics in immigrant communities in the Northeast and industrial Midwest “insisted that their kids get a good education,” but once educated, “kids didn’t stay where the traditional immigrant families were,” according to Mary Gautier, a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington.

They have moved out of the inner cities and into the suburbs, she said, “and out of the Rust Belt and into the Sun Belt . . . out of the rural areas and into the Sun Belt.”

So in those regions, some U.S. parishes are big and getting bigger, almost on the scale of “megaparishes,” according to Gautier.

Another factor in parish closings has been a smaller number of priests available for parish ministry.

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