Part 3: Research & Links

I contacted my editor a week and a half ago to ask if it was okay that I was writing a series of blog posts on the research I was doing for my forthcoming article. Parts 1 and 2 were really more background research, and -- after I posted those -- I felt like I was really ready to dig in and start writing the substance of the article. Unfortunately (though completely understandably), he asked that I not publish any content (even on an informal blog) that would eventually make its way into the article. Because I wasn't sure what exactly would and wouldn't make its way in, I decided to hold off entirely adding to this series. 

Turns out, this was a good move. Much of what I would have posted has made its way into the second draft of the article (which comes in at a whopping 3,700 words). Not sure how much of that will remain in the final draft -- I guess we'll all have to wait and see that.

So, the plan is now to post that story when it comes out online. May be a while. In the meantime, I'll be posting links to lots of the research I've done for the story. I'm gonna do this for many reasons, one reason, though, is that I was very surprised by lots of the stuff I found in the course of doing my research, and I think others might be as well. So here goes. 

First up, some stats from CARA (the Center for Aplied Research in the Apostolate), based out of Georgetown:

Here, in a succinct chart, you can see how drastic the reduction in priests over the past 50 years has been. You can also see a marked rise in lay involvement at various levels. Religious vocations, of course, are also down. 

Here, in a succinct chart, you can see how drastic the reduction in priests over the past 50 years has been. You can also see a marked rise in lay involvement at various levels. Religious vocations, of course, are also down. 

Here's another: 

Some numbers regarding parishes, parish priests and pastors, and -- crucially for my article -- the number of lay parish life coordinators (there are currently 431 of these, see below for a description and some links). 

Some numbers regarding parishes, parish priests and pastors, and -- crucially for my article -- the number of lay parish life coordinators (there are currently 431 of these, see below for a description and some links). 

One of the most interesting numbers on this chart is 431, the number of lay pastoral life coordinators. This position was created in the 1980s as a response to the priest shortage. It allows lay men and women (and, I suppose, religious brothers and sisters), to, essentially, serve in the roles a pastor otherwise would (except, of course, when it comes to the sacraments). Finding such a role was crucial in my research. It proved, not only that it was canon legal for an alternative structure to be employed at the parish and diocesan level that incorporated more lay ministers, but that it was actually happening in several places, and with great success! Check out this story about one such director in a parish in California. Or this one, about a lay woman serving her parish in this role in Baltimore. In both cases, the priests, lay people, and bishops love the structure, and no one seems to be worried that the change was the prelude to some sort of anarchic lay revolt (just the opposite, actually).

 

Over the next couple days I'll be posting even more links and data. Much of this, by the way, was sent my way by friends and family who proofread an early (terrible) version of my article, and I'm really grateful to them for their help! The stats here I came across while reading a piece that actually accompanied my original piece in Commonweal last year. That piece, by Mary Gautier, can be found here.  In large part, it actually inspired my current article, so big thanks to her!