The problem is this: the estimated number of Catholics in the diocese is 173,307, but the number who actually go to Mass each Sunday averages out at 39,216, only 22.5% of the total, a number which has been declining by about two thousand souls for each of the last forty years. A lot of our English dioceses have the same problem, and some, I gather, even worse. How depressing and perhaps terminal.
BUT all is not lost. I came across some statistics for the diocese of Lincoln in Nebraska, in the United States of America. The diocese of Lincoln has fewer Catholics than our diocese, only about 95,000 in 138 parishes. In that diocese the Bishop of the diocese, Bishop Bruskewitz, has laid down one important rule, which is:
Priests of the Diocese of
That's all - nothing fancy - just orthodoxy in the celebration of Holy Mass. I wouldn't be surprised if orthodoxy in the teaching of the Faith went alongside that.
As a result of this diocesan policy, the diocese currently has 148 diocesan priests, of whom 123 are active in the diocese, 7 active outside the diocese, and 18 retired. There are currently 41 seminarians in the diocesan seminary. (The diocese of Hexham & Newcastle has 176 priests, of whom 54 are retired and many more on the cusp of retirement, and half a dozen seminarians).
But the really astonishing result of the diocesan policy is the effect it has had on Mass attendance.
The average Sunday Mass attendance in the Diocese of
Welcome Back Sunday? Good idea, perhaps, but even better: Just demand that all priests follow the rubrics and words of the Roman Missal without any personal liturgical creativity.
(I wonder if the reader from Lincoln, Nebraska, who visited my blog a few days ago, and whom I hope will return, would like to comment from his personal experience about what I have written.)