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Pew Study Details Pastoral Challenges for Family-Oriented Pope

Jeffrey Bruno/Aleteia

Woman passes by cardboard cutout of Pope Francis in front of New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral

Sherry Weddell - published on 09/22/15

Aleteia asks DC, New York and Philly: "do these Pew findings fit your experience?"

The Pew Forum has just published a fascinating glimpse of the adult Catholic population in the three cities, Washington DC, New York City, and Philadelphia, who are hosting Pope Francis this week.

  • 85% of Philadelphia Catholics are non-Hispanic whites while only 50% of DC Catholics are non-Hispanic whites (15% are black).
  • 26% of Washington Catholics are under 30 while only 11% of NYC Catholics are twenty-somethings.
  • 58% of New York Catholics are women while in DC, the ratio of the genders is a straight 50-50% split.
  • Philadelphia Catholics are the most highly educated (20% have graduate degrees) while half of New York City Catholics have only a high school diploma.

Some of the findings are especially interesting in light of the World Meeting of Families gathering this week. Only 50% of NYC Catholics and only 45% of Philadelphia and Washington DC Catholics are married which is a bit below the national average of 52%.

Philadelphia – host of the World Meeting of Families – has more “never married” Catholics than the other two cities and more than twice the number of widows/widowers that DC has.

Meanwhile Washington, DC has nearly twice as many Catholics living with a partner outside of marriage as Philadelphia has. An average of 10% of Catholics in the three cities are living with a romantic partner who is not their legal spouse.

Once again we are facing the need to grapple pastorally and evangelically with the fact that unmarried Catholics – with or without children – often make up a majority now, especially in our big urban communities. How different the issues you have to wrestle with when working with Catholic families can look from city to city! Effective evangelization and pastoral care is always local.

A question for those Aleteia readers who live in one of the three host cities – do these Pew findings fit your experience?

Sherry Weddell is the author of Forming Intentional Disciples and Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples.

FamilyMarriagePope Francis USA
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