The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh must focus on “better homilies, better music and more people” as its six-county territory attempts to reverse a series of “sobering” trends and prepares for a major overhaul in 2018, Bishop David Zubik said Wednesday.
“The No. 1 priority has to be, ‘We need to make our worship better,’” Zubik told the Tribune-Review. “Second of all, we need to do the best job that we can to get not only more ordained leaders, but we really have to open up lots of doors for the lay leaders of the church.”
The Pittsburgh diocese is closing in on the parishioner-input phase of a comprehensive planning initiative called “On Church for the Mission Alive!,” through which leaders are examining how to strengthen church participation, reorganize aging infrastructure and make the most of dwindling resources.
They’re up against dismal data.
The number of active Catholics within the Pittsburgh diocese has declined rapidly in recent decades, from 914,000 in 1980 to 632,000 in 2015, diocesan figures show.
Since 2000, weekly Mass attendance has dropped by 40 percent — for almost 100,000 fewer regular churchgoers; K-8 Catholic school enrollment fell by 50 percent; and the number of active priests plummeted from 338 to 225.
By 2025, if trends hold, the diocese projects that just 112 active priests will remain.
“I hear that the laity is going to have to take that torch and do some of what the priests were doing, and my concern is our laity is not really trained well enough to do that in time,” said St. Andrew’s parishioner John Cascino, 53, a father of six young children in Butler. “It’s going to be a while before all these new deacon classes get taught.”
…In 2016, at least 37 diocesan priests split their time among more than one parish, noted Zubik, with some overseeing three to four.
More consolidation “needs to happen so that they’re not driving from church to church and trying to serve so many parishes,” Cascino said. “It’s going to be hard, and people are not going to want to give up their family church. But it’s a reality, and the upside of it is that we could have larger churches filled with more people — that in itself creates a sense of vibrancy.”
Photo: John C. Schisler / Tribune-Review