Lay Survey Summary of Responses
The lay survey invited the laity to identify those items, which were important for their parish to improve as they seek to integrate their faith with their daily lives. By design, the survey took the approach of soliciting as much input from the laity as was possible. Since all laity was invited to participate, rather than just a random sampling, statistically representative data was not an expected outcome. The goal was to seek qualitative data, rather than quantitative data. In addition, breaking with the normal pattern of surveys of large populations, which ask closed-ended questions, this survey specifically invited an open-ended response to each question. Although this made the analysis of the results much more time-consuming, the richness of the responses made this approach well worth the time investment.
One feature of the survey is that it did not seek to do a comprehensive evaluation of parish life. Instead, the survey asked the respondents to focus only on what was important to them in helping them integrate their faith with their daily lives. Even more specifically, the survey asked the respondents to indicate only those important items, which needed improvement. Thus, an important item that is doing well and needs no improvement would not necessarily show up in the survey. Similarly, an aspect of parish life that is not important for the respondent would also not show up, regardless of whether that item was being treated well or not at all. This approach was purposely planned by the Bishops' Committee on the Laity. It enabled the laity to identify to the bishops those areas needing most attention at that time in the life of the Church in the U.S.
In addition to gathering demographic data, the survey sought suggestions in 32 areas of parish life, which were grouped into six categories: 1) Knowledge of the Faith, 2) Liturgical Life, 3) Moral Formation, 4) Prayer, 5) Communal Life, and 6) Missionary Spirit. These six categories were taken from the Bishops' statement, "Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States." For each question, which a respondent identified as being important and needing improvement, the respondent was invited to offer suggestions as to how to improve this area within their parish.
A total of 59,208 people responded to the Lay Survey. In general, the respondents were very active in their parishes. 89% of the individual respondents attend mass at least once a week, with 24% attending more than once a week. Weekly mass attendance for respondents is clearly much higher than the general Catholic population in the U.S. where estimates are usually in the 35 to 40% range. In addition, 32% of the respondents participate in parish leadership. A very large percentage of the respondents, 83%, volunteer at their parish in some form. In addition, 64% indicated that they frequently attend parish programs. Generally, it can be said that the respondents were motivated to complete the survey and to share their opinions. Many expressed gratitude at being asked for their opinions. It was obvious that the questions were taken seriously and many thoughtful answers and helpful suggestions were provided.
Two-thirds of respondents were in the 35 to 64-year-old age bracket. See Figure 1.
Approximately 21% were young adults (18 to 34) and 11% were seniors (65 and older). Two percent of the respondents were under 18.
With respect to gender, 59% were female and 41% were male. See Figure 2.
Figure 2.: Ehtnic/Racial Background
Native Americans: 1%
Native Americans: 1%
US Catholic data from CARA's Catholic Poll 2000, as quoted in Catholicism USA (Mary knoll, NY: Orbis, 2000).
Calculations for Respondents include only those individuals who
selected one or more categories.
When these percentages are compared to statistical data culled by CARA, it is apparent that those self-identified as White are over-representative of the Catholic population in the U.S.; while those self-identified as Black or Hispanic are under-represented.
Of individuals responding to the survey, 34% had attended Catholic grade school, 25% had attended Catholic high school, almost 20% had attended a Catholic college and 22% had attended CCD / religious education classes. Only individual respondents, and not group respondents, were asked this question, so actual results are expected to be higher. See Figure 3. Catholic Education
Of the 59,208 respondents, 53% filled out the survey as individuals; whereas, 47% completed the survey within groups. Those who did work on the survey in groups transmitted one survey representing the group consensus. See Figure 4.
Completing the survey in a group had the benefit of providing a forum for discussion of the questions before finalizing an answer. In addition, this enabled many people who did not have ready-access to the internet to also participate in the survey. Groups varied in size. Many groups had 2 or 3 people. Others had a slightly larger number of respondents, usually 6 through 10. A few groups were much larger, including groups of 20, 50, 100, 220, and over 500 participants. Some pastors indicated that they utilized the survey within the parish and then the results were submitted as a group. In fact, even after the survey period ended, additional parishes continue to use the survey as a tool for self-knowledge within the parish community.
Lay Catholics responded from every single state in the U.S., as well as from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nearly 500 US Catholics who live abroad also responded. Figure 5 gives a breakdown of the number of respondents from each state. The second column indicates the percentage (and number) of respondents from that state. The third column takes into account the Catholic population of the state based on data from the 2000 Kennedy Directory and identifies what percentage of Catholics from that state responded. The states having the highest number of respondents were Texas (with 7,446 respondents), Pennsylvania, California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Michigan. States having the highest percentage of Catholics within the state responding were Maryland, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Iowa.
The 32 survey topics have been ranked by the laity who responded to the survey. The responses are listed below in priority order. The top ten suggestions for each of these topics are included in Chapter V. A copy of the survey is included in Chapter VII:
- 41,177 respondents (69.5%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves its adult faith formation/adult education."
- 39,297 respondents (66.4%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it supports parents in passing on their faith to their children."
- 39,006 respondents (65.9%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it helps me to understand more about Catholic teaching, including teaching about social justice."
- 36,569 respondents (61.8%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it helps me to deepen my understanding of the Bible."
- 33,148 respondents (56%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it celebrates Sunday liturgy."
- 32,201 respondents (54.4%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves its preaching at Mass and other liturgies."
- 31,384 respondents (53%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves opportunities for active participation of the community in worship."
- 30,049 respondents (50.8%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it builds community within the parish by providing ways for people to get to know others who share their beliefs and values."
- 29,383 respondents (49.6%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it helps me deepen my relationship with God."
- 29,206 respondents (49.3%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it helps me discern my vocation or profession in life."
- 27,927 respondents (47.2%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it helps me to pray as an individual."
- 27,776 respondents (46.9%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it helps me connect my faith with my daily life."
- 26,962 respondents (45.5%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it promotes learning various ways of praying."
- 26,845 respondents (45.3%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it helps me to pray as part of a community."
- 26,529 respondents (44.8%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves its outreach to inactive Catholics."
- 25,689 respondents (43.4%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it helps people, especially newcomers, to feel welcome."
- 25,550 respondents (43.2%) indicated
"It is important to me that my parish improves how it celebrates sacramental reconciliation."
- 25,150 respondents (42.5%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improve how it helps me make important moral decisions in my personal life at work or at home."
- 23,407 respondents (39.5%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves the way it supports and encourages lay persons to serve as members of parish staffs, school teachers, and other formal church ministry positions."
- 22,660 respondents (38.3%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves its outreach and ministry to the poor, the hungry and/or the homeless."
- 22,621 respondents (38.2%) indicated "it is important to me that my parish improve opportunities and training for liturgical ministers (e.g., lectors, ministers to the homebound, hospitality ministers)."
- 22,611 respondents (38.2%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves stewardship within the parish, by inviting parishioners to use their talents and gifts for the common good."
- 21,979 respondents (37.1 %) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it helps couples grow in their commitment to married life."
- 20,855 respondents (35.2%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it evangelizes by helping parishioners to share the Good News with others."
- 20,103 respondents (34%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it promotes respect for life from conception to natural death."
- 19,535 respondents (33%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves the way it supports and encourages vocations to the priesthood and religious life."
- 19,156 respondents (32.4%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it promotes opportunities for service."
- 18,983 respondents (32.1 %) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it encourages participation in parish planning, councils and committees."
- 18,119 respondents (30.6%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improves how it affirms and promotes the cultural, racial and ethnic diversity of parishioners and parish leaders."
- 17,321 respondents (29.3%) indicated "it is important to me that my parish improve how it prepares for and celebrates the following sacraments: Infant Baptism, First Penance, First Eucharist, Confirmation and/or Marriage."
- 17,196 respondents (29%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improve leadership of the parish (both clergy and lay).
- 15,410 respondents (26%) indicated, "It is important to me that my parish improve its RCIA process (initiation of adults)."
It should be noted that if the laity selected a topic least, this is not necessarily a negative indication. This could mean that the topic area is not as important as others are. Or it could mean that even though it is important, the parish is already doing an excellent job in this area. Or it could be a combination of these reasons. What should be noted, however, is that for the respondents, the topics given high priority are those needing increased attention by the parish and the bishops.
After indicating the importance of the 32 areas described above, respondents were invited to indicate "What else could your parish do to help you better live your call as a Christian in the world?" and, "What is the best thing that your parish is already doing that helps you live out your call as a Christian in the world?"
Finally, respondents were asked, "What could you do specifically to help your parish better address some of the needs which are important for you?" Many suggestions were received for this last question. One parishioner indicated that he was sorry that he had written so many suggestions for the previous questions, because now he realized that he needed to take responsibility for starting to implement some of the ideas. A sampling of the responses to this question has been grouped into the six categories and is available in Chapter VII.