The story from Youngstown, Ohio:
The future of the Youngstown Catholic Diocese will likely mean fewer Masses and, possibly, fewer churches because there are fewer Catholics and an even smaller number who regularly attend.
Numbers released on Friday show Catholic participation in the diocese is way down — in some cases, nearly 70 percent.
“I was surprised when you see the decline over 20 years,” said Pete Schafer, who compiled the numbers showing a steep drop in participation.
Since 2000, the number of Catholics attending weekend Mass in the six-county Youngstown Diocese dropped 62 percent. Of the 234 masses, 77 percent were less than half full.
There have been 25 percent fewer funerals, 61 percent fewer first communions, 62 percent fewer weddings and 69 percent fewer baptisms than in 2000.Schafer is most concerned about the decrease in baptisms.
“That’s the entrance into the church, into our faith,” he said. “The number of parents that are bringing their children to be baptized, the number’s so far down that it is pretty alarming.”
Lastly, the number of local priests will also pose a challenge. The number of priests in active ministry has decreased by 43 percent since 2000.
Right now, there are 73 priests in active ministry within the Youngstown Diocese. About 40 percent of priests in the diocese have multiple ministries, parishes and/or worship sites on their list of responsibilities.
Over half of the priests in the diocese are 61 years and older. Ten are over the retirement age of 70.
“We do have about six retirements this summer and we have one ordination,” Schafer said.
The diocese estimates that by 2025, there will only be 55 priests.