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5.9% decline in Mass attendance in Chicago last year

The Archdiocese of Chicago reports a 5.9% decline in Mass attendance last year. Fewer people in the pews translated into less money for parishes while increasing pension and insurance obligations created a deficit in the Archdiocese of Chicago's Pastoral Center budget.

The decline led to a 2.9 percent decrease in parish revenue, said Thomas Brennan, the archdiocesan director of finance, and overall operating deficit for parishes of $36 million.

In fiscal 2002, the parishes had a combined surplus of $24.2 million, Brennan said.

"The contributions, such as those received on Sundays, Holy Days, Christmas and Easter, represent the largest source of parish revenue, and they grew on a per-person basis of 4.8 percent in fiscal year 2003," Brennan said, but it was not enough to offset the declining number of contributors.

At the same time attendance dropped, the archdiocese's 374 parishes, 248 elementary schools and seven high schools supported by parishes or the archdiocese saw net assets increase by 2.4 percent to $935 million, primarily because of the success of the archdiocesan Millennium Campaign, which raised money for parish, school and archdiocesan capital projects.

Many of the operating fund difficulties come from a large number of parishes trying to maintain large, aging buildings with smaller, aging congregations, Brennan said. Last year, only 86, or a little more than 20 percent of parishes broke even or had an operating surplus. In fiscal 2002, 40 percent of parishes broke even or ran surpluses.

At the Pastoral Center, which provides services across the archdiocese, there was a one-year deficit of $88.5 million, compared to a deficit of $15.8 million a year ago.

Belt-tightening measures intended to allow the pastoral center to break even for the most part worked, Brennan said, with net spending dropping from $26.4 million in fiscal 2002 to $26.1 million in fiscal 2003. Grant funding to schools and parishes also dropped by about $10 million, or 38 percent, from fiscal 2002, Brennan said.


Catholic New World (Archdiocese of Chicago publisher)

2 Jan 2004