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US survey reveals most parish administrators are women

Almost 90% of non-ordained people who administer US Catholic parishes are women, according to a report published by the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.

CARA said that women religious accounted for 71% of interviewed parish coordinators, while lay women accounted for an additional 18%. Men - lay men or religious brothers - accounted for 11%.

The organisation has published its findings in a 61-page report, Understanding the Experience: A Profile of Lay Ecclesial Ministers Serving as Parish Life Coordinators.

Comparing their findings with data gathered in a similar national study in 1990, the researchers said the percentage of nuns serving as nonordained parish life coordinators has dropped - from 81% in 1990 to 71% in 2002. They said lay women rose from 13% to 18% in that time, lay men from 5% to 6%, and religious brothers from 1% to 5%.

They said 89% of parish life coordinators are tertiary educated, compared to 13% of adult Catholics in general and 53% of lay ecclesial ministers.

"Most parish life coordinators serve in small parishes," the researchers said. "Two-thirds of PLCs are entrusted with a parish that has fewer than 200 registered households. ... Twenty seven% are at parishes with 201 to 549 registered households and 7% are at parishes with more than 550 registered households."

More than nine out of 10 interviewed said they are responsible for the financial and business administration of the parish, for planning and leading liturgies, for visiting the sick and housebound, and for leading prayer and Communion services when no priest was available. More than 80% described their ministry as including sacramental preparation, adult religious education, child religious education and ministry to the poor. Nearly three-fourths called justice and social ministry part of their job and 58% said they are called on to preach.

Nine-tenths of lay parish life coordinators are women (Catholic News Service 12/10/04)

Understanding the Experience: A Profile of Lay Ecclesial Ministers Serving as Parish Life Coordinators (text of report)
Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership
Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate

14 Oct 2004