In the Feb/Mar issue of Crisis magazine is a study of the relative vitality of the dioceses in the United States. The study looked at several criteria for diocesan health, starting from the viewpoint that the quality of the man who sits in the cathedra is a key aspect of that vitality. (However, they did not see simple population numbers of Catholics as meaningful, since migration of population is affected by many factors not directly related to the state of the Church in the region. But are their other numbers just as arbitrary?) Significantly, they saw priestly morale as a key indicator of a bishop’s effectiveness and the health of the local Church and they measured that morale by changes in the number of active priests over a decade and the number of ordinations in 2005. They also considered the number of adults received into the Church.
While these particular factors are not bad indicators, I have to wonder whether they are sufficient. There many other factors which indicate the health of a diocese which can’t be quantified by looking at numbers and statistics. But then you can’t do a study like this with them. But if we grant them this for now, the results are interesting. For one thing, New England as a whole is on a lifeline with regard to vitality, while the South is doing the best. I can’t argue with that conclusion.
As for individual dioceses, the top ten in order are Knoxville, Tennessee; Savannah, Georgia; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Alexandria, Louisiana; Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Birmingham, Alabama; Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia; Anchorage, Alaska; and Biloxi, Mississippi. The bottom ten—starting with the lowest—are Hartford, Connecticut; Rockville Centre, New York; Rochester, New York; Metuchen, New Jersey; Albany, New York; Pittsburgh; Madison, Wisconsin; Allentown, Pennsylvania; El Paso, Texas; and Camden, New Jersey. These are based entirely on the aforementioned criteria of change in the number of active priests, number of ordinations, and reception of adults into the Church.