New Study Quantifies Spiritual Health Crisis in Catholic Families

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

My latest article for OSV’s Daily Take

If your child came home from school with a test grade of 22 percent would you be concerned? How about 17 percent or 13 percent?

Sadly, new research by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown found that similar numbers reflect the spiritual health “grades” of Catholic families. The first-of-its-kind study was sponsored by Holy Cross Family Ministries, an organization promoting family prayer and family well-being around the world and continuing the legacy of its founder, Father Patrick Peyton, CSC (of “the family that prays together … stays together” fame). The project examined the degree to which Catholic families are living out their faith in three areas: Mass and sacramental participation, prayer life at home and approach to media consumption. The new data describe a challenge that is greater than many could have imagined.

Poor rates of Mass attendance, prayer

The study’s finding that only 22 percent of Catholic parents attend Mass weekly is not inconsistent with other research showing about a quarter of Catholics attend Mass faithfully. But what is more concerning is how few weekly Mass-attending families either pray together or engage in any kind of religious formation in the parish or the home.

According to the HCFM/CARA data, 36 percent of Catholic parents pray daily, but only 17 percent ever pray as a family. Perhaps most disheartening on the family prayer front is that while 50 percent of Catholic families do eat dinner together daily, only 13 percent of Catholic families regularly say grace before meals.

Teach the children? Well…?

Equally troubling are the low rates of family involvement in religious education. Considering the low Mass attendance rates among the general population of Catholic parents, it may be unsurprising that 68 percent of all Catholic parents do not have their children enrolled in any type of formal religious education. More shockingly, however, only 42 percent of weekly Mass attending families have their children enrolled in religious education. For 58 percent of families who attend weekly Mass, the roughly one hour a week they spend in church is the extent of their ongoing faith formation.

Myths exposed

Some have wondered if the low rate of enrollment in religious education was misleading because of the number of Catholic homeschoolers….CONTINUE READING

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