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Survey shows persisting effects of pandemic on Mass attendance


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J-P Mauro - published on 11/15/21

A survey from Pillar Catholic found a stark decrease in Mass attendees and a proportionate dip in donations.

A special report from Pillar Catholic is highlighting the persistent decline in Mass attendees, even as churches have reopened. According to Pillar’s latest “Survey on Religious Attitudes and Practices,” the number of Catholics who say they attend Mass every week has dropped by 14%. This number is almost directly reflected in weekly collections, which have fallen by 12%.

Mass attendance

Prior to the pandemic, a 2019 survey found that 41% of Catholics said they go to Mass weekly. In this same year, another 41% responded that they attend Mass less frequently, from once or twice a month to several times per year. Only 18% of Catholic respondents said they never went to Mass prior to the pandemic. 

Now, the numbers have shifted downward. Pillar’s new survey cited weekly Mass attendees at 36%, while the less frequent group dropped to 35%. Close to a third, 29%, now say that they never go to Mass. It is worth noting here that the survey did not distinguish between virtual and in-person services.

Pillar Catholic noted that, while the shifting numbers may not seem so steep, the change in the last group is troubling. The jump from 18% to 29% in Catholics who never attend Mass is an increase of 62%. If this trend continues in subsequent years, parishes will need to contend with even greater hardship. 


As far as the demographics of the decline are concerned, the survey was surprising. On average, it was found that a slightly older crowd is the most likely to have stopped going to church. Currently, the average age of weekly Mass-goers is 46, while the average age of those who say they have stopped going since the pandemic began is 50. Only 19% of this latter group is over the age of 65. 

It is not clear what factors have led to this change, as the older generations were generally the most fervent of weekly attendees in previous years.

Confession is key

One interesting discovery of the survey was the relationship between weekly church attendance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Fifty percent of Catholics who regularly attend Mass reported visiting the confessional at least once per month. Of the half that regularly confess, 85% said they have returned to weekly Mass. Conversely, only 56% of those who do not regularly confess have returned to weekly services. 

Read the full report at Pillar Catholic.

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