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Second Mass count reveals slight dip in weekly attendance

First slide

churchThe annual Mass count was conducted for a second year in the Diocese of Arlington. The data is analyzed by the diocese to track overall trends in Mass attendance and then used to help pastors better understand the needs of their parishes. 

“The results of the second annual October Mass count show us that we should be grateful for the continued faithful participation of so many, but we cannot be complacent in our efforts to increase participation in Sunday Mass,” said Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge.


Mass attendance


In most churches, only a portion of registered parishioners attends Sunday Mass regularly.  

According to the second annual Diocese of Arlington October Mass Count, only four parishes in the diocese see 76-100 percent of their registered parishioners attend Sunday Mass, as seen in the graph.

More than half, 41 of 75 diocesan churches and missions, see about 26-50 percent of their parishioners regularly attending Sunday Mass. 



Father Thomas P. Ferguson, vicar general and pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria said, “Like every aspect of church life, we’re looking at and considering how (the Mass count has been) impacted by the current crisis that we’re experiencing. (But) Mass attendance has been relatively flat, relatively speaking, from one year to the next,” he said. 

“While it’s never a good thing to be not making progress, nevertheless we haven’t seen a dramatic decline,” said Father Ferguson. “People seem to be very much persevering in their fidelity to the commitments to God and to participating in the life of the parish.”

 Collection methods


Mass attendance was collected on three specific weekends: Oct. 13-14, 20-21, and 27-28. Tim Cotnoir, diocesan financial officer, said most dioceses choose October because church attendance is less likely to be affected by vacations, holidays or inclement weather. 

Each parish is responsible for maintaining its own database of active parishioners. The results are reported to the diocese June 30. Forms from the October Mass count were sent to the chancery in November. 

In 2018 on the count weekends, the diocese asked that each Saturday vigil and Sunday Mass have at least one coordinator and two counters, typically ushers. Counters were encouraged to count immediately after the offertory to minimize the risk of missing persons who arrived late or left early. The organist, ushers, altar servers and the priest celebrant were included in the count.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019