A recent survey concluded African-American Catholics are more engaged in their parishes than their white counterparts.
The survey was the first of its kind and was conducted by the National Black Catholic Congress in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame's Institute for Church Life and the office of the school's president.
Retired Bishop John H. Ricard of Tallahassee, who is president of the National Black Catholic Congress, explained that when they describe parishioners who are engaged they mean those individuals that attend church more than semi-regularly. It also means individuals that have strong social networks within the church as well as involvement in church activities outside of Sunday service.
"Compared with other religious and racial groups, African-American Catholics behave and look like African-American Protestants," wrote Darren W. Davis, a professor of political science and associate vice president for research at Notre Dame, and Donald B. Pope-Davis, professor of psychology and vice president and associate provost Notre Dame, who authored the executive summary for the survey.
The survey was conducted this summer by phone calls to 3,215 people, including 2,104 African-Americans. That number represents Catholics and Protestants according to their ratio in the United States population, and 76 percent of those surveyed said their parish is not predominantly African-American.
One set of questions asked, "How well does your parish meet your needs?"
Black Catholics and both black and white Protestants were more likely than their white Catholic counterparts to agree.
For instance, when the question asked about spiritual needs, 78 percent of black Catholics and 86 percent of black Protestants said, "well" or "very well," while just 67 percent of white Catholics and 81 percent of white Protestants said, "well" or "very well.”
When a question was asked about parishes meeting social needs, 62 percent of black Catholics, 76 percent of black Protestants and 63 percent of white Protestants responded with "well" or "very well," while just 41 percent of white Catholics said, "well" or "very well.”
These results could hold also valuable keys for dioceses and churches that are facing hardships when it comes to drawing in and helping immigrants from Latin America and Asia feel like they are a part of the church.
Similar to African-Americans, Latino and Asian immigrants have a strong cultural sense of community, Bishop Ricard explained.
"There is less emphasis on the individual and more on the communitarian aspects of a church,” said Ricard.
"African-American young adults, both Catholic and Protestant, are more religiously engaged and consider religion to be more important than whites of the same age," the authors said.
"Older individuals are more religiously engaged than younger adults, and there is an age gap, but African-American young adults are also religiously engaged. Whatever disengagement exists among African-Americans, it cannot be attributed to a generation gap. White Catholic young adults, by contrast, have an extremely low level of religious commitment," the authors continued.