Ethnic Catholic parishes on every corner vs. mega Catholic parishes


Off the top of my head, we have three ethnic parishes in out archdiocese, all of them in Portland: Our Lady of Lavang; Church or the Korean Martyrs, and St Stanislaus. We have one that has served the African American Community, but demographics and home sales have lead to a more integrated neighborhood.


Pittsburgh had dozens of ethnic parishes both in the city as well as the surrounding exurbs, although there are a lot fewer today than there was 30 years ago.


True, we should have been doing a lot more evangelization all along. Yes, there are some people living around those parishes, but a lot fewer than before. The parishioners are often older people living in the suburbs. There’s a part time priest or deacon holding the fort, sometimes a food pantry.

It would take a diocesan subsidy just to pay the heat bill, forget preventive building maintenance. I love old churches, whenever I travel my wife and I see every historic church we can. But keep in mind there are many Catholic youths and young adults who live far from the historic churches, many of them have drifted away or are at risk of doing so.

The diocese has a responsibility to reach out to those people, develop outreaches in the suburbs and to young adults. The seniors, and the historic churches, are “the squeaky wheel” but sometimes you have to shift priorities. That takes money, priests, and deacons. Almost all our priests and deacons are mostly assigned to parishes.


Ethnic parishes often retain a great deal of Catholic heritage, in addition to those who have Mass in that language. Since you mention Polish, there is a whole series of devotions, music, art, customs and practices that are fostered by a good Polish parish.

This includes some things incorporated in the liturgy, other devotions in English and/or Polish, special foods with religious meanings, special blessings for the home, for the holidays, for the deceased, for Good Friday, etc. By appreciating the unique contributions of Polonia in the total context of a parish, one can better appreciate and celebrate unique contributions of other Catholic shaped cultures.


Personally for some those “mega Catholic Churches” are fine but I myself would MUCH prefer a smaller church in which Father knows each of us by name and everybody knows everybody else. That is how it is here. Between our 2 Churches I bet there are probably only about 10 or so people I don’t know by name. And that’s only cause I wasn’t born and raised her but in a small town like this about 15 minutes away. We have in the surrounding 5 small towns 4 small Catholic Churches and 1 EXTREMELY small Catholic Church. Those 5 Churches are taken care of by 2 priests. The Church I belong to is a mission Church of our Mother Church with one priest. The other 3 Churches are taken care of by 1 priest. We have been blessed that has been this way for MANY years. It would be easy to just combine all 5 Churches in one central location and have it done that way. That may happen one day but I certainly hope NOT in my lifetime. And I believe MANY of the people in these 5 small towns would not like it that way either.
I understand in larger communities you have to offer Catholic Churches that reach out to all groups of ethnicity but here that would never be an issue.


We always hear how 40-50 years are just a blink of the eye to the Church given its great age. I wonder what these horrid neighborhoods in places like Baltimore, Camden, Detroit and Youngstown will look like in 50, 100 or 200 years? Things go in cycles so it won’t necessarily be bad. Yet by then so much historical texture will be lost. It’s a wonder that Europe has been able to preserve as much as it has – especially when you mix in all the wars to boot.

You’d think with the Church’s long experience it would have prepared for the future. I suppose a great number of issues play a part…


No neighborhood remains static over time, I’m sure some of them will improve and others will decline. But all of them will have a different demographic profile than they do today.

Ethnic based churches- and not just Catholic ethnic churches- used to be a huge segment but when the ethnic groups dispersed, the churches and ethnic clubs just got re-purposed. I was living in a building years ago that was built as a Polish Methodist church, repurposed eventually as apartments. A Serbian Orthodox church here is now office, another Serbian church is a single family home.

Things are always changing.


Describing different kinds of parishes - ethnic, mega, and others - within the mix of an overall diocese, will vary heavily from one city to another, not to mention from one country to another. So let us all comment on our different locales with the understanding that the situation might be very different somewhere else. The situation of the local diocese may be different, and the mix of other denominations modifies things.


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