Tracking Weekly Mass Attendance?

This has been mentioned in several threads over the years. It currently appears in a thread about electronic donations. What is up with this concept of weekly tracking and why is it important and good for all parishioners? Do you have any arguments or explanations pro or con? Will this affect a parish for the good or for the ill? If you like the idea, what is the most accurate way to do it, and how is the information to be used? How important is accuracy in the count?

I don’t like how how much I’m giving would be a matter of parish record. I’d rather not have people looking at it and knowing. Jesus gives pretty good support for it.

On the other hand, it’s pretty useful to be able to accurately track giving and make predictions for future budgets. That seems to me to be the main advantage.

Leaving aside any financial issues: a week to week count is useful for any number of things. Knowing how many people are receiving communion at each Mass allows the priest to consecrate closer to tho needed number of hosts (as the Church desires), tracks an important metric for measuring the spiritual health of the parish, allows better planning for services (R.E.) and special occasions (Christmas rush).

Tracking individuals or families is helpful in large parishes (my home deanery in NJ had ~4k families/ parish) when the request for a letter to act as confirmation sponsor or godparent comes in.


as a standard requirement for becoming grandparents, a priest may request a certificate from their home parish that they are practicing Catholics. this is one way of finding out if you are practicing Catholics. priests don’t get to know every person in the parish, and some people may be shy that way that they don’t get to know the priest personally even if they have the same priest for years

i know of one religion/cult that even uses punch cards to track weekly attendance :eek:
i know we won’t get to that. but there has to be a way to know if certain people or families attend Mass

In our parish nobody but the Pastor and I know how much any one person gave. Finance council is told that X number of people gave from 0-100; y gave 101-250; z gave 251-500, etc. That’s how budget are designed and privacy is still maintained.

Many people use church envelopes; one or two use plain blank envelopes, I presume it’s for privacy; a few regularly drop a $20 in the basket without envelopes while still more drop in a 1 or 2 dollar coin.

The only way to give out receipts for income tax purposes is to keep a record of all identified donors.

Knowing how many hosts to consecrate is important. :slight_smile: I bet that naturally tracks itself by watching how many packages of hosts are needed each week in each season of the year. I wonder if the bishop receives that count as well as the head count they do manually once a year on a set Sunday in our diocese?

Another reason attendance counts are important is in determining when it might be necessary to form a new parish due to overcrowding. That is close to happening in my area. What a nice problem to have!

can’t they tell that just by looking at how full a parish is every week?

I doubt if the archdiocese would be very motivated by the priest or council telling them “it’s been really crowded”. :wink:

:smiley: Punch cards sound fun. :stuck_out_tongue: Maybe biometric data will someday serve? I say that rather in jest, but maybe that will come to pass?

I see that a priest might want to investigate if a potential sponsor meets the canonical requirements to be a sponsor. A letter from their local parish can answer nicely, assuming the person is well know in their parish. What does a parish that doesn’t recognize it’s own parishioner do right now about those eligibility letters? How do they decide if they can vouch for someone? Surely they don’t say, “Oh, six envelopes apparently from that person appeared in the collection basket this year, so we’ll vouch that they are a fully living a life suitable to a sponsor”?

:smiley: Now that is probably so. If parishes and dioceses get sophisticated enough, they will probably share enough data to know how many registered Catholics are supposedly in a territory, and they will also know if they are registered in their actual territorial parish. They could learn which parishes are carrying which loads from that. The mailing address would tell them. I think our diocese is gearing up to keep better track of that sort of thing. I remember some article in the paper about territories solidifying up.

did i say grandparents? i meant godparents

oh that cult i’m telling you about, if you attend in another “parish” then you’ll have to get a letter of some sort from its minister to give to your minister to certify you attended that week. really crazy stuff :shrug:

well, its one way to track attendance for those who are not known to the pastor. because sometimes if you’re not returning envelopes, they will not send you a new box next year because they will assume you’ve either moved or fallen away

the purpose of using envelopes, electronic giving or any other means of accounting for donations is to meet requirements of the tax code and fiscal accountability in general. People must be given receipts and this provides the best means of doing so.

The purpose of tracking donations is not to take Mass attendance. It may be used that way for such reasons as estimating growth (or decline) in attendance to track future needs for space and overhead, to estimate number of people who will be receiving communion, parking or any other logistical information, but that is not the primary purpose of envelopes or electronic giving.

What is required canonically is that a parish census be done on a regular basis by any of several means. In this country every parish is asked to turn in statistics on such things as Mass attendance, reception of sacraments, new Catholics, number of children enrolled in RE or parish schools and so forth. They are expected to take an actual headcount at every weekend Mass on a designated Sunday, usually in October (which often coincides with the parish or diocesan annual financial report and “the money homily”, the stewardship appeal and so forth).

On a practical basis it only remains to remind the average CAtholic that if you have not registered in your parish, are not active in any ministries or participating in RE or other parish programs, other than your regular donations, the pastor has no way of knowing who is and is not a “practicing Catholic”, so when you come to ask for baptism for your child, to use the church hall for your wedding, or to enroll your child in the parish school how, realistically, do you expect the pastor to know you are a member of his flock?

AFAIK (from the one parish that I know did per Mass counts), that count is for parish use only. And when we are talking about 300-500+ per Mass, 4+ Masses per weekend (yes, less than one attendee per registered family:( ) having a count really does help take some of the guess work out of preparing for Mass.

where i come from, parish registration isn’t practiced. so i wonder how they decide on building new parishes

If all the parishioners were to figure out how to make the envelopes stop coming in the mail, the parish would go broke. :smiley: But you are right, a few envelopes are better than nothing for knowing the person exists at a distant parish.

The type of crazy you mention is not too far from home. On these very forums I read a Catholic reporting that if she was going to be away from her local parish for mass that weekend, she would need to have the parish priest where she did attend mass sign the weekly bulletin for that parish to say that she had in fact gone to a mass somewhere. This was so she could prove attendance for her child to be eligible for first communion. I searched out that thread and it is still there. Puzzleannie said on that thread that the practice of taking attendance like that is disallowed in her diocese.

wow, i’ve never heard of such strict attendance checking within a Catholic parish

Just my two bits. One Protestant church I used to attend had ‘head’ counters. These men would discreetly count every single person in the church for every Sunday. On top of this they had a ‘member’ list and a ‘guest’ list. They’d pass it around during the service and you filled out information like your name, if you need assistance, if you’re a member or a returning visitor… etc. In all honesty I found the lists very distracting. :\ Many people filled them out during the sermon… Mostly because they wanted you to hand the list over during the offering.

As to tracking weekly Mass Attendance. If it’s done for the purpose of allowing for accomodating as many people as come that’s cool. Further if it’s done discreetly, it’s cool.

When I first read your title my first thought was; Oh great. So now they’re going to judge who’s coming every week and who’s not? - It just evoked this image of a situation that would allow for much judgment to be cast down upon those who don’t ‘seem’ to meet their weekly Mass obligation. :shrug: My brain works in funny ways.

I’m all for it and here’s why:

  1. I like to get a tax deduction for my charitable giving
  2. It’s good for the pastor to know roughly how many hosts to consecrate at Masses
  3. my parish gets money from the Diocesan Services Fund based on # of parishioners
  4. my parish GIVES money to the Diocesan Services Fund based on # of parishioners
  5. my parish gets services from the diocese based on # of parisioners
  6. the Cardinal needs to know how many priests and deacons we need
  7. I have nothing to hide and do not find it intrusive in any way

And here is why using the number of registered parishioners from the main office doesn’t cut it:

  1. many people register at a parish to gain tuition discount and/or enrollment in the parish school

  2. some people register at a parish for sacraments and are never heard from again, thus providing no financial support but their numbers still show up on the DSF annual taxes. This has, in the past, caused my parish some problems.

  3. people die, move away, etc

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