Rochester Diocese plans census to better serve Catholics - Catholic Courier

Rochester Diocese plans census to better serve Catholics

The Diocese of Rochester is launching a census to gather up-to-date information about parishioners throughout its 12 counties, as well as Catholics who have not yet registered with parishes. Census results will make diocesan leaders more aware of the needs of Catholics in the diocese and better able to serve them, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano explained in an April 1 letter to the faithful.

“By conducting this comprehensive survey and obtaining accurate contact information, we aim to strengthen pastoral care and enhance communication by having a reliable means of informing you about events, programs, ministries, and greater opportunities for spiritual growth at your parish and throughout the Diocese,” Bishop Matano said in the letter.

Nine ‘pilot parishes’ are set to begin census process

Discussion about the need for a census began during the summer of 2023, and diocesan staff began preparations in January 2024, according to Colleen Brade, diocesan director of stewardship and of the Catholic Ministries Appeal. Nine parishes were selected as pilot parishes that initially will go through the census in order to identify and work out any kinks in the process, she said.

“The pilot parishes were selected because they represent a diverse cross-section of the diocese based on size, location, multiple sites, cultural diversity (and) languages spoken at the parish,” Brade explained.

The pilot parishes, which will have their census-planning meetings the week of April 8, are:

  • St. John of Rochester, Fairport
  • St. Lawrence, Greece
  • St. Maximilian Kolbe, Ontario/Sodus
  • St. Katharine Drexel, Macedon/Palmyra
  • Immaculate Conception, Ithaca
  • St. Catherine of Siena, Ithaca
  • St. Peter, Clifton Springs, Phelps, Shortsville
  • Holy Apostles, Rochester
  • Cathedral Community, Rochester

Diocesan officials will monitor response rates and several other factors as the pilot parishes go through the process, using this data to refine the process before rolling the census out to all parishes, Brade said.

Multi-step census process begins by gathering information electronically

The census plan for each parish will be customized using parish data, including Mass attendance, number of households, the number of email addresses available for parishioners, the current state of parish records and the parish culture, Brade said.

She noted that diocesan staff also will work with cultural communities in the diocese and faith communities on local college and university campuses to guide those communities through the census process.

The plan calls for each parish to begin the process using digital methods to gather as much information as possible, she said. Pulpit announcements will alert parishioners to look for emails through which they will be able to complete the census online. A few weeks later, in-pew census cards will be made available for completion. Once all the in-pew cards have been processed, postcards will be mailed to parishioners who have not yet responded in the census. These postcards will contain QR codes that will enable recipients to access and complete the census electronically via their smartphones.

These steps will take place over the course of eight to 12 weeks. Such additional activities as phone-a-thons, mailings, door-to-door canvasing and digital advertising may be added to a parish’s census plan depending on the parish’s culture. Parishes also have the option of setting up information booths after weekend Masses to assist parishioners in completing the census online, Brade said.

In his letter, Bishop Matano emphasized that all information collected through the census will be handled with the utmost confidentiality and used solely for pastoral and communication purposes.

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