With Holy Week upon us, it's typical to wonder just how many faithful are joining the Catholic Church this Easter. Our office contacted dioceses across the country, requesting numbers of catechumens and candidates for full communion.
Their responses provide a partial early glimpse of these numbers for 2009, which we have posted on the USCCB Media Relations site.
While these numbers are informative on one level, on another level it's still worth noting that it's an incomplete snapshot. Depending on differences in Catholic populations and overall populations of a given diocese, it difficult to say which dioceses are really experiencing good years and which are having more average years. On the other hand, Seattle, for instance, reporting 736 catechumens alone, is having a banner year by anyone's standards.
The USCCB numbers are also incomplete in that our focus was on RCIA, that is, initiation of adults. Some dioceses offered entirely different sets of numbers that included children. Further complicating things, some dioceses maintain a third category (apart from catechumens and candidates) for people who were baptized Catholic, but either were not formed in the faith or fell away, and are now returning. Other dioceses lump these individuals in with candidates.
Ultimately, the natural response seems to be to throw up one's hands and remember that the Catholic faith is not about numbers. Jesus spoke of the Good Shepherd who would leave the 99 to pursue the one. And ultimately these RCIA numbers are more about celebrating those "ones" than they are about grand totals.