A recent survey published in the National Catholic Reporter indicates that U.S. Catholics are not going to church as frequently as they used to, but that might not be the case in the Rio Grande Valley.
The survey suggests that the American Catholic community is becoming less-strict in their devotion. According to results, mass attendance has fallen from 64 percent in 1999 to just 50 percent in 2011 for devout Catholics older than sixty years of age.
“That may be the case in the Midwest or the Northeast, but here in the Valley we do have quite a bit of Catholics that are coming to mass,” says Deacon Luis Zuniga of the Diocese of Brownsville.
Of the 1,400 people questioned during the survey, only 50 percent of respondents said they attended mass at least once a month. Zuniga says those numbers are not reflective of the current state of Catholicism in the Valley.
“We have a population of about 1.3 million people living in the Valley, of which about 85 percent are Catholic.”
Zungia claims he has seen a strong active following in the Catholic faith, despite what the survey may suggest.
“Almost every parish has 70 to 100 young people that are receiving the sacrament of confirmation and they are often challenged to be involved in their parish.”
Zuniga says these numbers are encouraging.
“We see it in our youth conferences and our youth retreats. The active participation of our young people.”
On a national scale Catholicism might be experiencing a decrease in church goers. The Catholic Church may also have to deal with concerns over a disinterested younger generation. But on a local level Zuniga maintains the Valley remains an exception.
“The reality is that there are people that are Catholic by name only and then you have your devout Catholics that take the time with their faith.”