.- According to a new study, the Catholic Church in the United States is growing in unusual ways. The Church is undergoing an expansion in areas that have traditionally been hostile to it — such as the Bible Belt — and experiencing a decline in areas that have been traditionally identified as strongly Catholic, such as the Northeast.
The findings come from a new study, conducted by Steven Wagner of QEV Analytics in Washington, D.C., and Fr. Rodger Hunter-Hall. The study, titled "The State of the Catholic Church in America, Diocese by Diocese," was conducted for Crisis Magazine.
The study indicates that more missions are opening in regions where the Catholic flock is small — in the south and southwest. Wagner attributed this growth, in large part, to immigration and population trends, reported the Douglas Dispatch.
The two researchers also charted the number of ordinations to the priesthood and the effectiveness of evangelization efforts according to the number of adult converts.
Both the number of new priests and adult converts reflect on the bishop and the spiritual climate in a diocese, the researchers said.
Wagner and Fr. Hunter-Hall compiled a Top-20 list, which was mostly dominated by small dioceses, many of them in the Bible Belt. The sharpest declines were in the Northeast, especially New England.
Small dioceses, they found, consistently attracted more converts and more new priests.