There are an estimated 1.6 million Catholics in the Diocese of San Bernardino, as reported in the Kenedy Directory, making it the fifth largest diocese in the nation. It continues a sharp upward trajectory in the population of the Diocese in recent decades. The Kenedy Directory reported a population of over 561,000 Catholics here 20 years ago, 24th biggest in the nation. By 2003, the Diocese reported one million Catholics, moving up to 12th on the list.
The increase parallels sharp growth in the general population of San Bernardino and Riverside counties along with an even more rapid rise in the Hispanic population of the region, which led the nation between 2000 and 2010. In making its Catholic population estimate for the Kenedy Directory, the Diocese factored in Census statistics on the Hispanic population of the two counties for the first time.
“We felt that it was important to acknowledge the profound demographic shifts in our diocese,” said Sister Sara Kane, C.S.J., who as Chancellor of the Diocese is responsible for making the population report to the Kenedy Directory. “Our Hispanic brothers and sisters, in very large numbers, continue to bring life and vitality to our diocese. We are most grateful to God for this growth.”
In the Diocese’s report to the Kenedy Directory, those who self-identify as Catholic are counted in the population estimate. This is one of several different population measurement criteria offered by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.
Another measurement of Catholic presence in a diocese is parish registration. By that metric, the Diocese reports over 245,500 registered households throughout its 91 parishes. While the number of people in a household can vary greatly, diocesan leaders acknowledge that there is a significant gap between the number of self-identifying Catholics in the Diocese and the number of those who practice the faith through parish registration, regular Mass attendance and financial support for their parish.
Among the objectives of the ongoing Year of Faith and the “New Evangelization,” proclaimed by the Vatican is to help those who are Catholic through baptism and cultural/historical ties to renew their relationship with Christ and to enter into a substantial practicing of the Catholic faith. Bishop Gerald Barnes says this is a call for parishes, including employees, lay ministers and volunteers, to present the self-identifying Catholic with a faith community that is welcoming and alive.
“We have to offer them something when they do come through the doors of our churches,” Bishop Barnes said. “From our liturgies to our homilies to the way they are greeted by the people in the pews, they need to see this as a place where they can begin to rediscover the faith into which they were baptized.”