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The importance of data: How we know how St. Louis compares to other dioceses

A friend texted me after reading Archbishop Robert J. Carlson’s message in the August-September issue of Catholic St. Louis magazine:

“…was surprised to read that we are only the 40th largest archdiocese in the country. Would love to know the 39 that are larger.. Do you know where I could find such a list? “Could not find one on Google.)”

Well, there isn’t such a list. Not an accurate one, anyway. The website catholic-heiarchy.org lists one with 10-year-old data.

John Schwob

John Schwob

But we don’t need an online source. We have John Schwob, director of pastoral planning for the archdiocese.  John is our statistician and cartographer — and a bit of an historian. When we need data about the Church, we ask John. When we need maps of our parishes or where Catholic live, we ask John. And when we cannot remember which is the oldest parish, we ask John (it’s Ste. Genevieve Parish in Ste. Genevieve, by the way. It was founded in 1759, before the City of St. Louis.) John always amazes us with his sharp memory and keen eye for details.

So when we needed to confirm the data in the archbishop’s column, we turned to John. At the time, the Archdiocese of St. Louis was the 40th largest in the United States, by population. Since the magazine went to press, new data was released and now we’re #41. The source, the Official Catholic Directory, is the, well, official repository of all sorts of Catholic information for the United States. It’s a 3-inch-thick book with so much information the pages aren’t even numbered. For Catholic journalists it’s a source to confirm data. For guys guys like John, it’s good reading.

When I asked John how quickly he might produce a list of U.S. dioceses, ranked by population, he had a simple response: “I already have one.” He built it himself, based on the data he filtered from the “OCD.”

Here’s the list, ranked by population. Note that although St. Louis is #41 in the list, we have the fewest Catholics per priest — that’s good.

U.S Dioceses by number of Catholics
Source: 2016 Official Catholic Directory (2015 Data)
Rank Diocese Number of Catholics Catholics per diocesan priest Diocesan Priests
1 Los Angeles CA 4,029,336 7,779 518
2 New York NY 2,642,740 4,434 596
3 Chicago IL 2,228,000 2,886 772
4 Boston MA 1,954,201 3,077 635
5 Rockville Centre NY 1,455,644 4,681 311
6 San Bernadino CA 1,671,967 16,233 103
7 Brooklyn NY 1,506,000 3,138 480
8 Philadelphia PA 1,438,147 2,876 500
9 Galveston-Houston TX 1,723,062 9,364 184
10 Orange CA 1,346,540 7,968 169
11 Newark NJ 1,220,143 1,761 693
12 Detroit MI 1,159,688 3,068 378
13 Dallas TX 1,320,737 11,899 111
14 Fresno CA 1,200,000 10,169 118
15 Brownsville TX 1,135,874 13,852 82
16 Phoenix AZ 1,128,120 8,419 134
17 San Diego CA 1,012,486 6,174 164
18 Sacramento CA 1,005,123 5,947 169
19 Atlanta GA 1,023,594 5,359 191
20 Trenton NJ 774,000 3,486 222
21 Saint Paul-Minneapolis MN 825,000 2,350 351
22 San Antonio TX 758,812 5,059 150
23 Miami FL 696,528 2,964 235
24 Forth Worth TX 750,000 16,304 46
25 Cleveland OH 682,948 1,851 369
26 El Paso TX 693,793 9,911 70
27 Metuchen NJ 644,851 3,623 178
28 Pittsburgh PA 632,138 1,806 350
29 Washington DC 646,892 2,262 286
30 Providence RI 621,015 2,370 262
31 Buffalo NY 601,563 2,046 294
32 Joliet IL 600,836 3,534 170
33 Milwaukee WI 568,448 1,834 310
34 San Jose CA 590,000 3,986 148
35 Las Vegas NV 584,164 16,227 36
36 Seattle WA 583,000 3,221 181
37 Hartford CT 545,980 1,832 298
38 Denver CO 576,737 2,841 203
39 Austin TX 571,334 4,081 140
40 Camden NJ 577,720 3,398 170
41 Saint Louis MO 515,251 1,538 335
42 New Orleans LA 510,599 2,042 250
43 Baltimore MD 503,084 2,373 212
44 San Francisco CA 451,579 2,402 188
45 Cincinnati OH 453,411 1,751 259
46 Arlington VA 457,823 2,516 182
47 Saint Petersburg FL 445,456 2,767 161
48 Paterson NJ 425,000 1,586 268
49 Portland OR 431,267 2,552 169
50 Bridgeport CT 433,832 1,945 223
51 Oakland CA 413,035 2,459 168
52 Rockford IL 300,494 1,549 194
53 Corpus Christi TX 409,705 3,443 119
54 Orlando FL 385,465 2,877 134
55 Tucson AZ 390,418 4,244 92
56 Green Bay WI 345,870 2,071 167
57 Albany NY 325,000 1,847 176
58 Santa Fe NM 326,592 2,333 140
59 Toledo OH 327,963 3,526 93
60 Rochester NY 312,750 1,873 167
61 Laredo TX 340,430 9,201 37