While looking at some news articles on AOL.com I came across a link for an article at the Huffington Post that was highlighted Most and Least Catholic States in America. It’s a quick read, but full of information that my readers might find interesting. Can you guess which state has the most Catholics? It’s not Maryland, like I would have thought, since the state was founded by Catholics looking to escape persecution back home across “the pond.” You’ll have to read the article to find the answer.
And if you’re really into statistics or curious to know more about the study that is being reported on, go to the web-site that the Huff Post Article is referring to, The 2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study (RCMS).
If you look closely at the map to the right (you can click on it and enlarge it) you can see that the Diocese of Belleville, of which I am a priest of, has about half of its counties where Roman Catholics are in the majority. The other half is pretty much Southern Baptists. That’s been my experience as a priest over 30 years. Southern Illinois is on the edge of the so-called “Bible-Belt.” The further south and west you get into the territory our diocese encompasses (the 24 counties of the southern tip of Illinois), the everyday experience of Catholics in relationship to other Christian believers becomes more of a challenge. It’s common for Catholics in the deep south of our diocese to be told they are not Christian or not true believers or to be held in suspicion because they adhere to a “superstitious” religion (often a reference to our use of sacraments, sacramentals). Where I live now, we’re the big church in town, in the county, in our corner of the Diocese. Sometimes I wonder if that doesn’t make parishioners a little too comfortable and unchallenged. I am not saying they are poor examples of Catholic witness, but being the majority group can lull one into a bit of complacency. While not promoting proselytizing other faiths, let’s recommit ourselves to inviting others to share our Catholic faith in Jesus and the work of ecumenism.