This series of teaching editorials defines the role of our local Church, the archdiocese, and how it serves from a variety of perspectives.
In the first editorial in this series, Archbishop Kurtz quoted canon n. 369, defining a diocese as “…a portion of the people of God, which is entrusted for pastoral care to a bishop…” Archbishop noted that the key to this definition is the understanding of a diocese as a people, not a bureaucracy.
So who are the people of the archdiocese and how do they relate to the diocese?
The people of the Archdiocese of Louisville are diverse. They live in Central Kentucky, specifically 24 counties of Central Kentucky from Trimble to the far north to Monroe, Cumberland and Clinton counties on the southern border with Tennessee. The geography varies from larger urban areas to farming communities and small towns.
The U.S. Census Bureau does not collect religious affiliation information. The diocesan data collection of Catholics includes 61,000 families, which includes only registered Catholic families. In recent years, various groups are less likely to “register” in a parish so this is likely an undercount. Thus, we typically say that the Archdiocese is composed of 200,000 Catholics in 24 counties of Central Kentucky. About seventy percent of Catholic families live in Jefferson County, with another 30% outside Jefferson County, the greatest percentage of those outside Jefferson County living in the “Catholic Holy Land” of Marion, Nelson and Washington counties.
The archdiocese was originally populated by people of European (primarily British, Irish, German and French) descent as well as African Americans who were tragically enslaved in the state of Kentucky. Today, Catholics of Vietnamese, Latino, Filipino, African, Haitian, Korean and many other cultures enrich the local Church. In particular, a large influx of Latino parishioners have moved to Kentucky over the last several decades, and 13 parishes now have 14 regular weekly Spanish Masses. Overall, Masses in six languages other than English serve the people of the Archdiocese.
Census data reveals that Kentuckians are aging: 42% of the population is age 45 and up with 19% between ages 0 and 14, and Catholics likely reflect this age breakdown. There would be exceptions to this trend in the Latino community, which has a younger average age.
Catholics identify with their parishes and take great pride in parish accomplishments. As Dr. Brian Reynolds explained in the last teaching editorial, the archdiocese primarily supports parishioners through its support of parishes. Individual parishioners relate to the diocese directly in a variety of ways:
- Through the ministry of Archbishop Kurtz, who visits parishes and interacts with parishioners for pastor installations, parish anniversaries, Confirmations and other events. The bishop of a diocese is a symbol of the local Church united as the Body of Christ. In addition as a leader in the broader community, Archbishop Kurtz calls us to promote the common good for all citizens of our Commonwealth.
- Through special events and programs that recognize various groups. Archbishop Kurtz supports the vocation of lawyers and doctors at the annual Red and White Masses. He applauds married couples at annual wedding anniversary Masses celebrating from five to 60+ years of marriage. He honors Catholic school alumni at the annual Salute to Catholic School alumni dinner and thanks Catholic schoolteachers, catechists, youth ministers and others for their years of service and contributions at other events.
- Through ministries that affect parishioners directly: The Record newspaper is delivered to every parish household each week; the Catholic Connection is emailed to thousands of Catholics monthly and Catholic television is found on The Faith Channel, a cable channel. The Family Ministries office offers marriage preparation, enrichment and support to Catholic couples, and Catholic Cemeteries serves parishioners when deaths occur in families. In addition, many of the offices that provide training and resources to parish staff and volunteers also provide parishioners with opportunities for lifelong formation.
- Through the efforts of Catholic Charities and the Catholic Enrichment Center, both serving the community at large by providing a variety of services for those in need. Parishioners benefit from these services, and Catholics help support these efforts as volunteers and donors.
- Through the invitation that each Catholic receives to support the larger archdiocesan church through the Catholic Services Appeal and through many other special collections facilitated by the archdiocese, including the Crusade for Children and disaster relief. Parishioners also generously give of their time and talent to a number of boards and committees of the archdiocese.
United in Christ as the people of God in this local church, the parishioners of the Archdiocese of Louisville are deeply rooted in their faith, their parishes and their families and committed to proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
Cecelia H. Price is the chief communications officer for the Archdiocese of Louisville.