WASHINGTON (June 19, 2003) -- Nearly half-a-million Native Americans are Catholic, according to a report released today, Native American Catholics at the Millennium, by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee on Native American Catholics.
"This report is the most accurate document available on the Catholic Church's presence in the Native American community," said Jesuit Father Raymond Bucko, professor of anthropology at Creighton University who helped prepare the report. "The hope is that local dioceses will become more aware of the real pastoral needs facing Native American Catholics."
The report's findings were presented to the full assembly of bishops at their semi-annual meeting in St. Louis by Bishop Donald E. Pelotte, SSS, Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico, and chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Native American Catholics.
"The purpose of the study," said Bishop Pelotte, "was to better understand the present state of the church's ministry to Native Americans and to project the need for personnel serving Native American ministry for the next ten years."
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 4.1 million people identify themselves as Native American, the majority of whom live in cities or small towns. Dioceses reported that 493,615 Native Americans, or 12 percent of the total population, are Catholic. Because of the demographic shift of Native Americans to urban areas, the report suggests that large numbers of Native American Catholics are uncounted. The report is comprised of findings of two national studies conducted with dioceses by Mary Beth Celio of the Archdiocese of Seattle between 1996 and 1999, which were then correlated with 2000 U.S. Census data.
The report offers statistics on Native American Catholics, including the following: 51 dioceses offer liturgies which integrate Native American symbols; 322 individuals currently work in Native American ministry, 27 Native American priests, 8 Native American seminarians, 74 Native American deacons, 34 Native American women religious, and 65 Native American ecclesial ministers serve the Church.