Department of Communications
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street NE · Washington, DC 20017
202-541-3200 · 202-541-3173 fax · www.usccb.org/comm
Asian and Pacific Islander Catholics in the United States
"There are many Asian and Pacific communities and identities. Respect for the differences among varied cultures and historical traditions are a significant part of accepting them into U.S. society and the Church in the U.S." (Asian Pacific Presence1)
The challenge of the ministry to Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the United States is the challenge of diversity - of ethnicity, language, culture, religious tradition, place of birth, and recentness of arrival to the U.S. in the case of immigrant communities. There are 53 Asian and 26 Pacific countries; most have citizens now living in the United States or natives who have become American citizens.
By the numbers:
- As of July 2006, 14.9 million (5 percent of the total U.S. population) people are Asian (or Asian in combination with one or more other races) and 1 million are Pacific Islanders, including Hawaiians (0.3 percent of total U.S. population.)2
- Hawaii registers the highest proportion of Asians by state population (56%), followed by California (14%) and New Jersey and Washington (8% each).
- Largest Asian U.S. populations are Chinese (3.6 million including people from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), Filipino (2.9 mil.), Indian (2.7 mil.) and Vietnamese (1.6 mil.), followed by Korean (1.5 mil.) and Japanese (1.2 mil.).
- The largest Pacific Islander populations in the U.S. are Guamanian, Samoan and Tongan.3
- Except for the Filipinos, the majority of Asian and Pacific people in the U.S. are followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.
- The U.S. Asian Pacific populations with the largest number of Catholics are the Filipinos, followed by the Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian and Korean.
- The 10 dioceses with the highest number of Asians are Los Angeles, Honolulu, Brooklyn, San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, Orange, Seattle, New York, and Chicago.4
- The number of Asian and Pacific Catholics in the U.S. is difficult to count. There is no hard data available. Different sources have produced different estimates ranging from less than two percent to 4-5 percent.5
- Asian Catholics also include members of Eastern Catholic Churches of the Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, and Midle-Eastern Catholic rites.
- Nine dioceses (Chicago, San Bernardino, Seattle, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Cleveland, Dallas, Rochester, Syracuse) have formally designated diocesan offices/ministries for Asian and Pacific Island Catholics. Another 48 dioceses report organized ministries with particular Asian and Pacific communities such as Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Hmong, Laotian, Tongan, Arab, Japanese, Cambodian, Samoan, Khmu, Pakistani, Burmese, Fijian, Syro-Malankara, Kananaya.
- To date, five bishops of Asian and Pacific origins have been consecrated and remain active in the U.S.
- In 2001 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops promulgated the historic pastoral statement, Asian and Pacific Presence: Harmony in Faith. It was the first time the bishops in the U.S., as a body, wrote about Asian and Pacific presence in the Church.
- In the last ten years, Filipinos, Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Guamanians, and Koreans have constructed shrines and mosaics at the Basilica of National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. These shrines are symbols and affirmation of the Asian and Pacific Islander immigrant Catholics' contributions to American Catholicism and the U.S. Catholic Church.
- One area in which Asian and Pacific Catholics have contributed greatly to the U.S. Catholic Church is in the number of priestly and religious vocations. According to a statistical overview of priestly formation for 2008 conducted by C.A.R.A., Asian seminarians and ordinands are disproportionately represented relative to their proportion of the U.S. Catholic population. Asians make up 12 percent of college level seminarians6 and 13 percent of ordinands7.
- Asian and Pacific Institutes for Mission and Ministry (leadership trainings) have been offered annually since 2003 by PCMR in collaboration with dioceses and Catholic institutions in different parts of the country and have benefited several hundred pastoral leaders who minister with these populations.
- The first National Asian and Pacific Catholic Convocation was held June 29-July 3, 2006 in Crystal City, VA and attracted more than 1,200 participants.
- Since the 1980s the pastoral care of Asian and Pacific communities has been coordinated nationally through the Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees (PCMR) of the Migration and Refugee Services Department at USCCB. A permanent Bishops' Sub-Committee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs was formed in 2008 under the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; an assistant director for Asian and Pacific Island Affairs is part of the staff of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
- Asian and Pacific Presence: Harmony in Faith, USCCB, 2001
- U.S. Census Bureau
- Asian and Pacific Presence: Harmony in Faith, USCCB, 2001
- U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000
- USCCB, Bishop Fiorenze, America Magazine, 1999, offered an estimate of 2.6%. Immigration estimates and data collected in the last fixe years from Asian and Pacific Catholic communities from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Korea and other countries indicate that number might be higher, perhaps closer to 4-5%. The C.A.R.A. Survey of Ordinands to Priesthood, Class of 2006 states "Asian and Pacific Islanders make up less than 2 percent of U.S. Catholics overall but are 13 percent of responding ordinands."
- Catholic Ministry Formation Enrollments: Statistical Overview for 2007-2008 (C.A.R.A), page 12.
- The Class of 2006: Survey of Ordinands to Priesthood, C.A.R.A., April 2006.