Treasures From Our Tradition
This month, parishes around the country will conduct the “October count,” a measure of attendance at Sunday Mass. The measure has been taken for many centuries, and in some European dioceses it is possible to measure the level of engagement in worship by the population over the course of many centuries. Long ago, it was also the custom to track “Easter duty” by a statistical report. Penitents would receive a kind of chit at confession, which they would then turn in at their parish church when they received Holy Communion during Easter time. Long ago, of course, Communion was fairly rare in the life of a Catholic Christian, perhaps only once a year. The chits would be tallied by parish priests and reported to the chancery, which in turn would hold on to the records and include the statistics in a report to the Vatican every five years. Nowadays, the October count has proved especially critical in the life of our Church as bishops use the figures to measure the vitality of church life, to sketch parish boundaries, and even to decide when to close, merge, or form new parishes.