Twenty one dioceses in the United States now have more than 200 permanent deacons, according to the latest report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.
Chicago, with 646, Trenton (442) and Galveston-Houston (383) lead all others. All U.S. diocese now have permanent deacons.*
According to the study, eighty percent of the deacons in responding dioceses (106 out of 194) are active in ministry. For dioceses not responding, the study carried forward information from previous years or used data from the 2009 Official Catholic Directory.
Of those permanent deacons in active ministry, 93 percent are married, 4 percent are widowers, 1 percent are divorced, and 2 percent have never been married. Eighty-one percent are non-Hispanic whites; 14 percent are Hispanic or Latino; 2 percent are African American and 2 percent are Asian.
Only 18 percent of the deacons are financially compensated and of those, three in 10 are entrusted with the pastoral care of one or more parishes.
Meanwhile, the number of priests in the United States keeps falling.
According to CARA, there were 35,925 diocesan priests in 1965 and only 27,182 in 2010. That current number is down from 28,705 five years ago.
There were 22,707 religious priests 45 years ago and only 12,811 today. Overall the number dropped from 58,632 in 1965 to 39,993 today.
During that same span of years, the number of parishes increased from 17,637 to a high of 19,331 in 1995 and since has dropped to 17,958 as dioceses close parishes because of financial problems and a growing priest shortage.
The number of parishes without a resident priest has grown from 549 in 1965 to 3,353 today.
The number of religious sisters has declined from a 1965 high of 179,954 to 57,544 today; religious brothers totaled 12,271 in 1965; and there are 4,690 today.
The Catholic populationhas grown from 45.6 million 45 years ago to 65.6 million today.
In North America, excluding Mexico, the ratio of Catholics per priest stands at 1,590 today, an increase from 1,420 Catholics per priest in 2003.
However, even with the growing priest shortage in the United States, many of the areas of the globe from which the U.S. is currently importing priests have a much higher ratio of Catholics to priests. For instance, in Africa, where the Catholic population is booming, the ratio is 4,875 Catholics to every priest. In Central America, the ratio is 6,894 to 1; in South America, 7,135 to 1 and in Asia, 2,300 to 1.
Worldwide, the number of priests increased between 2003 and 2008 seven tenths of a percent from 405,450 to 409,166. Most of that increase was in Africa (17.1 percent), Central America (6.2 percent), South America (7.1 percent), and Asia (15.2 percent).
The global Catholic population increased from 1.08 billion in 2003 to 1.16 billion in 2008.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Salina, Kan., diocese did not have any permanent deacons. Salina has six permanent deacons and, as of Jananuary 2010, had nine men in formation for the deaconate.