The Catholic Church in the USA
Catholicism was the first European religion to arrive in America, brought to the New World by Spanish and French explorers. The first Catholic settlement in North America was the Spanish-Catholic colony founded at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. Catholics were not allowed to have churches in the original English colonies, which were overwhelmingly populated by Protestants. When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, Catholics made up only one per cent of the total population of the 13 colonies. Philadelphia, site of the first Continental Congress, had the largest number of Catholics.
The state of Maryland was founded by George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, as a haven where Catholics could live without fear of persecution for their religious beliefs.
The first U.S. bishop was John Carroll, a former Jesuit priest, who was appointed by the Pope as bishop of Baltimore in 1789. The Pope designated Baltimore the first Catholic diocese in the United States.
Until about 1850, the Roman Catholic population of the United States was a small minority made up primarily of English Catholics. Following the potato famine and other events in Europe in the 1840s, millions of Irish and other European Catholics began a massive emigration to the United States. In the early to mid-1800s, Catholics made up only 5 percent of the nation's population. But by the end of the 19th century, the Catholic population had grown to represent 14 percent of the total U.S. population (14 million out of 82 million people).
By the early 1900s, Catholicism was the single largest religious denomination in the country.
In 1960, the nation elected its first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.
Today there are more than 65 million Catholics in the United States, making up 23 percent of the nation's population.
In the United States there are 200 archdioceses and dioceses and more than 19,000 local Catholic parishes spread through the nation.
There are more than 400 bishops in the U.S. Catholic clergy.
There are more than 45,000 priests in the United States, including more than 30,000 diocesan priests who are ordained to work in specific dioceses. There are about 15,000 priests who are members of specific orders, such as Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits and Redemptorists.
There are more than 75,000 women religious (nuns or sisters) in the United States.
Each year there are just over 1 million infants baptized into the Church and more than 70,000 adults who are baptized in U.S. Catholic churches.
Every year about 75,000 people become Roman Catholic, converting from another Christian religion in the United States.
Since 1967, the Roman Catholic Church has been ordaining permanent deacons, men who are ordained to ministry but not to full priesthood. There are now more than 13,000 permanent deacons in the United States, many of whom are married.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops USCCB) is the administrative organization for the Catholic Church in the United States. It supervises programs which address such issues as prayer and worship, the state of the economy, parish revitalization and the church's role in the pro-life movement.
Catholic schools have been an important part of the U.S. educational system since the early 1800s. Today in the United States, there are about 7,000 Catholic elementary schools educating more than 2 million students annually.
There are about 1,300 Catholic high schools educating more than 650,000 students, and 238 Catholic colleges and universities with a total enrollment of more than 700,000 students.
The U.S. Catholic educational system employs some 175,000 educators, including 164,000 lay teachers.
Catholic hospitals and health care centers are an integral part of the U.S. health care system. There are 597 Catholic hospitals that treat more than 82 million patients each year. In addition, there are 483 Church-operated health care centers that provide care and treatment to more than 5 million patients annually in the United States.
Catholic social service agencies help millions in the United States each year by providing services ranging from food and clothing to housing and disaster assistance. Catholic agencies provide services to about 25 million people a year through soup kitchens, food banks and other programs.
Millions of others in the nation receive help ranging from pregnancy care, adoption services and foster care to drug and alcohol awareness and prevention services through programs operated by the Catholic Church in every state.