At roughly 22% of the population of the United States, Catholicism is the largest religious denomination in the country with approximately 77.4 million members as of 2017. After Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines, the US comprises of the world’s fourth-largest Catholic population. Similarly, the country consists of both the largest Catholic population of English-speakers and the largest population of Catholic minorities. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is the central leadership body of the Catholic Church in the US. In the country, the Catholic Church is in communion with the Pope in Rome as it is part of the worldwide Catholic Church. According to the PEW Research Center, Rhode Island is the state with the largest population of Catholic residents, at 42%.
History of the Catholic Church in the US
The history of the Catholic Church in the US dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries following the arrival of Spanish and French missionaries. A number of missions were established by the Spanish in what is now the present-day western region of the US. New Orleans was the most important colony to the French. However, it was not until the 19th century when the population of Catholics in the US started growing rapidly, mainly due to immigration. The acquisition of the prior possessions of Mexico, France, and Spain that were predominantly Catholic also played a major role in increasing the number of Catholics in the US. Following the acquisition, there was a rapid influx of immigrants from Europe such as the Polish, Germans, Irish, and Italians. As a result, the Catholic Church became the largest Christian denomination in the US. Here are the top three states in the US with the highest population of Catholics.
US States by Population of Catholics
Rhode Island is the most Catholic state in the US with 42% of the state's population identifying as Catholic. The state is among one of the only four states where at least 4 in every 10 residents identify with the same religious traditions. However, the high population of Roman Catholics in this region is due to the high population of French-Canadian, Irish, and Italian immigrants in the past. Additionally, significant numbers of Hispanics and Portuguese have been recently established themselves in Rhode Island.
The state of Massachusetts has the second highest Catholic population with 34%, which is now predominantly due to the influx of immigrants from Catholic regions or countries, mainly Latin America, Poland, Quebec, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy. Despite troubles in the past, Catholics in Massachusetts continue to grow under one banner. There are well-organized branches of the Federation in each county. There are also charitable and educational institutions together with flourishing Catholic Church societies.
New Jersey is the third most Catholic state in the US with Catholics accounting for 34% of the state's population. The Catholics in the state of New Jersey number about 500,000, and the state is ecclesiastically put into two dioceses of Trenton and Newark. In 2007, the survey found that the Catholic population was at 42% compared to the recent 34%.
Future Trends in Catholic Demographics in the US
Even though the future of Catholicism in the US is unknown, certain things remain clear. For instance, it will be quite difficult to remove dominant religions in local communities, thus the map is expected to be largely but not entirely the same. Despite there being signs that Catholicism in the US has a future, it still remains uncertain. More so, Christianity is at threat since more numbers of new millennials identify as non-religious atheists or agnostics.