Table 1 - Actual to June 2009
Over the past fifteen years, St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association has campaigned ceaselessly for the provision of the Gregorian Rite in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. Hardly a month went by without a letter falling on the mat at Bishop's House. It wasn't unknown for dozens of letters to have fallen on that mat over the course of some of those months. Writing letters and signing petitions is one thing but a genuine interest in - and a pastoral need for - the Gregorian Rite is another.
Over the past year, this blog has traced the actual state of interest in the Gregorian Rite in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. The picture is not one of universal success, but it is also not a picture without some basis for hope.
The monthly Masses that the Diocese has organised have faced their difficulties. 1 p.m. isn't an ideal time (although there seems no difficulty in filling a much larger Church in the same parish for a Mass at 12.30 p.m.). The Church isn't of a traditional design. The Parish has only a population of c. 30,000 and Mass attendances seem to be lower than the National average. However, those difficulties do not entirely explain a constantly falling attendance.
On the other hand, the monthly Masses have had immense support from the Diocese and the Parish. It hasn't always been easy - nor is it always easy - nor will it always be easy - to love the Gregorian Rite and to work for its provision in this Diocese. Nevertheless, publicity, facilities, and practical support are all given generously and extensively to the monthly Masses by the Diocese and the Parish. In this regard, the Diocese and the Parish have covered themselves in glory - and this is no hyperbole. In hoc laudo.
Likewise, the occasional Masses organised by St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association have had their difficulties too. The locations have often been rural. The sacristy was occasionally locked. Publicity was informal and sporadic in most cases. The Masses were once-off events.
On the other hand, the locals always turned out in force to join us in prayer. This is the strongest basis for hope. There is prayerful interest in the Gregorian Rite in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. Time after time, when people have the opportunity to attend this form of Mass in their own Parish, they take that opportunity.
We must take into account the artificially high attendance at the first monthly Mass in Newbridge. The attendance at that first Mass (including a Bishop, celebrant, four servers, and a professional choir of 11, as well as a bus party from Dublin), was 57. This raises the average monthly attendance at the nine monthly Masses to 24. Excluding the first Mass, the average attendance at the remaining eight monthly Masses was 19.
If we exclude those coming from other Dioceses, notably Dublin, which has several Gregorian Rite locations, including one more-than-daily-Mass location, the average attendance of people from the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin (that is, the indicator for pastoral need within the Diocese) at those nine Masses was 14. Excluding the first Mass, the average attendance of local people at the remaining either monthly Masses was 12. However, it wouldn't be unusual to see a similar number of locals from Kildare and Leighlin at Sunday Masses in the Gregorian Rite in Dublin.
On the other hand, the average attendance at the six occasional Masses organised by St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association during the Holy Year of St. Paul was 58. The average attendance of local people, each in their own locality, excluding members of St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association, at the six occasional Masses was 45.
Table 2 - Trends to June 2009
It could be suggested that there is greater interest for the Gregorian Rite in rural areas (Emo, Vicarstown, Skeoghvosteen) than in more urban areas (Newbridge, Arran Quay, Kilcock). The figures bear this interpretation. It could equally be suggested that the Gregorian Rite has novelty value in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin and people will attend once for mixed motives but that their interest is not sustained or sustainable.
However, it is equally tenable to argue that one failure, albeit a fairly clear one, in the face of increasing attendances elsewhere in the Diocese, doesn't justify the condemnation of the Gregorian Rite to the history books of the Diocese for a second time.
Table 3 - Trends at May 2010
[UPDATE MAY 2010] Lies, dashed lies and statistics. To be sure, statistics only tell us one side of the story. Since this post was composed in July, 2009, eleven further monthly Masses have been held and a mere five occasional Masses have been held in that time. The occasional Masses in Vicarstown, Newbridge, Rathangan, Arran Quay, Kildare Town and Carlow Town were a mixed bag in terms of attendances. The attendance in Carlow in May, 2010, exceeding 200 persons, was, even by the limited standards of these surveys, an exception. However, what has, at least, been demonstrated is that there is a consistent appetite for the provision of the Gregorian Rite within the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.
St. Conleth of Kildare, pray for us!