Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life: Liturgical Observation, 1983

Data Archive > U.S. Surveys > Religious Groups > Members or Leaders > Catholic > Summary


The Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life attempts to describe Catholic parishes in the United States roughly twenty years after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Beyond the broad descriptive sample of all U.S. parishes, its contextual sampling design permits the scholar to examine both laity, and ordained and non-ordained leadership in various types of parishes. It yields data on participation and organizational involvement, styles of religiosity, church-related attitudes, civic involvement and sociopolitical attitudes, organizational designs and decision-making, and liturgical experience and satisfaction. This is the liturgical observation component within the series of studies.

Data File
Cases: 35
Variables: 576
Weight Variable: None
Data Collection
Date Collected: October to November 1983
Funded By
The Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Collection Procedures
The data come from a mail survey of pastors conducted between October and November 1983. Questionnaires were distributed to those on the membership lists of 36 representative parishes, as well as to the pastors, staff members and volunteers. Thirty-five of the 36 questionnaires were completed and returned.

Questionnaires were sent to 117 parish staff members (76% response rate) and to 262 volunteers (77% return).

Two-person teams, consisting of a liturgist and a social scientist, were sent to each parish for on-site visits, including a weekend. The researchers received three research "instruments" to use in their visits: one to describe changes in the floor plan and physical layout of the church since 1964 when Vatican II issued its new constitution on the liturgy; another to record observations of two regular Saturday evening and Sunday Masses; and a third to interview decision-makers regarding liturgical planning, sacramental preparation, and degree of guidance from diocesan or other local sources (Castelli and Gremillion, 1987).
Sampling Procedures
The first phase of the study began in 1982 with questionnaires sent to 1,850 parishes. Usable responses were received from 1,099 pastors or administrators (59% response rate). The second phase consisted of 36 parishes being representatively chosen from the 1,099 parish responses. The 36 parishes were randomly selected from cells within a typology that captured the six dimensions along which the Parish Sample differed most: region, diocese, urban-rural class, race, complexity of parish staffing and organizational dynamism.

Because of a language problem, predominately Hispanic parishes were excluded. Because of anticipated response-rate problems, black parishes were oversampled. Within only four of the 36 parishes did bias analysis detect that within-parish generalizations would be made for unrepresentative samples. Where biases existed, they favored overrepresentation of older, slightly more committed members. The stratification features within the parish allow for known probability of selection within the parish; the typology, however, does not permit calculations based on known probability for all adult Catholics within the United States.
Principal Investigators
David C. Leege, Michael R. Welch, Mark Searle and Jay Dolan
Related Publications
Castelli, Jim and Joseph Gremillion, 1987. The Emerging Parish: The Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life Since Vatican II. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Searle, Mark. Observations on Parish Liturgy. New Catholic World. November/December 1985. Pp. 258-263.

Searle, Mark and David C. Leege, 1985. The Celebration of Liturgy in the Parishes. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame.