Raleigh, N.C. — Many Catholic churches are seeing a surge in attendance. Easter Sunday was no exception as Catholics filled churches across the Triangle to capacity.
At the Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 200 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, it was standing room only Sunday. The church has grown from 3,149 parishioners in 1999 to a present-day membership of 5,871, according to Frank Morock, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic diocese in Raleigh.
"It seems like it's growing every year," said Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh.
Catholicism is increasing across the 54-county diocese, Morock said. Ten years ago, there were 153,000 registered Catholics. Now there are 217,000 registered Catholics with approximately 50 percent residing in Wake, Durham, Orange, Johnson and Franklin counties, Morock said.
Another estimated 225,000 Hispanics also consider themselves Catholic but aren't registered, Morock said.
"What a blessing," Burbidge said of the growth.
Attendance at the St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church, 810 High House Road, Cary, has grown considerably over the last 20 years. With some 18,000 members, the church has the largest diocese population in the Triangle, Morock said.
Growth can be linked partly to population shifts of people moving from the Northeast and Midwest, Morock said.
Population shifts have also affected church attendance in other faiths as well. The congregation at the First United Methodist Church, 117 South Academy St., Cary, has grown by almost 600 members over the last five and a half years.
"This church was right at the beginning of when Cary started growing very fast," said Pastor Rodney Hamm with First United Methodist Church. "I would say that this church grows probably by a thousand or so every 10 years."
To accommodate its growing congregation, the church expanded buildings and added extra services. The church now offers four separate services on Sunday.