Conclusion of the Report given

to the Synod of Abbots (September 2021):

Membership Trends

in the Benedictine Confederation 1880-2020


Thomas Piazza[1]

and Fr Geraldo González y Lima, osb[2]



AbbesPresidentsA global view of the Benedictine Confederation documents the major trends of the last 140 years of Benedictine history. There appear to have been four major periods:

1880-1935: After the revival and restoration of monastic life in the latter years of the nineteenth century, the number of monks and monasteries increased rapidly until the Second World War. Although the increase slowed during the First World War, the main trend of rapid growth continued until 1935

1950-1965: After the Second World War the growth continued, although at a slower pace, until membership peaked during the 1960s.

1965-1980: The decades of the 1960s and 1970s represented a period of innovation and reform both in monasteries and in the Church as a whole. That dynamic period, however, was accompanied by a large exodus (a decline of about 20 percent in the total number of monks) between 1965 and 1980. It would be very interesting to be able to analyze the age structure in monasteries before and after that period.

1980-2020: After 1980 the overall number of monks continued to decline, but at a slower pace. The number of ordained monks declined
somewhat more rapidly, as the older priests passed away and a smaller proportion of monks were ordained. It seems that we are now entering a period of contraction and consolidation. But it is not our purpose to project these trends into the future. We merely wanted to show the situation up to the present.

We would like to emphasize that these trends for the Confederation as a whole are not necessarily reflective of what is happening in every congregation in every part of the world. This is only a bird’s eye view, as it were. We intend to carry out further geographic and congregational analyses in the future, in addition to two such analyses published so far.

In conclusion, we want to underline the value of the Catalogi Monasteriorum O.S.B. for understanding membership trends in the Benedictine Confederation. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the early members of the Confederation who had the foresight to compile and publish these invaluable documents. It is up to all of us to make effective use of them in helping us understand the current situation and in planning for the future.


[1] Thomas Piazza is a retired survey research designer and statistician from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a Benedictine monk of St. Leo Abbey in Florida during the 1960s.

[2] Geraldo González y Lima, O.S.B., is a monk of the Abbey of St. Gerard in São Paolo, Brazil, and serves as Treasurer of the Benedictine Confederation in Rome and as Vice President of the International Commission on Benedictine Education.