For at least the past 50 years a rising secular culture in which the Church is meant to be a leaven has had the better of efforts to evangelise.
We are all witnesses to pockets of Catholic life; it’s just that the mission, at times, seems to be all pockets and no trousers.
In business, two of the most significant company culture metrics are employee referrals and attrition. Employee referrals is when staff recommend their company to people they know. Attrition is the rate at which employees resign.
How are Catholics going at recommending discipleship to their friends? At what rate are Catholics giving it up?
Statistical Reasons for Alarm
If you’re thinking that the Church isn’t a business, at least not at heart, then I agree with you. However, Our Lord established a visible institution that operates in the world. It is governed within a hierarchical structure and grows according to the merit of flesh and blood sacrifice.
Since culture and growth can be measured, we should be grateful for the research published recently by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference Pastoral Research Office.
If we should be grateful, we might also be alarmed. The rate of Mass attendance, as of 2016, stands at 11.8%. In other words, nearly 9 out of 10 Catholics don’t think that being Catholic obliges them to attend Sunday Mass.
But wait, it actually gets worse. Out of the 1 in 10 that do go to Mass:
- 60% said that they were not involved in any leadership or ministry in the Church.
- 61% were not involved in any parish group.
- 67% were not involved in any kind of outreach.
So, out of the 1 in 10 who attend to Mass, a majority of them don’t do anything more than go to Mass. And these were the Mass-attenders who took the time to fill in the survey.
But there’s hope. Of the same people who were surveyed:
- 60% rated parish community either “very” or “extremely” important;
- to which you could add 27% who said it was “quite” important;
- making 87% who said that parish community was quite, very or extremely important; and
- 69% said that their sense of parish belonging was either “strong and growing” or “strong and stable”.
While the participation rate is low, Catholics who stick around feel strongly connected to their parish. But it’s like they are waiting for something.
Moving from Fans to Followers
If there is a cultural marker that can transform Mass-going Catholics from being mere fans of Jesus to followers, it is invitation to “come and see” (cf Jn 1:39).
I’d like to posit the reason for their lack of robust involvement in the life of the Church: nobody asked them.
Australian Catholics, myself included, flounder at inviting people to Church activities. But the bigger reason is the dearth of things to invite people to.
They’re already going to Mass, what else is there?
Well, there are pockets, like Parousia. But the Body of Christ needs to be fully clothed by her mission, pockets and all.
What Church activities will you invite your fellow parishioners to?