WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

People must be encouraged to engage with the church

Pastoral planners must work at getting those who say they believe in the resurrection to extend that belief into connection with the church.
Mar09NPPNAnneD3849.jpg The National Pastoral Planners Conference in Wellington last month heard from its critical friend, Bishops’ Conference secretary, Anne Dickinson, that this was an area we must not ignore.
Citing 2005 research in the United States on what it took to be a good Catholic, in which 77 percent said belief in the resurrection and the Eucharist was essential, but 76 percent said it was not essential to go to Mass, Mrs Dickinson said fostering connection with the church was imperative for planners.
Often the criticism was aimed at parishes for not drawing young people into the church but Mrs Dickinson said the schools must take some responsibility. Because of the church’s huge investment in education, she urged all parties to have a friendly but serious conversation on the matter.
She said engaging people with the Mass initially might be more important than trying to engage them with the parish community.
In a reference to the latest census that showed the number of Catholics in New Zealand was growing, Mrs Dickinson said most people accepted that this was because of immigration.
It is often assumed that migrant communities remain strongly connected to the church. But young Pacific Island people can be found in the foyer or hanging around the door during Mass, there because they had promised their parents they would go but they couldn’t wait to get out of the church.
She used a metaphor from Timothy Radcliffe’s latest book, Why Go To Church, saying that the church has asthma.
‘People with asthma think that they can’t get enough air into their lungs. But the real medical problem is that they can’t expel enough breath.
‘It is the same with the church—we might think there is a problem getting people into the church but the real problem might be in sending people out.’
Earlier, Mrs Dickinson challenged planners from Australia and New Zealand at the week-long conference to think in terms of the future make-up of the church.
Statistics show that 55 percent of children in Catholic schools are of European descent, 13 percent are Māori and 15 percent, Pacific peoples. With immigration boosting church numbers and Pakeha perhaps more likely to be the ones who stop attending Mass, the future composition of the church could look very different.
‘Are you looking at known categories at this time or is your vision big enough to see what’s not apparent yet?’