REGINA — A summary of the Regina archdiocesan parish reports confirm the obvious — fewer people are regularly attending mass — but it also contains a positive surprise in the growth of youth ministry.
“Ten years ago, four of the 134 parishes in the archdiocese had youth ministry programs and there are now 27,” said director of Pastoral Services Robert Kowalchuk, who compiled the summary. “That’s a growth rate of 800 per cent.”
The archdiocese has always collected data from parishes, and in 2003 switched to electronic data collecting which allowed for more detailed information and the ability to do some long-term data analysis and develop trend lines.
“It has led us to a pretty robust discussion on how the church is changing and what the responses are for the church,” said Kowalchuk. He also noted that while the response to the original requests sent to parishes and deaneries in 2016 was higher than previous years, there are still some parishes that either do not have the data or did not report.
The archdiocese annually requests data in 16 categories, but this year it focused on seven: youth ministry, bereavement, the indigenous community, faith formation, lay information and evangelization, and ecumenism and stewardship. The report illustrates the changes that have occurred over the 13-year period.
The number of households has declined by 27.2 per cent; the number of parishioners is down by 11.8 per cent, funerals have increased by 20.7 per cent, and mass attendance has dropped by 39.1 per cent. These number should not be read a predictors of the future due to a margin of error in data collection.
As noted, youth ministry has grown by 800 per cent. Parishes are supporting their youth in attending youth rallies and youth-related projects in foreign lands; most of the growth occurred in urban centres.
In bereavement, parishes responded with the number of people over 65 and what is being done to support their faith life. Responses included home visits, funeral planning, praying with the families, and referring to existing bereavement services. The archdiocese frequently receives requests for a Catholic-based bereavement service. Regina’s Holy Trinity Parish supported the work of two individuals who have developed such a service and have presented it to three Regina parishes that are developing their own program.
There 28 indigenous reserves in the Regina archdiocese. Fifteen parishes reported awareness of the Truth and Reconciliation Report (TRC) or were creating awareness of the report. The archdiocese has both rural and urban indigenous ministry focusing on building relationships.
In lay ministry and evangelization, there are 500 alumni of the Lay Ministry Formation program but only 140 were identified as involved in parish ministry.
In ecumenism and stewardship, two questions were asked and the responses clearly showed that parishes are active in these areas.
The continuing trend of urbanization has taken its toll on rural parishes. Kowalchuk pointed out that many of the 134 parishes are small, some with as few as a couple of dozen families who continue to support their church.
The 2016 Canadian census reported 131,000 self-identified Catholics in the Regina archdiocese but the archdiocese has about 60,000 registered, a difference of about 70,000.
The report is now in the hands of the six deaneries and their parishes. The report ends by noting the numbers have significant implications for the health of deaneries, parishes, and the archdiocese, inviting a discussion about how best to keep the church alive and well.