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Sydney has highest Mass attendance

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Our Lady Help of Christians church in Rosemeadow was full to capacity for their Dedication Mass earlier this year. PHOTO: Daniel Hopper

The Sydney Archdiocese has the highest rate of Mass attendance in the country according to figures just released from the National Centre for Pastoral Research.

Figures from 2016 show that 15.7 per cent of the Sydney Archdiocese’s 594, 145 Catholics attend weekly Mass, the highest rate among all the Latin-rite dioceses of Australia.

The National Count of Attendance found that in 2016 the number of people at Mass around Australia on a typical weekend was 623,000 or 11.8 per cent of the Catholic population, a drop from 662,000 people, or 12.2 per cent, in 2011.

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Director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research, Dr Trudy Dantis, said the Count is a useful tool for pastoral planning and pastoral ministry, helping the Church to “understand the changing patterns of participation of Catholics in Australia”.

“The trends from the 2016 results show that Mass attendance has dropped slightly from 12.2 [per cent of the Catholic population] in 2011 to 11.8 in 2016,” Dr Dantis told The Catholic Weekly.

Mass is celebrated at Maternal Heart of Mary Church in Lewisham. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“There could be a number of different reasons for this, the two most common ones being populations not being replaced at the same rate by younger generations and the impact of the Royal Commission and the clergy sex abuse crisis.”

The Sydney Archdiocese reflected the overall decline in Mass attendance with 93,000 attending in 2016 compared to 98,000 in 2011. The second highest Mass attendance rate was found to be in the Parramatta Diocese, with 14.6 per cent of Catholics attending weekly Mass.

The Diocese of Darwin saw an attendance rate of 13.3 per cent but bucked the general trend, showing an increase in attendance from 4,313 in 2011 to 5,994 in 2016.

“There are several reasons why Mass attendance rates in dioceses can change over time,” Dr Dantis said.

“Attendance rates are strongly influenced by diocesan demographic factors such as the number of Catholics in an area, the percentage of Catholics, the percentage of Catholics living at the same address at the time of the previous Census, the percentage of Catholics with a university degree, and the percentage of Catholics born in non-English-speaking countries.

Maronite Catholics pray during Mass at St Maroun’s Cathedral at Redfern. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“Only a deeper study of the various factors can determine what exactly contributed to the change in the Diocese of Darwin.”

The Melbourne Archdiocese which has the largest Catholic population in Australia, at 1,067,030, has an attendance rate of 13 per cent.

With 708,701 Catholics, the Brisbane Archdiocese attendance rate was 8.1 per cent.

Although generally far smaller in number, attendance rates among Eastern Catholic churches were far higher; Melkite Catholics recorded an attendance rate of 73.1 per cent.

Other Eastern Catholic churches also performed well with Ukrainian Catholics at 66.4 per cent, Syro-Malabarese at 52.6 per cent, Maronites at 49.6 per cent and Chaldeans at 37.7 per cent.

Mass attendance for the Eastern churches also increased rather than decreased from 2011 to 2016.

Beginning in 2001, the National Count of Attendance is conducted every five years. Data for the 2016 Count was collated over four Sundays in May that year.

The National Centre for Pastoral Research is preparing a detailed Mass Attendance report which will be released later this year.

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