The largest survey of young Catholics ever conducted

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) last year initiated the largest survey of young Catholics ever conducted. These results have now been released by the ACBC, and will assist in preparations for the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, which will be held in October this year.

The survey’s results

The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle submitted 999 surveys of the total 15,000.  In the entire survey 81% of the respondents were aged 16-18 years. In our survey, 92% of our respondents were aged 16-18, 3% were aged 19-22, and 6% were aged 23-29. 52% of our participants were female.

The questions focussed on young people’s involvement in church, the issues that concerned them, and the part that faith plays in a young person’s daily life.

Mental health of greatest concern

Mental health was the greatest concern for young people according to the survey, a fact pondered by Bishop Bill in this month’s Aurora.

Only 8% of our participants claimed to be Catholic and regularly attend Mass and other faith activities, while 35% said: ‘My family is Catholic or Christian, but I don't practice or get involved in anything’. Those not involved in church activities showed interest in becoming involved in social events, service projects and big events such as World Youth Day.

With this in mind, how can invitations to amazing events that currently happen, such as the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, World Youth Day, and Young Christian Students (about to be pioneered in some Newcastle Catholic schools) reach those young people?

Effectiveness of Social Media

Surely social media is most effective? One participant shared “Social media platforms allow for a broader audience with a more engaging way of presenting the information.”

Social media is a platform embraced by the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, including:

Facebook: MNCatholic Youth,  MNNews today , MNCatholic Schools , CatholicCare Hunter Manning

Instagram: MNCatholic Youth, MNCatholic Schools, MNNews today, CatholicCare Hunter-Manning

Twitter: MNNews today , MNCatholic Schools , CatholicCare Hunter

However, our survey report concluded, “It was clear from our conversations with the broader church community, that awareness of the diocesan online presence was not extensive. A number of young people expressed a desire for online engagement and dissemination of information, unaware that it was already taking place.”

Other issues concerning young people

Not being heard by the church, or reached out to was also a concern of the participants. Our diocesan survey report states:

“Even though we reach out in many ways, we discovered that young people do not realise how the church is connected to their lives. Agencies (eg CatholicCare and Catholic schools) reach out to young people, but the young people do not connect those experiences to what they believe church is.”

Other issues that young people are concerned about are personal problems, including sexual, ethnic and spiritual identity; about their educational, employment and housing future; about forming and sustaining good relationships; about the direction of our politics, culture and Church on issues of life and love, justice and mercy; about avoiding loneliness and finding a community of real support; and about being a person of faith in an increasingly secular environment.

There is great hope

Our diocesan survey reflected many of the same issues as the rest of Australia’s results.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said of the results:

“These are big issues that affect us all and they are all things about which the Church cares deeply and on which it has much to say.

“Even amidst the challenges raised in the survey, there is cause for great hope. For millennials, there has never been a more important time to rededicate themselves to the message and life of Jesus Christ. If ever we needed new John the Baptists to call people to repent and believe, to offer some really Good News amidst all the bad, and to point people to Christ, it is right now.”

Read the Maitland-Newcastle survey report here.

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Brooke Robinson Image
Brooke Robinson

Brooke is Content Officer for the Communications Team in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle