Catholic Religious Survival

Catholic Religious Survival

Question: Is religion alive and well or struggling to survive in Canada?

Rev. GEOFFREY KERSLAKE is a priest of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Ottawa.

According to the 2006 Census figures, more people report having a religious affiliation than having “no religion.” Roughly 77 per cent of Canadian reported an affiliation with a religion versus about 16 per cent of people who listed “no religion.”

What we do not know is how regularly respondents attended worship services in their faith communities or how engaged they were with their faith.. However, the fact that over three-quarters of the population identified with one particular faith tradition indicates that organized religion is an important aspect of identity for Canadians.

In my own experience in Ottawa, the parishes in which I served were growing communities with a wide variety of parishioners of different ethnicities, ages and backgrounds who were very much engaged in their faith.

One phenomenon that seems to be increasing generally in the West, however, is the percentage of people who self-describe as being “spiritual but not religious.” The search for God is indeed a very personal choice but faith is exercised within the context of a believing community that supports, encourages and challenges us to an authentic expression of our belief.

Without the guarantee of authentic teaching and personal accountability, a spirituality without a community risks being self-absorbed and less open to the reality that God meets and engages us most often in our neighbour. When I am free to spontaneously decide how to worship God apart from a faith tradition I am ironically imprisoned by the constant need to invent my spirituality.

In my experience, I have met a number of people who came to the Catholic Church precisely because they were looking for a firm foundation on which to ground their faith lives versus something “less restrictive” where they were unsure of what to believe.

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