Catholic church finding followers in ethnic communities

This is part of a CBC series that looks at the role of religion in Canadian society. Asian and African communities are shifting the makeup of the Canadian Catholic population.

Catholic membership growing in Canada's African and Asian communities

"We dance from beginning to end." 3:52

Sister Ida prides herself on the African Catholic celebration of day-long dancing, as the robe-clad missionary sways to the gentle drum beats echoing inside Holy Name Parish, a Toronto church where the African Catholic community congregates.

"We dance from the beginning to the end of the mass, and the other churches ... don't," she explains in the video, part of a CBC series that looks at the role of religion in Canadian society.

When she was only four years old, Ida started helping out at the altar in her hometown church in Sudan. One of 11 children in an African Catholic home, she moved to Canada in 2007 and continued serving her church.

"We are trying to go to different Catholic schools in Ontario to try and recruit the young ones to take over," she says. "We are trying very hard, but it's not easy."

Religion, faith and belief

CBC News just launched a new series looking at religion, faith and belief in our world.

The first story:

Do countries lose religion as they gain wealth? 

Like their co-religionists around the world, Catholics in Canada are watching with great interest as the College of Cardinals meets to elect the next pope.

While Roman Catholics remain the largest religious group in Canada with 14 million followers, it's a growing number of adherents in the African and Asian communities that's shifting the makeup of Canada's largest church.

Father Alex Osei of Holy Name Parish points to the church's effort to make the religious rituals meaningful to the younger generation.

"If the church is to move forward, we need to carry along with the youth," Osei said.

Osei adds that Catholicism appeals to different cultures for various reasons but faith is universal.

"God understands different languages because He created it and gave it to us."

Chinese parents like church's moral training

Language diversity is apparent at the Chinese Martyrs Catholic Church in Markham, Ont., where sermons are given in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.

Father Andrew Deng preaches to 1,000 attendees at a typical mass. The congregation is so large that a parking lot attendant is needed to direct traffic.

"Most of the Chinese parents … really feel like the moral training within the Roman Catholic school system is very important to the formation of their children's upbringing," Deng explains in the video.

Hymns performed Karaoke style

Meanwhile, Tagalog-speaking parishioners at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Toronto perform hymns  karaoke style — with lyrics projected on a screen.

"When [Filipino] families gather and friends gather, they usually have the karaoke system," Father Ben Ebcas Jr. tells CBC News. "So when we gather as a family during the mass, there is an opportunity to sing with the choir, then we sing."

Eighty per cent of Filipinos who come to Canada are Catholic, according to Ebcas Jr.

"The demographics have changed a lot in terms of the attendance," Ebcas Jr. said. "You can see a lot of ethnic groups attending masses all over the archdiocese."