INDEPTH: CATHOLICISM IN CANADA|
CBC News Online | October 2, 2003
Jennifer and Alex Andrejin haven't attended a church service in years but they recently attended for their daughter's baptism.
"It gives Reanna a basis to meet other people, a family and community in which to grow," says Jennifer Andrejin.
It's not exactly a sign of a religious renaissance, but it may be a start.
"They may have been away for a while and baptism is an opportunity for them to feel maybe the sacred again," says Deacon Tom McKeogh of St. Joseph's parish in Toronto.
Weekly attendance among Canada's 14 million Catholics has been on a steady decline for decades. A survey of 3,500 Canadians conducted in 2000 shows that outside Quebec, 32 per cent go to church regularly, compared to 75 per cent in the 1950s. In Quebec, which accounts for about 24 per cent of Canada's population, the weekly attendance has dropped to 20 per cent, from 88 per cent.
Despite the decline, the survey found most lapsed Catholics have not lost touch with their religious roots. They often return for rites of passage, such as weddings and baptisms, and say they are open to more involvement.
Reginald Bibby, who conducted the survey, is a research chair in the sociology department at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. He has been surveying Canadians about religion since 1975.
"People are saying that they are receptive to greater involvement if they can find that the Church can touch their life in a significant way," he says. "They are looking for ministry. They are looking for the Church to be able to speak, for example, to spiritual needs and interests that they have."
The spiritual market may be out there. But there is less blind faith.
Milton Chan, who is a practicing Catholic and is also gay, is part of a group that fights the Church's stand on issues such as homosexuality and contraception.
"First and foremost the Catholic Church has to be willing to listen to what people are saying, have to open its eyes to the changing world," says Chan. "Jesus doesn't come to the world to tell us to keep following the rules."
Critics say the rules have also hurt the Church's appeal as a vocation.
In the late 1960s there were 21,191 priests in Canada. By 2000, that number had dropped to 9,832.
Francois Brassard became a priest, and then he got married. Now the church doesn't recognize him. He and his wife often meet with other married priests to practice their religion.
Brassard says community faith groups are growing. He says the Church would grow too if it shed medieval traditions.
"They would definitely come more alive and as a result of that you would see people flocking to whatever form the church takes," says Brassard.
But the message at St. Joseph's parish is that faith prevails.
"I don't hear anybody panicking about it," says Deacon McKeogh. "What I hear really is (that) we have to start over again in some ways. Nobody is saying we have to go out and bring them in droves. People come back if they're touched� If we're doing the right thing, going about it the right way, they come back."
Tradition pulled the Andrejins back, but it's not clear for how long. They have brought their child to the faith, but it may not be enough to renew their own.