Surviving the Australian Catholic Apocalypse – Education of Children I

Following on from my previous post, in researching the Church attendance stats, I also happened upon some interesting information on Catholic schools.

Just a reminder that in the overall Catholic population in Australia, 12% practice their faith each week, but only between 0.5-2% go to monthly confession.  Mass attendances have been in a more or less constant state of decline since the 1950s…

So, what is our largest Catholic institution and the parents who have supported it in this country, entrusted with the care and nurture of the faith in our most vulnerable and malleable group – namely, our children – doing to rectify these appalling statistics?

At 9/11 when the planes flew into the two towers, there were some stories that after the initial call for evacuation happened, it was announced that all was well and people went back into the second tower.  If they had not, more lives would have been saved.  Having said that, overall they fared exceptionally better than the the Catholic Church in this country.

There are many voices out there and it is sometimes hard to know who to listen to.  Do we trust our gut instinct to flee the danger, or the voices that are telling us in self-congratulatory tones how fantastically well Catholic education is faring in Australia?

Should I stay or should I go??

It seems crazy in retrospect to think you would stay, but we generally like to think “Everything will be alright.” ( Cue Reggae tune and Bob Marley).  And mostly, it is.  But I know from my own family who has had a one in five survival rate, that we are not the exception but the rule, and actually have fared better than the national average of one in every 100 or 200 who grow up Catholic and continue to practice their faith into adulthood.

When the Titanic sunk, by far the largest casualties were among the poorest  and most disadvantaged who had taken the rooms furthest down into the hull.  Who are the most disadvantaged in our secular culture?  Perhaps the most disadvantaged are not the materially poor, but children from those families where there is solid support in the home for their faith, but when they go to a Catholic school, they are alienated from the very community that purports to support them, but denigrating the Church precepts they see constantly ignored, such as Sunday obligation.  Of the 150 children making their First Holy Communion each year in many parishes around us, how many turn back up for mass the week after the big party?  How many of their schoolmates do they make their First Sacraments with, only to find themselves alone Sunday after Sunday as the families of their friends show scant regard for the practice of the faith?  How can we expect these children not to be sucked under with the sinking ship?

It seems crazy to say, but what if there had only been a 12% survival rate at 9/11?  What if, instead of around 3,000 souls dying, it was 12,000??  What sort of public outcry/war waging/anger/commissions of investigation/public funds/worldwide outpourings of grief would have occurred?

And what if the death rate from the Titanic had been even higher?  What sort of public outcry would have occured as a result?

Are our Catholic schools at least able to reflect the general population regarding a 12% survival rate, citing cultural shifts to blame? What if they could claim to at least do no further harm than our culture already inflicts upon the faith?

The fact, however, is that church attendance from school leavers is well below even that of the general Catholic population.

Put another way:  Of those who say they are Catholic, about 12% go to Mass.

Of those who say they are Catholic and attend Catholic school for 12 years, about 2% go to Mass after leaving school.

I actually think 2% is a bit optimistic, as based on my Catholic school graduating year of 200 girls, that would mean 4 of us still go to mass regularly.. from personal experience, this is not a likely statistic.  It would be much lower than that.. perhaps 0.5% would be more likely.

If great public outcry is the expected response to such calamitous events as 9/11 and more recently the terrorist bombings in Paris, what has the public outcry been from the Catholic parents and grandparents who have seen the practice of the faith of their children vaporise in front of them?

Perhaps in this famous poem which I recently heard recited by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in his last Good Friday address before his death there lies a clue.

When Jesus Came to Birmingham

When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do, ‘
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.

G. A. Studdert-Kennedy

Could indifference have some part to play in this event?  Perhaps.

Alternatively, there are others who are aware and are trying to rearrange the deckchairs on a sinking ship, rather than gathering their loved ones into lifeboats.

The lifeboats can be hard to find in the midst of chaos and confusion, with the busy rush of life engulfing many families.  Simple survival of the faith can be a difficult task.  If you, like us, find yourselves gifted with small souls whose ultimate destiny is greatly effected by the choices you make regarding their education, if you feel a lack of peace in your soul about the current education they receive, then find other options.  Seek out like-minded families, few and far between as they are – and see what they are doing.  Follow those who seem to have a clue.  Bounce ideas off each other.  Make a lifeboat from scratch if you need to.  Do whatever it takes.  Get the job done.  And know that despite the odds, you are NOT alone.  Not just not alone here on earth, but always watched over by a God who never leaves us orphans.












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