St Francis of Assisi: statue in the cloister garden, St Paschal Friary, Melbourne.

Understanding Religious Vocation in Australia Today

The Pastoral Research Office is an agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. It provides research and pastoral planning consultancy services to dioceses and Catholic agencies. This post introduces some of their recent reports.

Understanding Religious Vocation in Australia Today

A new report on recent religious vocations to Catholic religious orders in Australia has uncovered some common characteristics of religious orders that are attracting new women and men, which could help strengthen religious life in Australia and overseas.

Understanding Religious Vocation in Australia Today was commissioned by Catholic Vocations Ministry Australia (CVMA) and carried out by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Pastoral Research Office (PRO).

The report is the outcome of a comprehensive research project that sought to understand the characteristics of men and women who entered religious life (and stayed) since 2000, and to identify best practices for vocation promotion. The research involved surveys of leaders of religious orders and new members, interviews with leaders of orders that had been successful in recent recruitment, and focus groups with new members.

The report corrects two common misconceptions: First, that only conservative or traditional religious orders attract new vocations; and second, that only people who were born overseas are entering religious life in Australia.

According to the report, orders that are successful at attracting new vocations share many strategies in common. These include having an integrated and well-resourced approach, offering a live-in experience, and having a full-time vocation director or team. The research also identified features of religious life that attract, challenge and reward new members. New members identified the main challenges they face in religious life as living in community, the vow of obedience and factors such as being separated from family and friends. On the other hand, they also identified rich rewards in religious life in terms of personal development, prayer life and spirituality, community life and companionship, and opportunities to be of service to others.

By identifying best practices in vocation promotion, the research is helping religious orders adjust their approach to recruitment and has the potential to contribute to strengthening religious life in Australia and elsewhere.

Report details:

Robert Dixon, Ruth Webber, Stephen Reid, Richard Rymarz, Julie Martin and Noel Connolly SSC, Understanding Religious Vocation in Australia Today, unpublished report of a study of vocations to religious life 2000-2015 for Catholic Vocations Ministry Australia. (Fitzroy: ACBC Pastoral Research Office, February 2018). Available for free download from https://pro.catholic.org.au/understanding-religious-vocation-in-australia-today/.

Robert Dixon and Ruth Webber are Honorary Research Fellows at the University of Divinity.

Our Work Matters: Catholic Church employers and employees in Australia

A new research study conducted by the Pastoral Research Office (PRO) of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has found that about 220,000 people are employed in over 3,500 separate Catholic organisations in Australia. The report on the study, Our Work Matters: Catholic Church employers and employees in Australia, was released in November last year.

Although Catholic Church organisations in Australia have been engaged in many different work activities for a long time, up until now little was known about the size and composition of their workforce. The PRO research team arrived at the figure of approximately 220,000 by compiling employment data from around 99.5 per cent of Australia’s Catholic agencies and organisations. More people work for the Catholic Church than in local government, and the Church’s workforce is about nine-tenths the size of the Commonwealth Government’s workforce. The Church employs about the same number of people as Wesfarmers, more than the Woolworths Group, and considerably more than Australia’s four largest banks combined.

Report details:

Robert Dixon, Jane McMahon, Stephen Reid, George Keryk and Annemarie Atapattu, Our Work Matters: Catholic Church employers and employees in Australia (Canberra: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 2017). Available for free download from https://pro.catholic.org.au/our-work-matters-catholic-church-employers-and-employees-in-australia/.

Further Reading

The Demography of Australia’s Catholics

Robert Dixon, ‘The Demography of Australia’s Catholics: Method and Applications’, in Brian J. Grim, Todd M. Johnson, Vegard Skirbekk and Gina A. Zurlo (eds.), Yearbook of International Religious Demography 2017 (Leiden: Brill, 2017)

The Yearbook of International Religious Demography presents an annual snapshot of the state of religious statistics around the world.

Post-secularity and Australian Catholics

Robert Dixon, ‘Post-secularity and Australian Catholics’, in Anthony Maher (ed.), Faith and the Political in the Post-Secular Age (Bayswater, Coventry Press, 2018)

Do God & religion have any place in our secular & post-secular age? Are we destined to continue the deepening sense of loss around notions of God, truth & reasons for being? This book addresses the moral & social concerns of political structures & systems of power & challenges individualism & division, providing inspirational Gospel vision of hope.

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