Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia, Dec. 15, 2016. CNS photo/Ben Nelms

Global study finds Canada has widest gap in religious practice between younger and older generations

By  Agnieszka Krawczynski, Canadian Catholic News
  • August 2, 2018

VANCOUVER – A recent poll has confirmed what most youth ministry workers are already losing sleep over: young people across the globe tend to be less religious than their elders.

What they may not know that nowhere is that more true than in Canada.

The Pew Research Centre in June found in 46 out of 106 countries surveyed, adults aged 18-39 were less likely than those aged 40 or older to say religion is important to them, particularly so in Canada.

“It’s alarming,” said Erwin Fung, a youth ministry co-ordinator for the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

An increase in “religious nones,” or people who don’t identify with any religion, is a rising trend that makes running Catholic youth programs here particularly challenging, he said.

“We need to help young adults find a community and a way for them to celebrate their faith,” so they don’t abandon it after high school and don’t stop to reconsider until they hit a mid-life crisis. “We hear all the time that people find their faith when they’re at the lowest. Let’s not wait for that to happen.”

Countries close to Canada in terms of the age gap and religious practice were Denmark, South Korea, Australia, Norway, Sweden and Germany. The United States came in 13th on the list.

It’s believed to be an ongoing trend. In 2017, the Angus Reid Institute found 60 per cent of Canadians believe the religious practice of their grandchildren will be weaker than their own. (Nine per cent believed it would be stronger and 17 per cent said it would stay the same).

But Fung, who has been overseeing youth ministry in B.C.’s Lower Mainland for five years, said an increase in “religious nones” is only one of many trials his fellow ministry workers face.

“Five years ago, a handful of youth might have Facebook or be tied into a form of social media,” he said. “Now, I would say 99 per cent of youth have a social media account and are accessing it on a regular basis.”

Instead of increasing meaningful communication, said Fung, online interactions have served to cut down time spent meeting other people face-to-face.

“People are feeling lonely, depressed or discouraged because they don’t live up to someone else’s Instagram profile.”

That leads to higher mental health issues and social isolation, Fung said, and too few teens who would benefit from community gatherings are showing up to youth events. He’s seen participation rates at youth ministry gatherings decrease over the years.

“We have a lot of youth ministry leaders who are discouraged by that.”

One of them is Alicia Chichak. Serving at St. Basil Parish in Edmonton, she said youth ministry leaders “are very prone to experiencing fatigue.”

Chichak and about 145 other youth ministry leaders met in Vancouver to discuss new ways to reach teens at the biennial Canadian Catholic Youth Ministers’ Conference June 1-3.

“Eighty per cent of youth drop all affiliation with the Church, especially while experiencing transitions in their lives,” she said. “Youth today do not want proof that God exists, but instead want to know why they should care about God at all.”

 (The B.C. Catholic)

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