Despite growing concern across North America, the Catholic Church is a strong entity, continues to grow worldwide and today’s youth will be the strongest leaders to come.
This is the message Vatican reporter John Allen provided to delegates at the CCSTA Catholic Education: A National Conversation Convention.
As a North American reporter and correspondent at the Vatican, Allen is not only well versed in Catholic teachings, but also in the trends arising within the Catholic Church.
In his keynote address, Allen hit on 10 trends he originally outlined in his book, The Future Church. Two points that hit home with conference attendees had to do with the Global Church as well as the Youth.
With parishes closing down across the country, Allen remarked how it’s easy for Canadian Catholics to feel saddened by the Catholic numbers.
“You might think we’re living in a time of Catholic decline,” said Allen. “But the reality is you’re only feeling that in your own backyard.”
Two hundred and fifty delegates heard Allen’s presentation and they make up less than .002 per cent of Canada’s 13-million Catholic population – 46 per cent of Canada’s population.
Combining Canada’s numbers with America’s Catholic population is an impressive number.
But when inserting North American Catholics into the world’s Catholic tally, they make up only eight per cent of the total population.
Allen pulled up more numbers, demonstrating how the world’s Catholic population continues to rise, its growth coming from the Southern hemisphere.
One hundred years ago, 25 per cent of Catholics lived in the global South. Today that number is 65 per cent, and it will rise to 75 per cent by 2050.
From another perspective, five of the 10 largest Catholic countries are located in the southern hemisphere. That will change to seven of 10 countries in 40 years.
Viewing it from a global perspective, the Catholic population is growing.
“This is the global Catholic story of our time,” said Allen. “The bottom line is the Catholic Church should not see concerns through the North American point of view.”
Youth as Leaders
As the Southern hemisphere represents a large portion of the world’s Catholic population, so does the youth representation. Allen told the audience that 90 percent of the world’s youth under the age of 14 live in the Southern hemisphere.
Anyone born after 1982 are considered the “Millennial” generation – one, which Allen says, is more positive towards authority as well as the Church.
“This generation is more likely to stress fidelity to the Church and choose a community on that basis,” he said. “There is a strong, bottom up movement from the younger, Catholic population.”
He added this generation will also take a leadership role within the Church.
“Increasingly, they see themselves not as consumers of Catholicism, but as leaders,” he explained. “The youth suggests hope and dynamism, and the historical movement to lead has come.”
Bringing it back to the Classroom
Following Allen’s presentation, delegates were asked to reflect on how these trends might impact Catholic education in Canada.
The responses demonstrate how Allen’s presentation is relevant and applicable to the classroom.
“[The] focus of Church is on where it’s growing, not the Church that we grew up in,” responded one group. “Our students and families who are new Canadians are bringing this perspective to our schools.”
Delegates also learned that youth involved with the Church are often more conservative in their practice and views, and that communication is key.
“We need to focus on what we have in common – not our differences – a solution will come from dialogue, not one-way communication.”
Read more Conversation Responses from Allen’s Presentation >>