by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — The entry of Asian migrants in Auckland diocese presents that local Church with more tremendous growth, possibilities and challenges than any other diocese in New Zealand, according to a history professor.
Presenting his study before priests of Auckland diocese on August 26, Massey professor Peter Lineham attributed the continued strength of the Church to new migrants.
Without them, he said, the decline in the growth of the Church would have been “significant”.
“I think the critical thing to note is that Pakeha numbers are quite significantly down. And that the Auckland diocese is doing pretty well particularly because of the different ethnicities,” he said in an interview with NZ Catholic.
He said the Catholic Church in Auckland is more ethnically diverse than the whole of Auckland.
“You need a policy that kind of deals with so many languages and so many different ethnic groups,” he said.
Parish chaplaincies may work for the moment, but not long term, he said.
“Some will be needed more than others. But I think that the chaplaincies have got to be replaced by parish strategies,” he said.
The 2013 census showed the number of Pakeha and Maori Catholics have different and sometimes
difficult combinations of ethnicities.
“The older Pakeha might well feel pushed to the side by the pressing of families of Filipinos or Koreans or Pacific Islanders,” he said.
“As the next generation gets settled in new parishes, the challenge is to make those local parishes accommodate these groups,” he added.
Professor Lineham said that although there are pressures from the wide variety of ethnicities, compared with other denominations these are “good pressures to have”. He
noted that the Anglican Church, for example, has an ageing and significantly declining population.
“The most critical change in the 2013 census is, overall, the Catholic Church is now larger than the Anglican Church. And that is quite extraordinary. Because as we’ve seen, 40 years ago, the Anglican Church was double the size of the Catholic Church,” he said.
Professor Lineham said there is a very significant decline in the proportion of Maori in the Church. In the whole of New Zealand, Maori went down from 13 per cent in 2001 to 10.6 per cent in 2013. In Auckland, that population fell to 11.6 percent in 2013 from 13.8 per
cent in 2001.
“Maori tend to disperse. They are not in any particular place, and that while has declined in Auckland, although European Catholics still comprise 57 per cent of the Church. Asians are the second largest group at 19.8 per cent, Pacific people 12.7 per cent and Maori 12 per cent.
“What you’ve got for European Catholics is that they are definitely ageing. The number of children especially going to [Catholic] schools from European background is very much
reduced in Auckland compared to the rest of Catholic New Zealand,” he said.
He pointed out that parishes will the figure doesn’t show they have a low level of involvement, there does seem to be a bit of evidence of that from diocesan statistics,” he said.
Another important thing to note, he added, is that “in the north, where the Maori is so important to the Catholic Church, those numbers are quite significantly down.”
There seems to be a weakening of loyalty to the Catholic faith among the Polynesians, he also noted.
Professor Lineham said there’s a difference between Samoans and Tongans.
Although Tongans remain quite loyal to the Catholic faith, the Church seems to be losing Samoans, particularly the younger ones, to the Pentecostal church.
“I don’t have any absolute proof of that, but certainly that’s where the Pentecostal churches are very strong,” he said.
Professor Lineham’s study also showed that Indians are often in parishes with strong Pacific Island presence.
More than 300,000, or about 66 per cent, of all Asian Catholics are in Auckland diocese. Most Koreans, Chinese and Japanese are in North Shore parishes.
Among Southeast Asian Catholics, Professor Lineham said he was quite struck by the fact that Filipino Catholics are scattered throughout New Zealand.
“They are not as concentrated in Auckland as I expected to find. Only 50 per cent are in Auckland. I think the reason for that is most Filipinos are doing domestic or labouring work. So they go to where the jobs are,” he said.
Many Filipinos are integrated in parishes, given the 12 Filipino priests in the diocese, he said, and because they are proficient in English.
by ROWENA OREJANA