by ROWENA OREJANA
Initial results of a survey commissioned by the Catholic Enquiry Centre show there is a need among Catholic enquirers for further catechesis in the faith.
In the first research conducted by the CEC on their enquirers, the data gathered show a younger set of enquirers about the Catholic faith. The opt-in anonymous survey conducted
by Research NZ started in August 2014 and will go on for a year.
CEC director Fr Allan Jones, SM, said it seemed they were reaching people younger than their target market, partial results of the survey showed.
Fr Jones said 200 out of 1300 enquirers who have responded to CEC’s advertising on television and online, as well as those who ordered booklets, took part in the survey. He presented
the findings to the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference in March.
“The age of enquirers is quite interesting. It’s younger than we realised or knew until now,” he said.
From the partial results, CEC learned that 80 per cent of enquirers are aged between 15 and 39, younger than the 25 to 49 age range they had been targeting.
Almost half of the 200 respondents were Catholics (48%), followed by Christians (31%) and non-Christian or no religion (25%).
“The point is most of the inquirers are Catholics. So that is one of the conversation questions we had with the bishops in March. Why are Catholics wanting more information on the
Catholic faith? What’s that saying about information available in the diocese or in the parishes?” he said. “There’s a whole lot of factors there.”
Fr Jones said people may be private about their spiritual life and may find it easier to ring
him because a phone call affords immediacy and anonymity.
“It may also reflect the First World, West, postmodern thing where everyone does what they
want to do where they want to do it. Just at home and go online rather than go to a class,” he
He said two-thirds of the enquirers have places of worship. “They are not totally lost from that point of view, but they are looking for more,” he said.
“There’s plenty of food for thought as to how CEC needs to respond to these applications in a pastoral and helpful way, and we will do that, but it’s not just us, I don’t think. That’s sort of what came through with the bishops,” he said.
Fr Jones said a qualitative survey is in the pipeline. “At the moment we are trying to get a really robust sample. Once we get the trend settled in this quantitative level, maybe we can ask people we do know signed up or people who have applied for the books, if they are willing to participate in a qualitative survey,” he said.
Enquirer ethnicity was broken down as 64 per cent European, 13 per cent Maori, 8 per cent Pasifika, 14 per cent Asian and 18 per cent other.
Fr Jones said the survey confirmed that the best way to reach people is through Internet and television ads. To this end, the centre is launching search words in their Google Ad Words
and Google Search and Display Network that are geared towards human aspirations rather than
specifically Catholic or Christian words.
“One of which is grief. And the other search is for happiness. Around those two key words we are launching two new search and display sub-sites so that it is not just reaching Catholics or Christians through Catholic or Christian words, but also people in search of these aspirations: ‘I want to deal with my grief. I want to be happy,’” he explained.
Fr Jones said the key thing with the centre is that the ball is always in the court of the enquirer. They take the risk and put their trust in the CEC.
“It’s a tender moment of interaction between the person and the Enquiry Centre in their search for Christ in their lives. It’s a person’s search for Christ being honoured and shepherded in the right way. We’re not just dealing with numbers and figures. We’re dealing with people in their journey for God,” he said.
He called on people to pray for the centre as well as donate to the cause. “It’s what we’re built on: charity, the charity of prayer and the charity of donations. And that’s the outreach
of the Church at it’s best, isn’t it?” he suggested.
by ROWENA OREJANA