Passion, like-minded discussion and connecting with others are the top three things that young people in New Zealand are asking of the Catholic Church in this country.

This is according to the youth survey conducted last year in preparation for the 2018 Synod on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment at the Vatican.

University of Canterbury senior lecturer Ann-Marie Kennedy, who researched and analysed the data, said young people want to be fully participating members of the Church.

“Youth want to make an emotional, passionate and personal connection with the Church and its community. They want to be fully participating members of the community,” she told NZ Catholic.

“They wish to develop a deep faith and ask for help in learning about the Catholic teachings to incorporate them into their own contexts and everyday life.”

There were 1951 responses to the Voice to the Vatican Youth Survey of which 75 per cent were female and 72 per cent belonged to the 16 to 18 year old category.

While a majority of the respondents were Catholics, a small number of young people from other religions as well as those who do not belong to any religion also participated in the survey.

To delve deeper into the concerns of young people, data from eight focus groups and a youth leadership survey with 254 respondents were also gathered.

“Many people think that young people feel that Church events are ‘boring’ and just want to be entertained at places such as Mass,” she said.

“However, there was clear evidence that they did not participate just to have fun. Instead what they really wanted is for the messages to be relevant and accessible to them.”

Mass, Dr Kennedy explained, was still the top Church-related activity for the young people. The survey said gatherings that have major success with the young also include volunteering and community activities, fundraisers and competitions or challenges.

“Young people still rated Mass as being one of their top Church related activities.

“So rather than seeing hands-on community work as an ‘instead of Mass’ activity, they viewed it as an ‘as well as Mass’ activity,” she said.

Dr Kennedy, who is herself a Catholic, praised those within the Church who helped with the research.

“I’d like to acknowledge that while I planned and led the research, this was a team effort incorporating the help of the youth leadership team nationally, and the communications advisor for the New Zealand Catholic bishops. They helped with both data collection and also with analysing some of the answers for the final report. They were amazing,” she said.

• New Zealand will be represented next month at an international meeting in Rome of young people in preparation for the October synod of bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment.

Isabella McCafferty from Wellington will be New Zealand’s representative at a youth focused pre-synod meeting in Rome.

Isabella McCafferty, who is with the Catholic Youth and Young Adult Ministry in Wellington archdiocese, will be the country’s representative at the event.

NZCBC President Bishop Patrick Dunn said that “following on from last year’s national survey of young people and the Church and the Aotearoa Catholic Youth festival, there is a real groundswell of support for this synod”.

“Isabella is a passionate and dedicated advocate for young people in the Catholic Church in New Zealand. We are delighted she has accepted our invitation to represent the New Zealand voice at this important meeting with the Holy Father.”

Ms McCafferty said she was looking forward to engaging with other young people from throughout the world.

“The voice of young people within the Catholic Church is crucial, if the Church wants to move forward in an enlightened and informed way.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to bring Aotearoa New Zealand’s voice to this meeting, reinforcing the learnings we shared from our 2017 youth survey. My hope is that we come away with a real sense of ‘yes, our voices have been heard and here’s what the Church, with your help, plans to do’,” she said.

The outcome from this gathering will be presented to the synod fathers, together with other documentation, for their reflection and study.


  1. Every “youth Mass” I’ve ever been to has been close to the opposite of what I would like, as a young Catholic. The Church has the fullness of Truth, and a beautiful tradition. Young people will respect the Church more if it stands firm in this knowledge rather than shedding it in a futile attempt to “feel relevant”.