Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.
We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.
- Published: Sunday, 05 December 2010 14:42
OLDER, FEWER BUT DOING NEW THINGS
From Pathways, November 2010.
The country's Religious are older and fewer but they are doing many new things, the 2009 survey of Catholic Religious Institutes in Australia has found.
As of December 1st 2010, the number of Australian MSCs is as follows:
Priests (including two retired Bishops): 127
Professed students (as of December 18th): 3
Novices (plus for 2011 one from the Irish province, from Zimbabwe): 4
MSC work in Australia, PNG, India, the Pacific Region and Vietnam.
Leaders of Religious orders gathered in Sydney on 15 November for the launch of 'See, I am doing a new thing', the report on the 2009 survey.
Commissioned by Catholic Religious Australia (CRA), the survey was undertaken on CRA's behalf by the Pastoral Planning Office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC). Its authors, Stephen Reid and Robert Dixon from ACBC and Father Noel Connolly SSC, Regional Director of St Columbans Mission Society, Australia/New Zealand, joined with Religious leaders at CRA's Annandale office to mark the report's release.
CRA commissioned the survey to get a picture of the membership at the present time, to consider trends for the future, and to understand more fully the important role that Catholic Religious play in the Australian Church and society.
The last time a similar survey was conducted was 34 years ago. While the 1976 survey was completed by individual priests, brothers and sisters, this survey was with religious congregations. One hundred and sixty one congregations, orders, societies and associations responded to the 2009 survey, which could be completed online or in print form.
'See, I am doing a new thing!' contains statistical information on Religious in Australia including numbers, age, locations, areas of work, as well as ownership and operation of institutions, and partnerships with other congregations and organisations. It also includes seven personal reflections on the findings of the report from leaders of religious institutes.
Key findings were that in 2009 there were 8422 Religious in Australia compared with 17,029 in 1976. Religious Sisters make up just over 70 per cent of the cohort. In 2009 there were 5,927 Religious Sisters, 884 Religious Brothers and 1,611 Religious order priests. The median average age of Religious in 2009 was 73.
While the survey shows that Sisters, Brothers and clerical Priests are ageing and decreasing, they are broadening the type of ministry they are involved in, with a movement away from institutional ministries like education to the more social and pastoral work found on the margins of society.
Today, many Religious are working with refugees and asylum seekers, indigenous Australians, as prison chaplains, for organisations against human trafficking, and for the environment. Other apostolates include congregational leadership and administration, contemplative life, parish work, pastoral care, healthcare and aged care, media, publishing and the arts, overseas mission, social services and spiritual direction such as retreats and further study.
Other key findings are as follows:
* Religious women make up just over 70 per cent of all Religious in Australia. They are followed by clerical Religious at 19.1 per cent and Religious Brothers at 10.5 per cent.
* Forty-seven per cent of all congregations in Australia have fewer than 26 members, while a further 21 per cent have between 26 and 50 members. Although only 12 per cent of congregations have more than 100 members, the number of Religious in those 20 congregations account for almost half of all Religious in Australia.
* Between 1997 and 2008, just over 400 people made their first profession, with just under three-quarters still members in 2009. In the same period there were at least 483 departures of professed members from Religious congregations and 2,531 deaths.
* Religious women represent the oldest of Australian Religious with a median age of 74. In 1976, the proportion of Religious women 60 years or over was 36.5 per cent. In 2009, 85.6 per cent were in that age group. Clerical Religious are the "youngest" group of Catholic Religious in Australia with 19.4 per cent under 50 years of age. Around 31 per cent are 75 years or over and the median aged is 67.
* The median age of Religious brothers is 71 with just over half (51.8 %) aged 70 or over. In 1976, the age profile was vastly different with the largest number of brothers under 25 years of age (16.2%).
* Overall, three-quarters of all Religious were born in Australia, which is a similar percentage to Australian Catholics as a whole (74.7%). The remaining one-quarter of Religious born overseas came from 75 different countries. The largest proportion emigrated from Ireland, representing 5.8 per cent of the total population of Religious.
* More than one-quarter of Religious are retired (26.1%).
* Apart from the diversity of apostolates, one of the most dramatic changes between 1976 and 2009 has been the decrease in the proportion of Religious working in education. In 1976, almost half (47.5%) of all Religious were involved in education, with the majority of these working as teachers in primary or secondary schools. In 2009, only 6.3 per cent of Religious are involved in primary and secondary education.
* More than two-fifths (44.4%) of all Religious live in the Archdioceses of Sydney and Melbourne
* Sixty-five congregations wrote of the diminishment in numbers and their congregation's capacity for ministry. Forty-two congregations indicated a movement towards, or interest in, integrating ministries, forming partnerships with other provinces, congregations, Church entities, lay people or other organisations, or aggregation or moving to union or configuration.
* Seven congregations mentioned scaling back involvement in ministry, change to the breadth of ministries and one mentioned withdrawal from ministry altogether. Nine congregations indicated that members coming from overseas would be necessary to maintain or expand their present commitments.
* At the same time, 40 congregations are not contemplating any withdrawal of their ministries or establishing new governance structures. Fourteen congregations have Boards as their governing structure and 19 had either formed a PJP or were considering doing so.
* The majority of congregations have some form of loosely-connected or formal lay association.
* Some congregations listed partnerships with a number of different agencies, while others did not have any partnerships in place. More than one-third or 28 congregations has a partnership with a Catholic Education Office and 12 congregations had partnership with Centacare.