The NPPN Executive serves the National Pastoral Planners Network whose purpose is to promote and strengthen a culture of planning for mission and evangelisation within the Catholic Church in Oceania. We engage pastoral research and best practices in church growth to offer experience, knowledge, resources and processes that enable dioceses and parishes to advance the mission of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Spirit.
“In pastoral care, sufficient use should be made, not only of theological principles, but also of the findings of secular sciences, especially psychology and sociology: in this way, the faithful will be brought to a purer and more mature living of the faith” (Gaudium et Spes 62).
As an agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Pastoral Research Office (PRO) undertakes and coordinates a number of research projects designed to assist the Catholic Church in Australia at all levels in understanding the cultural, social and personal dimensions of religion in the changing contemporary context.
The PRO resources offer user-friendly materials and high quality service designed to help pastoral leaders in dioceses, parishes and other Catholic bodies to effectively carry out pastoral planning. The following provides a brief summary of just some of the PRO’s main projects and the resources available.
National Catholic Census Project
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has been acquiring and distributing Australian Census data to parishes, dioceses and other Catholic organisations since 1991, meaning that the 2016 ABS Census (due to take place on 9 August) will be the sixth time the Catholic Church has been involved in this national project. The data about the Catholic population according to parish and diocesan boundaries is available for every parish and diocese from the PRO website.
National Church Life Survey
The PRO coordinates Catholic participation in this national five-yearly survey of church-attenders, which involves over 20 other Christian denominations. Due to take place in October and November this year, every parish can participate, and the results provide a rich source of valuable information for individual parishes to use for pastoral planning purposes. The collated responses for a diocese also provide a valuable profile of each individual diocese, and of the whole Catholic Church in Australia.
National Count of Attendance
This project takes place once every five years and involves the collection of attendance figures at all Masses (and Sunday Assemblies in the absence of a Priest) on four Sundays of May in all parishes and all other places where Mass is celebrated on a Sunday. The most recent Count has only just been completed, although collation and reporting of results will take a considerable amount of time. The report from the most recent Count conducted in 2011 (titled “Mass Attendance in Australia: A Critical Moment”) offers a sobering assessment of Mass attendance in Australia using data from 1996 to 2011.
Building Stronger Parishes
The Building Stronger Parishes research project explored how Catholic parishes, in various contexts, use their strengths and available resources to respond to a variety of challenges. The aim of this research was to identify and analyse some of these initiatives in parishes throughout Australia, which can then be implemented in other parishes facing similar challenges. Particular emphasis was given to stories of vitality and hope that bring life to parish and local communities and which have an underlying foundation in an ecclesiology of communion. The project has produced a number of extremely useful resources for parishes and dioceses which can be purchased from: www.catholic.org.au/shop/acbc-shop
The Pastoral Research Office website also contains a rich array of national statistics from PRO projects (such as those described above) and information about other pastoral projects, including downloadable reports, and FAQ’s about the Australian Catholic community. It is well worth spending 5-10 minutes exploring the – mostly-free – available resources. To download the resources, go to pro.catholic.org.au and follow the links!
To be kept up-to-date with PRO research, you can subscribe to Pastoral Research Online, the monthly e-newsletter. Email Stephen Reid to be added to the distribution list: firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information about the work of the Pastoral Research Office, contact Stephen on (03) 9953 3457.