January 17, 2011

EDMONTON — WCR readers see the Catholic Church as facing even more difficult challenges than it did 10 years ago.

Asked on the WCR's recent readership survey to compare the challenges faced by the Church today with those of a decade ago, 41 per cent of respondents said those challenges are much harder now than then. Another 36 per cent said the challenges are "a little harder."

Only one per cent said the Church is having a much easier time now than then and only two per cent said the challenges are "a little easier."

But when asked about the nature of those challenges, 28 per cent of respondents said they are very similar to the challenges the Church faced 10 years ago and another 42 per cent said they are "more similar than dissimilar."

Seven per cent said the challenges today are very dissimilar to those faced by the Church a decade ago.

So, what are those challenges?

By far, the biggest challenge identified by survey respondents is that of passing on the faith to the next generation. Forty-one per cent identified it as the most important challenge and another 24 per cent as the second most important challenge.

Compared with that combined total of 65 per cent, the second greatest challenge seen by WCR readers was that of building strong Catholic families (32 per cent).

The other alternatives presented in the survey and their combined totals were:

  • Forming adults to be disciples (26 per cent)
  • Helping young people celebrate being Catholic (24 per cent)
  • Getting people involved in parish life (24 per cent)
  • Cultivating vocations to the priesthood and religious life (20 per cent)
  • Increasing Mass attendance (11 per cent).

Consultant Byran Froehle said the responses to this part of the survey "are some of the most interesting of the entire project."

Readers clearly see the increasing difficulties facing the Church, he said in an interview. "The trend we've been living with is accelerating and there is a clear need for Church leadership to pay sustained attention to this challenge."

So what about the Western Catholic Reporter's response? Is there anything the WCR can do to help the Church overcome these challenges?


Froehle said the WCR needs to strive to be as close as possible to people's experiences of Church and spirituality. It should do what it can to help people witness and spread their faith and to pass it on to the next generation.

The survey asked where the WCR fits into the "New Evangelization." How would the WCR help Catholics in passing on the faith by emphasizing certain aspects of the newspaper's content? Here is the percentage of readers who said the WCR could help "very much" by:

  • Helping people relate their faith to daily life (36 per cent);
  • Offering the wisdom of the Church for everyday decision-making (31 per cent);
  • Helping people understand Scripture (29 per cent);
  • Helping people pray (28 per cent);
  • Telling stories of people who vividly live their Catholic faith (27 per cent);
  • Informing readers of current teaching of the pope and bishops (26 per cent);
  • Informing readers of archdiocesan and parish news (15 per cent).