People engaged in parish ministry are being encouraged to attend a webinar next week to help understand how data from the 2016 Australian Census can inform the way they support their local communities.
In June this year, the National Centre for Pastoral Research published social profiles on almost 1300 Catholic parishes across Australia. Each profile looks in great detail at the demographic makeup of those living within a parish’s boundaries, according to the 2016 Census, particularly those who identified as Catholic.
The reports provide statistics on a range of measures, including age, sex, country of birth, the language people speak at home, the makeup of their families and households, income levels, employment status and educational background.
Trudy Dantis, director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research, said the webinar will invite people to translate statistical data in those profiles into pastoral plans relevant to a local context.
“The great power of these profiles is knowing how you can most effectively minister to the community in which your parish is located,” she said.
“If you have a high proportion of Catholics in your parish, you will likely take a different approach to outreach than if you were in a parish with a very low proportion of people who are at least nominally Catholic.
“If you know your local community has an overwhelmingly large immigrant population, you’d want to be able to communicate with them in ways that are relevant and appropriate.”
Dr Dantis, whose doctoral research had a focus on the life and mission of Catholic parishes in Australia, and National Centre for Pastoral Research senior researcher Stephen Reid are preparing a video presentation that will be followed by a live question-and-answer session on August 25.
The webinar, “Knowing the community whom we are called to serve”, is hosted by the Pastoral Ministry Network, formerly the NSW Association of Pastors, Pastoral Associates and Parish Workers (NAPPA).
Lisa Bright, a member of the Network’s executive, said the webinar is expected to be the first in a series as digital technologies are utilised to not only respond to COVID-19, but also to make content more accessible for people who might otherwise not be able to afford an in-person gathering.
“In a country as large as Australia, we know that many people living outside the eastern states or in regional or remote areas can’t attend gatherings that typically take place in southeast Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria,” Mrs Bright said.
“This new delivery mechanism means that we can come to those people, rather than asking them to come to us. It means we can provide them with useful information for their pastoral ministry and they can invest in implementing plans, rather than airfares, accommodation and conference registrations.”
Dr Dantis said the current pandemic is creating an altered pastoral landscape.
“The impact of COVID-19 is likely to cause severe changes in communities everywhere. Understanding the basic composition of your community and the individuals and families who live there can help a parish better prepare to face the emerging challenges that lie ahead,” she said.