Ireland Still Shows Signs of a Strong Faith

Though Mass Attendance Is Lower Among the Young

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ENNIS, Ireland, OCT. 12, 2003 ( Parts of Irish society still strongly embrace Catholicism, though young people seem less inclined to practice the faith of their fathers, recent surveys indicate.

A survey by the Killaloe Diocese in County Clare found that more than 60% of the faithful attend Mass regularly, thanks to older parishioners. Almost three-quarters (74%) of people over 40 of age said they go to church regularly, compared with just 42.3% of those under 40.

Bishop Willie Walsh said overall he was encouraged by the survey results. «Attitudes to the Church and the priesthood are much more positive than anecdotal comment would lead one to expect,» he said.

«I believe we can take heart from most of the findings of this survey,» he added. «We commissioned it to help us develop a vocations strategy and the results raise my hope that we can work to draw young people to the priesthood and the religious life.»

The process to develop a national strategy for vocations promotion was precisely the theme of a four-day workshop last week in Dundrum, County Tipperary. It attracted 20 Irish dioceses.

Father Kevin Doran, national coordinator of vocations, said: «There is a perception out there that vocations directors are anxious to get people into seminaries at all costs. The opposite is the case. In these times of shortage, we have to be more careful than ever to make sure that mature decisions are made in the light of faith.»

The Killaloe survey seemed to indicate that perceptions about the priesthood are still positive. More than 90% of those surveyed thought that priests were doing a good job.

The survey revealed that 16.5% at some point thought about pursuing the priesthood or religious life and as many as one in 10 of those under 40 years had considered it.

Another poll, conducted recently for Ireland’s state broadcasters RTE, found that about half of the Irish aged 18 or older attend weekly Mass, down 10 percentage points from a similar poll taken in 1998. The poll was taken by questioning 1,000 adults face to face.

Among 18- to 24-year-olds, only one-quarter attend Mass weekly or more frequently. This figure rises to 27% for 25- to 34-year-olds.

Despite the low attendance, some 49% of Irish aged 18 to 24 say the Church is important in their lives. Among the 25-34 group, the figure rises to 62%.

The survey also found that 87% of Catholics would like their children to be brought up in the faith. «This will give no encouragement to those who want to diminish the Church’s role in education,» commented Ronan Mullen of the Irish Examiner.

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