Dealing with the Demographic Divide: 2020 Catholic Men’s Gathering

20 Aug 2020

By Eric Leslie Martin

The inaugural 2020 Catholic Men’s Gathering has last weekend focussed on the necessary role played by men in growing and maintaining the healthy functioning of the Church, exploring ways to counteract men’s gradually declining numbers within parishes across Australia.

Speaking at the virtual event on Saturday 15 August, Daniel Ang, the Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation said: “If we believe that the history of the world and the history of salvation passes through the family, the life and faith of men is integral to the future of a flourishing and faith-filled society of which the Church is called to be a real sign and sacramental presence”.

“With men’s participation and engagement in the life of our parishes in decline, we are deprived of an array of gifts, charisms and vocations that God offers to us. This is to the detriment of the whole People of God and its mission and living presence in the world.”

He believes that for that potential to be fulfilled, we as a Church need to ask: “Why is the Church so important to the healthy functioning of our men and what are the implications of our lack of outreach to men?”.

“I shared in my opening session for the men’s conference, that as people of faith it has not only been revealed to us who we are and whom we are called to be but we have been given through our Catholic tradition the schools of wisdom, traditions, practices and pilgrim communities that allow us to take that journey to God and in encountering God to know ourselves.”

Mr Ang said the Church had something to offer to the all-too-human stories of dislocation and the hopes experienced by men, women, and families.

“Reigniting men’s faith will come by the same way as the renewal of the Church as a whole in Australia – by a living encounter with Christ in the midst of his Church for the sake of his world.”

Brisbane’s Executive Director of Evangelisation Deacon Peter Pellicaan, and fellow presenter at the conference says this will take place when we facilitate a personal encounter with Jesus – something Pope Francis often speaks about.

“It is this encounter that brings the Mass to life, when you know and love the one whom you receive in the Mass, you won’t want to miss it,” Dcn Pellicaan said.

“Secondly we can encourage men by engaging them in meaningful and responsible roles in the local parish community: men typically want to feel useful – like they can make a real difference. In this, we will do well to engage men not only in the various liturgical aspects of the Mass, but in playing a role in the discipleship of others.

“If I am leading a small group study of the Catechism or of Scripture, all of a sudden I need to engage in my faith so that I can lead well. I’m drawn in for the sake of others. If I’m mentoring a young man, my own spirituality matters – I am motivated to go deeper with God for the sake of others,” he added.

During his sessions, Dcn Pellicaan looked at the need for the Church to gather men and engage them in the mission of the Church.

“I am personally compelled to encourage men to become actively involved in their local parish,” he said.

“Faith comes to life when it’s practiced – Peter stepped out of the boat before Jesus said to him: ‘upon this rock I will build my Church’.

“God is inviting Catholic men to engage in his mission to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19-20). He has been for 2000 years!”

Mr Ang provided an overview of the contemporary challenges and possibilities for outreach to men, including a survey of men’s participation in the Catholic Church in Australia over the past two decades: their experience of the Church; characteristics of involvement among some men in the Church; and an exploration of some of the reasons that explain the detachment of many others from the Christian community.

“In his pontificate, Pope Francis has underscored time and again the importance of ‘concrete realities’ in our response to the Gospel, so engaging the research we have about men in the Church and outside of the Church seems a good place to start,” Mr Ang said.

“A renewed future always begins on the basis of the present.”