May 18, 2015

SASKATOON – Religion in Canada is a growth industry and Catholics are leading the way, says University of Lethbridge sociologist Dr. Reginald Bibby.

Bibby backed his assertions with statistics from his own research as well as information from Statistics Canada.

He acknowledged Church attendance has decreased, especially among teens, but it has now stabilized, largely due to Catholic immigrants.

"Academics and religious leaders are wrong" in predicting the demise of religion, he said. "There are significant numbers of people who continue to value faith."

Bibby spoke at the Saskatchewan Catholic School Board Association's first ever Catholic Education Symposium April 24-25.

His statistics showed that 12.8 million people in Canada identified themselves as Catholics in 2011. "The future of religion in Canada is very great. Gradually there is a comeback, with Christianity and Islam the fastest growing religions."

Worldwide, he said, Christianity is growing and even in China Christians are expected to make up 15 per cent of the population by 2050. Christianity is on the biggest roll in its history.

"Thanks to your school system you are at an advantage."

Also addressing the conference was Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller.

The main purpose of Catholic schools, Miller said, "is to prepare young people for heaven."

The archbishop, former secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, frequently quoted Pope Francis as he spoke of the role of Catholic schools in the new evangelization.

"Francis' revolution is setting a new course," said Miller.

It includes families, parishes, and schools to be missionaries and engaged in evangelization, not just self-preservation, he said.

Teachers must be seen to be living the faith, said Miller. "Teens can easily see hypocrisy."

Teachers are trained in secular institutions, he said, and should be provided professional development "to train teachers to integrate faith in the curriculum."

Miller listed what he said should be five characteristics of Catholic schools: they must be grounded in biblical understanding; have a Catholic world view; witness to the Gospel; faith must permeate the curriculum; and the school must have a spirituality of community.