February 22, 2016

VANCOUVER - Multitudes of immigrants settling in British Columbia are the biggest reason the Vancouver Archdiocese is steadily growing, said its archbishop.

"The Archdiocese of Vancouver, it's a Church of immigration," Archbishop Michael Miller told The B.C. Catholic.

Without these people, he believes, the local Church would be shrinking.

There are about 430,000 baptized Catholics in the archdiocese. Miller estimated that about 50 per cent of those at an average Sunday Mass are immigrants.

"Without the life they have given to the Church, I think the number of Catholics in Vancouver would have declined instead of grown," he said.

Patrick Gillespie, archdiocesan director of catechetics, agrees immigration is the largest player keeping this faith community from shrinking.

"North American numbers of practising Catholics are declining quite a bit," he said. "Our Catholic population is slightly growing, and that's mostly - hugely - because of immigration."

Gillespie said about a third of all new Catholics in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults come from three of the area's 77 parishes.


St. Andrew Kim Parish, a vibrant Korean community, consistently brings in the highest number of converts, an average of 100 a year.

"They are booming, and that's not typically a Catholic country," he said.

Two parishes with large Chinese Canadian populations, come next.

Miller suggested newcomers from countries that do not have a Catholic majority might be more active.

"They are very aware of the need to evangelize others. In that sense, they have a certain vigour that might not be so common among people who are from longer-standing Catholic cultures."

Filipino immigrants, also a big part of thriving parishes, tend to spread out more than other Asian immigrants. "They come with a strong Catholic identity and practice," Gillespie said.

Kyle Neilson, until recently head of the archdiocesan office of adult evangelization and discipleship, pointed to a Swiss study, released in 2000 that pointed to one factor in passing along the faith.


The study reported: "It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance or absence from church of the children."

If a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife, only one child in 50 will become a regular churchgoer. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers, although some will be irregular.