SA Pastoral Survey Points To Need To Support Family
The Sekwele Centre for Family Studies, based in Bethlehem, Free State, conducted its brief online survey under the theme “Family and Pastoral Plans” to assess participation and response to the Pastoral Plan, which was launched in Soweto in January.
The centre hopes that the outcome of the survey will aid in implementing the new Pastoral Plan, which is titled “Evangelising Community Serving God, Humanity and All Creation”.
More women (59,7%) than men participated in the survey, “a reflection of the general participation of women in parish activities”, the Sekwele Centre said in a commentary.
Respondents were mostly above 40 years of age; the 41-60 and 61-80 age categories accounted for 38,9% and 45,8% respectively.
“Again, this is possibly in line with parish demographics,” Sekwele noted.
However, it added a concern that “though the survey was conducted through Facebook, WhatsApp and email links, less than 10% of the respondents are below the age of 40 years”.
“Social media is an area of communication where young people thrive on these platforms. Yet there is a silence from this group. This could be a result of few young people having a voice and sharing opinions on family matters, which in turn points to an even greater problem of Church demographics and succession planning,” Sekwele said.
Of the respondents, 90,3% consider themselves to be active parish members, with two-thirds saying that upwards of two family members also participate in parish activities. Of these respondents, 12,5% indicate that five or more family members are active.
The survey recorded a Sunday Mass observance of 87,5%, as well as special days such as Easter and Christmas observance (44,4%). Respondents also participate in parish councils (29,2%), sodalities (33,3%) and Small Christian Communities (31,9%).
Though 75% of respondents had heard of the Pastoral Plan and 70,8% believe that it is for everyone, only 11,1% say they had been involved in its development.
“This might point to a plan that was developed by Church hierarchy and a select group rather than ordinary members,” Sekwele said in its commentary, adding: “Consultation and participation during the development phase of a plan is key to successful implementation.”
Parish members might also be feeling a gap between the home and the Church, with more than 52% citing a lack of parish understanding of the problems and needs of the family, Sekwele noted.
Only 6,9% and 13,9% have participated in marriage counselling and family therapy support respectively. Likewise only 23,6% report participation in marriage preparation or renewal, it said.
“These low figures might point to a lack of relevant support for everyday struggles of families; including the difficulties faced by single parents, divorcees, widows, widowers and orphans,” Sekwele said.
“At its most basic definition, an organisation is an entity comprising people and having a particular purpose,” it said in the commentary.
“A school is designed to educate children, and a hospital to provide health to a community. Similarly, a Church or religious institution brings together a group of people of a specific spiritual discipline for fellowship and worship. Planning and governance of Church communities require successful translation of strategic direction into activities that embrace the family through the full life-cycle,” it said.
The Pastoral Plan “requires operations at parish level that embraces all constituent groups [and] recognise the needs of family as the most functioning basic unit that requires support and nurturing”, it said.
“The recognition of the 48,6% reported participation in family days and retreats is a starting point. However, during this time of Covid-19 and beyond, it is important to embrace a new understanding of going back to the drawing board to address mechanisms of support for family life within the Catholic Church of Southern Africa,” Sekwele said.
The Pastoral Plan’s section on marriage and the family notes that the family “a key part of pastoral care and the family is what happens when families are hurting and broken, when they are burdened”.
“Together, families, the clergy and religious play an important role in the formation and strengthening of family life. The parish can help parents and families in their everyday struggles as well as in special situations—single parents, the divorced, widows, widowers and orphans,” the Pastoral Plan notes.
“The parish is where all families can find support and solace, and the parish pastoral council needs to identify and work with organisations and Church movements which support family life.”
The Sekwele Centre noted that “though the Pastoral Plan provides strategic intent, implementation thereof is only as valuable as the activities that follow”. Its survey is intended to provide “information in this regard”.
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