Yesterday, we read Stefan’s reflection celebrating the birth anniversary of the International Young Christian Workers’ (IYCW) first’s president, Patrick Keegan.
Patrick Keagan, in a speech to Australia, concluded that,
“A Christian Australia is a worthwhile target for all members of the YCW. A Christian Australia is vital for the whole Pacific world. Australia is vital for the whole Pacific world. One knows that millions of people in the Far East are hungrily looking for an ideal of life pressed down as they are by an economic and social misery unknown in such intensity in Europe. In this setting, Australia must take her responsibility as the torch bearer of Christian values – geographically set as she is the springboard for the Far East.”
Patrick Keegan, Australian Broadcast 26.6.51 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library/Pat Keegan)
In 1951, when Keegan made this speech, Australia was a very different country. He would be surprised at what has happened since. According to the 1954 census, the total number of Christians was almost 90% of the total population.
Catholics were 23%, Anglicans were 38%, and other Christians were 29%. The Australian Young Christian Workers (ACYW) and the Australian Young Christian Students (AYCS) were vibrant youth movements spread throughout Australia.
Today, Christians are 44% of the Australian population (a minority for the first time since the invasion, but still a majority within the plurality of those who do not associate with any faith and other faiths).
Catholics are 20% of the Australian population, and the AYCW and the AYCS are a shadow of their former selves, limited to a few locations.
Far from being vital for the Pacific world, Australian Christians (Catholics) cannot keep Australia Christian (Catholic).
The declining number of Christians (Catholics) in Australia is concerning, and the causes are complex. What can we do about it?
Do I understand the causes of the declining number of Catholics in Australia?
Which of these causes is within my spheres of influence?
Would Cardijn and Vatican II’s teachings, particularly on the role of the lay apostolate, be a way to re-evangelise Australia again?
If Australian Catholic laity would fulfil their baptismal role as priest, prophet and king – as captured in Stefan’s reflection: Lay People as Priest, Prophet and King – could that contribute to re-evangelising Australia, once again, and in an authentic way?
What can we do, as Australian Catholics, in the public sphere to fulfil our baptismal roles as priest, prophet and king?