I was pleased to see the informative discussion of the 2006 National Church Life Survey in the December/January AD2000. However, some clarification is required regarding the variation in questionnaire forms.
Seventeen different versions of the NCLS questionnaire were completed by Mass attenders in Catholic parishes. Eighty-three per cent of people received one of five different questionnaires used only in Catholic parishes, while the remaining 17 per cent received one of 12 questionnaires designed to collect comparative data from church attenders across the range of more than twenty participating denominations.
In the questionnaires designed to be answered by Catholics only, there were questions dealing with topics such as the following:
* people's level of involvement in the parish;
* the extent to which the homily is helpful;
* sense of identity as a Catholic;
* acceptance of the authority of the Church;
* the importance of going to Mass on Sundays;
* frequency of saying the Rosary;
* frequency of participation in the sacrament of Penance;
* attitude to changes in the language of the Mass;
* the role of the Church in Australian society;
* youth ministry - and many other questions of vital interest and importance to the bishops and the Church as a whole.
The NCLS research team, myself included, have been researching churches in Australia for over a decade now. The questions so painstakingly developed over that time arise from our listening to the concerns and experiences of our bishops and other leaders, from local and international literature on research in religion, from our theological and sociological training, from observations arising from long and active participation in our own local parishes and congregations, from a desire to serve our respective churches and, in particular, to provide local churches with tools to help them do what they do better.
By mid-March, all parishes that took part in NCLS 2006 should have received a comprehensive report of their own results. The report also displays how the parish has changed since 2001 (if it took part in the previous survey) and how it compares with the diocese as a whole. The results are supported by an outstanding set of resources designed to help the parish priest and other leaders in the parish understand their results and put them to use as an aid to theological reflection and pastoral action in the parish.
Over the next few months, our focus will be on preparing a diocesan report for each bishop, followed by national analysis of results.
For further information, readers may wish to refer to results of previous research on our website: www.ppo.catholic.org.au/researcharts/researcharts.shtml; or on the NCLS website: www.ncls.org.au
ACBC Pastoral Projects Office