Tuesday, October 12, 2004

"Signs of life in Quebec's churches."

So says an article in today's (Montreal) Gazette which suggests a slight uptick in Christian practice in Quebec. Though this claim flies in the face of gloomy conventional wisdom, it comes from two highly trustworthy sources: veteran Gazette religion reporter Alan Hustak and Canadian sociologist of religion Reginald Bibby. On some levels, the reported data confirm the long-term decline in religious observance in Quebec: 5% of Christians in Quebec attend church weekly, and only 7% of Catholics under the age of 35 attend Mass regularly. (I'd be interested in seeing data comparing the last figure to rates of participation for young Catholics in the Northeastern United States; I have a hunch that the difference in the two figures would not be all that dramatic.) And yet, in spite of it all, 80% of Quebecers still claim a belief in God and 63% claim that "they have personally experienced God's presence in their lives." Bibby notes that "large numbers of Quebecers still identify themselves as being Roman Catholic, even though they don't go to church. . . . Quebec continues to be thoroughly Catholic. If a renaissance occurs, it will be a Catholic renaissance." A hopeful message, to be sure, but the Church in Quebec (and here, too, for that matter) still has to work to convince young Catholics to remain active practitioners of their faith. Various steps can undoubtedly be taken in this regard, but little can be done without the right resources and willpower. Last year, I read a thoughtful book on the topic by theologian Normand Provencher, o.m.i. called Trop tard?: L'avenir de l'Eglise d'ici. Provencher offers a lot of concrete, creative suggestions for the renewal of Catholicism in Quebec, but in line with his title he expresses the fear that it may be "too late" for them to have any effect. All of this may be of little interest to most of my readers, but the topic interests me a lot and so I bring it up here.

As a side note, in digging around online to find the link above for Trop Tard? I also stumbled across this neat blog which in turn directed me to a fascinating website offering an extensive (though not exhaustive) inventory of places of worship in Quebec, including more architectural and historical info than you can wave a stick at. Again, I suspect most readers will be scratching their heads at all this, but this stuff interests me a lot - more, in fact, that most other topics - and thus I provide it for your perusal and possible edification. AMDG.


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