Absent From the Table: Australian Catholics who do not regularly attend Sunday Mass

In 2007, the ACBC commissioned a project, Catholics who have stopped attending Mass, which focused on once active Catholics who had ceased participating in Mass and their parish, and the interpersonal, cultural and societal factors that led to their disengagement with liturgy and ecclesial life. In the decade and a half since, there has been a continuing decline in the participation of Catholics in the sacramental life of the Church, not only in the Mass and Eucharist at its heart but in other sacraments, including baptism and matrimony.

The pastoral issue of declining Mass attendance was raised during the Plenary Council and the Synod of Bishops processes. “Attention to falling Mass attendance” was one of the key themes raised in the Final Report for the Plenary Council Phase 1: Listening and Dialogue where participants voiced concern over the diminishing number of attendees. Decree Nine of the Plenary Council acknowledged the need for greater “renewal in catechesis, formation, and devotion” to the sacrament of the Eucharist. The Synod of Bishops Australian Synthesis report identified the “Importance of liturgy to faith” as one of its key themes, with respondents noting the reality of many Catholics not participating in the liturgical life of the Church for a variety of reasons and calling for “life-giving, faith-supporting celebrations with the opportunity to share their faith, and to heal and build community relationships”.

The Absent from the Table project explores these concepts in more depth and seeks to provide a contemporary picture of the motivations behind declining Mass attendance among Catholics. The project is being undertaken in two phases. The first phase, which will take place from June to November 2024, will include an online survey that will be distributed to a wide population of Catholics. The second phase, which will be undertaken in 2025, will include in-depth interviews with 20 participants, based on a geographical and demographic mix, from those who have indicated their interest to be involved during the first phase.

The findings from these studies will provide insights into the contemporary reasons why participants do not attend and the implications of this for the wider Catholic community and the Catholic Church in Australia. The insights would enable parishes, movements, and school communities to respond to the trends in participation we are seeing in the Church, update the Church’s awareness and understanding of the present-day context, and enable responses and collaboration around the underlying factors for non/dis-engagement.

Phase 1 Online Survey

The online survey is available until Tuesday 20 August 2024 and is open to people who:

  1. Self-identify as Catholics and are 18 years and over.
  2. Do not regularly* attend weekly Mass on Sundays.

*Regular weekly attendance is defined as physical attendance at Sunday Mass three or more times a month, including the Saturday vigil celebrated in many parishes.

If you would like to participate in the online survey, please email us at ncpr@catholic.org.au

How can I find out more about the project?

Updated information about the project, including the final reports, will be available on this page, so please check back regularly. Information will also be available in our quarterly newsletter, which can be found here.