Demand for Catholic education high

Catholic education is in demand – but going to a Catholic school and attending Sunday Mass are not necessarily a package deal to many Catholic families.

Taranaki priest Simon Story says many Catholic families approach him for the religious endorsement required to get their children into a Catholic school. This endorsement attests to the children as being Catholic.

However, Story says those same families are often nowhere to be seen at Sunday mass.

“It definitely is disheartening when parents seem to think that attending a Catholic school is all that is required to demonstrate a Catholic faith,” he says.

As Sunday mass is at the core of Catholic life, he says it is disappointing when people miss this key point.

“When people miss that key point it’s definitely disappointing.”

But it is the increasing reality.

“By far the majority of Catholics don’t practice their faith anyway,”  Story admits.

While Christianity, is the largest overall religious grouping in New Zealand, 2018 Census data says about 48.2 per cent or 2.2 million New Zealanders say they don’t have a religion.

In 2001, 29.6 per cent of people said they had no religion.

Despite this, demand for places in Catholic schools remains high, with waiting lists in place for some.

Catholic schools have maximum set rolls. Only a small percentage of their students can be accepted as “non-preference” (ie those who are not Catholic).

While principals manage enrolments, students need a preference certificate signed by a priest or bishop as part of the process.

Some of the criteria for preference include:

  • A child being baptised or preparing to be
  • At least one parent being Catholic
  • The child’s participation at school could lead to the parents having the child baptised
  • One, or both parents, are preparing to become Catholic.

Given these criteria, the question is, why is there a gap between the appeal of a Catholic education and those who actively practice the faith?

A spokesperson for Auckland city’s diocese says there “certainly is a discrepancy between the proportion of active Catholics and those demanding entry to our schools.”

“… Many still want the values they hold dear to be part of their children’s formation in an increasingly secular society in which self-interest and lack of respect and tolerance for others are becoming more prevalent.”

Smaller classes are also attractive to parents.

“I think parents pick up on that. They like that and want that for their children,” Story says.

When he talks to parents he reiterates that baptism is a choice to take on the Christian life and faith and that parents agreed to support their children on that pathway.

He says he has found that Catholic school enrolment can provide a gateway for some families back into the church.

“Definitely there would be a large number of families included in that bracket.”


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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.