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Absent from the table


In response to the issue of declining Mass attendance, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has commissioned a research project called Absent from the Table to provide in-depth information about contemporary religious practices and beliefs of Catholics in Australia.

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One of the key themes of the Australian Plenary Council in 2022 was ‘Attention to falling Mass attendance’ with one of the decrees in the final report acknowledging 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, which is being conducted by the National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR), 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 includes the online survey of 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.

NCPR national coordinator Trudy Dantis said the findings would 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 will 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,” she said.

The online survey is available until Tuesday August 20 and is being distributed through parishes and the NCPR.

If you would like to participate in the online survey, email

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