The pews in the churches of Montreal are going to be increasingly populated by newcomers to Canada. That was one of the conclusions of Reginald Bibby’s fascinating lecture given last November at Loyola High School. In a lively and engaging style Bibby, the most well-known sociologist of religion in Canada, began by giving a short synopsis of the history of Catholics in Canada and then proceeded to paint a picture of the future. That future has everything to do with immigration. Why is this? One part of the answer has to do with how Canada is growing. In 2016, population growth in Canada was 30% natural increase and 70% immigration. By 2036, 100% of population growth will be down to immigration. The second part of the equation has to do with a difference in religious commitment between those born in Canada and those born outside of Canada. On average, immigrants tend to be more religiously committed than the population that was born in Canada.
Basing his lecture off his most recent books, Canada’s Catholics (2016) and Resilient Gods (2017), Bibby noted that historically Catholics have had an ability to create communities for immigrant populations. “The dominant policy seems to have been to allow Catholics to establish new parishes where they could initially live out life in the language and culture of their homeland. Churches thereby retained Catholics in the course of providing them with communities that offered immigrants social, emotional and spiritual support in their new country.” –p.122, Canada’s Catholics.
The Catholic Church in Canada has, on the whole, done a great job in creating healthy and nurturing environments for newcomers to adapt and integrate to their new homeland. Looking forward, churches will need to keep a number of questions in mind. Here are five questions which Bibby suggests leaders need to ask:
How can the Church help newcomers adjust to Canada?
How can parishes provide welcoming environments?
To what extent will new parishes be created?
What can be done to ensure that the high levels of commitment and involvement that are characteristic of many immigrants continue?
What can be done by way of superb family ministry to ensure that enthusiasm for the faith continues to characterize the second generation of newcomers?
Along with other faith communities, the Archdiocese of Montreal responded with alacrity to the needs of Syrian refugees in 2015. Under the coordination of Alessandra Santopadre, Assistant to the Director of the Office of Cultural and Ritual Communities, some 15 parishes became sponsors for refugee families and some 200 individual cases were handled. Now, in response to the wave of asylum seekers who are crossing the border from the United States, a new initiative, Le Pont, is being launched. One of the immediate requirements for asylum seekers is accommodation. The Parish of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in the Mercier borough of Montreal has offered their vacant rectory as a temporary shelter. The building has twelve rooms and priority will be given to pregnant women and single mothers. But help is needed!
Here is a list of necessary items:
Mattress and box springs “bassinette” size (5) Single beds adults (or bunk beds) (15) Safety barriers for bunk beds (10) Small tables, chests of drawers, bedside tables (15-20) Bedding set, blankets, towels: (40-50 SINGLE sets) (1 per person, plus spare) Televisions, DVD player (2) Radio, CD player (1) Office, office chairs (1-2) Office equipment: computer, printer, telephone, stationery Round table, chairs (6) chairs For the common living area: Games, books for all ages, DVDs, etc. Patio set: outdoor chairs and tables, BBQ Household equipment, mops, pails, brooms, etc preferably new, cleaning products Non-perishable food items Toiletries Shampoo, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products.
Please go to the Facebook page for more information:
On March 15, 2017, the Quebec Community Groups Network will be hosting a one-day conference on community engagement and the successful integration of newcomers. This pre-forum to the National Metropolis Conference aims to bring together representatives from various sectors and various regions to discuss how newcomers (immigrants, refugees and migrants) integrate into Quebec society through Quebec’s English-speaking communities and institutions, including faith-based organizations. The conference, sponsored by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), will wrap up with a roundtable of community organizations, service providers, and government representatives that aims to uncover innovative ways our communities can – with the support of municipal, provincial, and federal government institutions – foster the vitality of English-speaking communities in Quebec through the successful integration of newcomers – that is immigrants, refugees and migrants from the rest of Canada. Would you like more information? Go to the website for info and to register for this conference.