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Catholic Church communities could hold the cure for the rise in loneliness amongst Australians

Loneliness: “The traditional places where people used to gather are no longer as traditional now.”

LOWER attendance at traditional gatherings like church could be linked to increased levels of loneliness and depression among Australians, Brisbane psychologist Nahum Kozac said.

“As of earlier this year loneliness is now considered a public health crisis,” Mr Kozac, a parishioner St Paschal’s Church, Wavell Heights, said.

He said several factors contributed to the increase of loneliness including social media use, a lack of identity and a societal shift away from past traditions.

“Lower attendance at organised community events like church and scouts is a contributing factor,” he said.

“The traditional places where people used to gather are no longer as traditional now.”

Mr Kozac said institutions where people traditionally gathered, like Mass, may not be there anymore, or might be too difficult for people to get to.

The decline of Mass attendance in Australia over the past 70 years is significant.

In the 1950s more than 70 per cent of Australian Catholics attended weekly Mass.

Today that number has dropped below 10 per cent.  

“Correlation doesn’t always mean causation,” Mr Kozac said.

“Which way does it lay? Probably a bit both ways.”

Mr Kozac said the decline in organised community events like Mass had been mirrored by the proliferation of social media usage.

“People think that they’re connecting with others on social media,” he said.

“And it can be extremely valuable. People can see pictures of their grandchildren for example.

“But on the other hand we can feel that we’re having a good connection with someone else through social media and it might be a bit like junk food.

“I see their face, I value their life, but I’m not having a depth of communication that we would have if we were face-to-face, or even over a phone call.

“What the magic is around connections is this thing where I reveal something of myself, and that is accepted and responded to warmly.

“It’s so hard to do that on social media where we’re presenting a false picture of ourselves.

“If someone gives acceptance of a false picture of us it doesn’t really result in intimacy and connection.

“If anything, it can reinforce the whole ‘I’m not good enough’ idea.”

Catholic Psychiatric Pastoral Care director Fr Jim Smith understands the difficulties associated with loneliness and mental illness.

The organisation, which is based at St Patrick’s Church in Fortitude Valley, provides practical, Gospel-driven solutions for people suffering from loneliness.

“Everything we do is about community. We gather people together,” Fr Smith said.

“Our logo is the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd gathers his flock.

“We provide a free taxi service so that people can come to our Mass and our meal.

“We pay for the taxis so that people don’t have to do it themselves.

“If they struggle with public transport it can be even harder on days like Easter Sunday.”

On Easter Sunday, CPPC celebrated an 11.15am Mass at St Patrick’s Church, followed by a lunch.

“We have a beautiful banquet that any family would be happy to eat at,” Fr Smith said.

“It’s not a second-best meal; it’s a really beautiful meal.

“We had ‘fresh cross buns’ on Easter Friday and a special holy card for Good Friday.

“On Easter Sunday we had Easter eggs and a resurrection card, too – all of which makes the occasion very special.

“We make everyone welcome to our services and they really appreciate the Catholic hospitality.”

Catholic Psychiatric Pastoral Care is located at 58 Morgan St, Fortitude Valley.

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