Robert Dixon and Dharmalingam Arunachalam


Research has consistently identified a strong sense of belonging among attenders as an important component of parish and congregational vitality. What factors contribute to Mass attenders’ sense of belonging to their parish community? Does it depend only on the personal characteristics of the attenders, or do the characteristics of the parish and even the diocese also have an impact? This article explores these questions by employing a multilevel modelling approach to questionnaire responses from Mass attenders in a national random sample of Catholic parishes across Australia that took part in the 2006 National Church Life Survey. Findings include that Mass attenders’ country of birth has an important influence on their sense of belonging, and also that parish priests can influence Mass attenders’ sense of belonging in a very powerful way, not only through their style of presiding at the liturgy but also through their ability to communicate a clear vision for the parish, their ability to get people to work together, and a readiness to encourage parishioners to put their gifts and skills to use for the good of the parish.