Grassroots - the Youth Ministry Scape in Malta

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grassroots the Youth ministry scape in malta

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ContentS I.

Foreword 5


Introduction 6


Note on Methodology



Methodology 7

1.1. The quantitative part 1.1.1. Three main objectives

Section B: The Crosstabs 6. The members and the groups/movements




1.1.3. Youth groups/movements

Members holding a leadership role

8. Attendance


9. Faith/Spiritual practice and free time


activities amongst the members

1.1.2. Questionnaire 7 1.2. The qualitative part


of youth groups/movements




10. Mass Attendance



11. Attendance in the groups/movements


Conclusions 32 IV.

counting members V.

understanding members

Section A: The Frequencies Introduction 34 1.

The value and scope of census data


Enumerated population

2.1. Demographic Characteristics



The formality of the group and its aims



1.1. Promotion and the acceptance of new members 35


1.2. Aims of groups: spiritual formation

2.1.1. Age cohorts


2.1.2. Gender and marital status



2.1.3. Nationality


2.1. Characteristics of a good leader


2.1.4. Parish territory


3. Agenda of meetings


2.1.5. Education and employment status

and recreation


The role of the leader



3.1. Outdoor activities and live-ins



4. Level of commitment


4. Attendance



4.1. Membership


6. Personal and spiritual development of members

4.2. Leadership role in the group/movements



3. Groups/movements

4.3. Reasons for attending groups’/movements’

Sense of belonging

39 40

A spiritual sub-culture amongst secularised youth? 40

8. The meaning of the church




9. Interpreting mass


Activities related to faith


10. Contribution to society’s collective conscience


5.1. Attendance at Sunday mass


11. Formal and informal structures!


5.2. Other activities



Conclusion 43 Appendix I - The Census



List of Tables and Figures Figure A: Age of respondents....................................... 12

Table 17: Leadership role in the

Table 1: Respondents’ selected age groups .............. 13

group/movements by Gender [%]...............26

Figure B: Status of respondents................................... 13

Table 18: Attendance by Gender [%]...........................26

Figure C: Gender of respondents................................. 13

Table 19: Attendance by Status [%].............................26

Figure D: Nationality of respondents .......................... 14

Table 20: Attendance by Age [%].................................26

Figure E: Respondents’ parish of residence................ 14

Table 21: Attendance by Leadership role

Figure F: Youth groups’/movements’ parish territory... 14 Figure G: Education level and employment status of respondents....................................15 Figure H: Youth groups’/movements’ membership.... 16 Table 2: Groups/movements and number of participants in the parishes’ territory...........17 Figure I: Attendance................................................... 18 Figure J: Leadership role in the group/movement..... 18 Figure K: Three main reasons for attendance............. 19

in the group/movement [%]........................26 Table 22: Faith/Spirituality practice by youth groups/movements [%]................ 27 Table 23: Faith/Spirituality practice by Age [%]..................................................... 27 Table 24: Faith/Spirituality practice by Gender [%]...28 Table 25: Faith/Spirituality Practice by role in group/movement [%]..................28 Table 26: Faith/Spirituality Practice

Table 3: Other activities to deepen one’s faith .......... 19

by Attendance [%]........................................29

Table 4: Mass attendance...........................................20

Table 27: Free time activities by Age [%] ....................29

Table 5: Other Activities ............................................20

Table 28: Free time by Gender [%] .............................29

Table 6: Age by Youth groups/

Table 29: Faith/Spirituality practice

movements membership [%].......................22 Table 7: Gender by Age [%] .......................................22 Table 8: Gender by Youth groups/ movements membership [%].......................22 Table 9: Youth groups/ movements by Education and employment status [%] .. 23 Table 10: Youth groups/movements by Reasons behind membership [%]........... 23 Table 11: Age by Respondents’ parish of residence [%] ................................24 Table 12: Gender by Respondents’ parish of residence[%].................................24 Table 13: Gender by Youth groups’/movements’ parish territory [%]......................................24 Table 14: Age by Youth groups’/movements’ parish territory [%]...................................... 25 Table 15: Youth group/movements membership by Education and employment status [%] .. 25 Table 16: Leadership role in the group/movements by Age[%]......................26

by Free time activities [%]............................30 Table 30: Mass Attendance Last Sunday by Respondents’ parish of residence [%].........30 Table 31: Mass Attendance Last Sunday by Age [%].....30 Table 32: Youth groups/movements membership by Mass Attendance on Sunday before the last [%]....................................................30 Table 36: Youth groups/movements by One specific reason for attendance – ‘to meet my friends’ [%]............................ 31 Table 33: Youth groups/movements membership by One specific reason for attendance – ‘it helps strengthen my faith’ [%]............. 31 Table 34: Age by One specific reason for attendance – ‘it helps strengthen my faith’ [%]............. 31 Table 35: Gender by One specific reason for attendance – ‘it helps strengthen my faith’ [%]............. 31 Table 37: Age by One specific reason for attendance – ‘to meet my friends’ [%] ........................32



Foreword Anthony Mifsud President, Diocesan Youth Commission (KDŻ)


t is a great pleasure to introduce this publication

into the Grassroots of our reality. As the Lord said to

to you, presenting the findings of a first-of-a-

Samuel, with the young David in mind, “...God sees not

kind study of young people in Catholic Youth

as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance,

Groups in Malta. The need for a better understanding

but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

of youth participation in the life of the Church is expressly demanded by the Diocesan Synod (AŻ, 12).

The report you are holding in your hands is but a

The study, held throughout 2013, was a collaborative

process of introspection by the young church. We, the

effort between Kummissjoni Djoċesana Żgħażagħ;

leaders, directors, guides and educators, owe it to our

the Institute for Research on the Signs of the Times

vocation to study the field of adolescence and youth

– DISCERN; and many young and not-so-young

ever more thoroughly. A forthcoming publication will

volunteers who helped in the process of data gathering

examine the pastoral implications of this study and

and processing. A heartfelt thank you to all!

offer a solid plan ahead for our concerted activity with youths and adolescents.

The purpose of this research is to give a clearer picture of what the young church is today. The results are,

The new awareness afforded by this research exercise

to say the least, reassuring; showing an encouraging

is both an inspiration and a stimulation. It strengthens

degree of activity, enthusiasm and commitment from

our dedication and delineates our priorities as we

many leaders and young people, as the results in this

now ‘go forth’ from observation to further action.

publication will demonstrate. The data also draws

Together in all of this, we are guided by the desire

our attention to areas that need growth and to the

of a flourishing young church which has at its heart:

challenges facing the service of young people.

Discipleship – Quality – Dialogue. Our aspirations meet the wishes of our good shepherd, Pope Francis, as

Grassroots is not merely a collection of figures, and one

he summons us to a fuller and holier absorption in the

should be careful not to approach the research from

human condition:

a purely scientific standpoint. In the words of former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke,

“Dear young people, please, don’t be observers of life,

“research itself provides an important long-run

but get involved. Jesus did not remain an observer,

perspective on the issues that we face on a day-to-day

but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but

basis.” We are rather invited to contemplate anew God’s

immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did.”

action among the young church in this age, to go deeper

(July 27, 2013 Youth Prayer Vigil at Rio).




Introduction Rev Joe Inguanez Chairman and Executive Director, DISCERN

Pastoral research is not undertaken to show one’s

However, in my view, to achieve this the Church has to

dexterity in number crunching. It’s aim is to offer

make a paradigm shift. While in no way disparaging the

that for a good reading of the signs of the times. The

work which is being done by individual priests and lay

present work presents mainly facts (data) and one of

leaders at parish level, one should admit its limits. Young

the best ways through which this data can be analysed

people have aired their dissatisfaction at the fact that very

is the method which Cardinal Joseph Cardijn and his

often there is not programmed strategy in their meetings

collaborators had refined over a period of 20 years, as

– and when their is, it often depends on the “actual”

the educational method of the Young Christian Workers

leader, whether he/she be a priest, a nun or a layperson.

Movement (JOC). In 1965, while addressing the Second

Once this leader changes, the group enters into a crisis,

Vatican Council, Mgr. Cardijn stated: “I have shown

and quite often it is forced to rethink both its purpose

confidence in (young people’s) freedom in order to

and method according to the knowledge or tastes of the

better educate that freedom. I helped them to see,

new leader. This situation is neither instilling a “sensus

judge and act by themselves, by undertaking social and

ecclesiae”, neither a long-term formation.

cultural action themselves, freely obeying authorities in order to become adult witnesses of Christ and the

Faced with this situation, I believe that the Church should

Gospel, conscious of being responsible for their sisters

adopt a two-pronged strategy. First, she should try to

and brothers in the whole world.” Thanks to this priest,

enhance its support to organisations which form part of

in 1961 the Catholic Church adopted the “See Judge

an international movement and to long-standing national

Act” method as part of its social teaching, first in Pope

movements, in every possible way, but especially by

John XXIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra (Paragraph

respecting their particular charism and method. Secondly,

236); then Vatican II confirmed it by adopting it in the

the Church ought to see that all other “Church” groups

Decree on the Apostolate (Paragraph 29) and it was

are offered a cohesive diocesan formation programme

used for the drafting of both the Constitution on the

spreading over a number of years. If this will not be done,

Church in the Modern World and the Declaration on

the danger that these groups will be characterised by

Religious Freedom.

clericalism or paternalism/maternalism will be persistent. In this latter aspect, the Diocesan Youth Commission

This study shows that the Church has amongst its

should play a significant, critical and crucial role. This

strength a number of young people to whom she can

two-pronged strategy should be more strongly supported

transmit the Catholic faith and Christian culture. It does

by the diocesan budget.

not refer to thousands of young who are unattached from any church organisation and perhaps, though

Finally, Church organisations must be more transparent,

they still hold to the Catholic faith, are disenchanted

visible and accountable. Lack of transparency created

with the Church as an institution. On the other hand, it

suspicion and engender conflict; lack of visibilty turns

refers to those who are willing to join others in groups

groups into minor sects with a very limited sense of

or organisations to paticipate more actively and directly

mission and outreach; and lack of accountable generates

in the Church’s mission. The Church has the possibility

a free-for-all situation, which is definitely not conducive

and the duty to transmit to them not simply the major

to any type of formation.

tenets of faith but also to transform them into apostles among their peers.

May this report lead to a more open dialogue among all stakeholders. Pointing figures should be an exception, because, to quote Shakespeare, “the fault… is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”



Note on Methodology 1. Methodology

1.1. Counting Members

In this study quantitative and qualitative methodologies

The Census often refers to the ‘weighted population’. In

were used, that is a combination of methodologies was

this case the population is the youth who are enrolled

applied with the objective of discovering the values,

members of religious groups/movements and other

views and experiences of young people who form part

non-enrolled members who attend on a regular basis

of religious groups in Malta. When different research

the meetings and/or participate in the activities of

methods are applied then the subjects studied are

religious youth movements in Malta. For the purpose

looked at from different standpoints. In this study a

of this report, no distinction is being made in respect of

triangulated strategy was adopted, to optimise the

enrolled and non-enrolled members; they are referred

attainment of comprehensive knowledge. The two

to as members. KDŻ (Diocesan Youth Commission)

research methods utilised are illustrated in the table

had a rough estimate of this number. The enumeration


process was carried out between 13 March and 24 March of last year, 2013. All field work was carried out

Tool Description Census

4883 filled censuses 17 close-ended questions of which 11 had an element of open-endedness; Close-ended questions – were compiled in SPSS 4 open-ended questions Open-ended questions – followed by a content analysis




6 sessions conducted with adolescents aged 12+ 1 session with full-time students at postsecondary and tertiary level of education 1 session with youth in full-time employment 2 sessions with leaders of youth religious groups/movements 2 sessions with youths aged 16+ 1 session with young couples 1 session with parents of young people attending youth groups Average of 5/6 participants in each group Semi-guided discussion – followed by a content analysis

by KDŻ staff and other volunteers under the direction of DISCERN.

1.1.1. Three main objectives The enumeration was intended to include all those who: yy had already received the sacrament of confirmation and/or were aged 12 years or over; yy attended meetings of groups and movements run by the Church, provided such meetings were held at least once a month for spiritual or other formation; yy were leaders of the groups. DISCERN was also entrusted with the formulation of a questionnaire aimed at the collection of all the necessary information conducive to the compilation of relevant tables to assist in the analysis of the census results.

1.1.2. Questionnaire The questionnaire consisted of twenty-one questions. The first few questions focused on the gender, marital status, nationality, educational status and employment of members. Other questions were intended to collect information on the religious background, activities and aspirations of those who completed the questionnaire. A copy of the questionnaire is included as Appendix A.



The collected data, which was processed using

yy Young adolescents

the Statistical Package for Social Sciences [SPSS],

yy Youth in education

generated the results here presented, both numerically

yy Youth in employment

and graphically, through tables and figures. Due to

yy Group leaders

a number of missing values, there were instances in

yy Youth who were sixteen years and over

which some percentages varied from one figure/table

yy Couples

to another. Where it was appropriate the missing value

yy Parents

was noted in every figure/table. The participants were chosen randomly the snowball The report that will summarise the responses to the

technique, starting with contacts which KDŻ had traced

questionnaire will assist the leaders of these groups/

among various religious groups and movements. At the

movements and, in particular, the Church Authorities

end of each session, each participant was rewarded with

in examining and assessing the present strengths and

a €15 voucher. Notwithstanding, it was difficult for KDŻ

weaknesses of religious youth groups/movements.

to find an adequate number of participants for all the

They will thus be in a position to introduce, if and

target groups, particularly for those which were meant

where necessary, new measures to develop and further

to involve youth who left or who were never part of any

strengthen the organisational capacities to provide the

religious group/movement.

necessary spiritual and moral guidance to members of these groups.

The focus group sessions were carried out in secular locations in Malta. These sites were purposely

1.1.3. Youth Groups/Movements

chosen to avoid any ecclesiastical connotation so that

The census questionnaire was distributed amongst

participants would express themselves more freely

over 300 groups/movements. It was intended to be

and bluntly. The facilitator was a former University

completed by those falling within the 12-35 age group.

Senior Lecturer. It was important that these details

In all, 4883 persons were enumerated and they came

were adhered to religiously so that the participants

from 72 parishes in Malta. Very few non-Maltese (2

would feel as comfortable as possible within the

percent) were identified.

surrounding environment and thus facilitate openness and transparency. The focus group interviews were

Around twenty-five percent of members had an

conducted in a semi-structured manner and each

executive role, in that they were leaders of the whole

session was of more than an hour’s duration. These

group/movement or had some form of executive role in

sessions were all professionally voice-recorded to ensure

the running of the group/movement.

a faithful documentation of the content and were later transcribed for the purpose of content analysis. Original

1.2. Understanding Members

text was in Maltese. These were translated and adapted

For the qualitative part 14 focus group sessions were

to English without losing the precise meaning of the

carried out, with each session involving a facilitator

original quote.

and 5 to 6 participants. The objective was to have 10 participants in each focus group, which goal was not fulfilled due to lack of cooperation from those contacted. However, one ought to note that it is generally becoming more difficult for researchers to enrol focus group participants, even if a token or some form of remuneration is given to those taking part. This reality may be the result of the demanding lifestyle characterising our contemporary society. Different participants involved in religious youth organisations were interviewed in focus groups according to their particular age group and role in the organisation. The main categories chosen for interviews were:


To ensure that all ethical obligations were followed, all

The success of the focus group technique depended

participants were asked to sign a consent form. Through

on two main factors: a battery of well-developed

this arrangement, the participants gave DISCERN the

questions asked to the right respondents, and the skill

permission to use the data collected under the following

of the facilitator guiding these sessions. With regard

conditions, that:

to the former, the questions were formulated after the

yy Their real identity would remain confidential;

quantitative part of the study was carried out and the

yy Only DISCERN would have access to the audio-

data was compiled. As to the latter, it relied on the


academic experience of the facilitator.

yy The participants would be free to quit the study at any point and for whatever reason, and in that case

It was ensured that the facilitator had background

all records and information would be destroyed;

knowledge of the topic discussed to place comments in

yy No deceptive methods would be used.

perspective and follow up on critical areas of concern. In order to seek reliability, the focus groups’ discussion

Furthermore, those participants who were under the age of 18 were asked to obtain the consent of their guardian on a prescribed form.

topics were the same throughout each session.



counting members

Section A



1. The value and scope of census data Census data covering religious activities are for the benefit of Church administrators both on a local and on a national scale. Data is not an end in itself. They assist in the understanding and evaluation of present events and enable the Ecclesiastical Authorities to look ahead and plan for the future. Their decisions have to be based on good judgement and common sense, also taking into

The net result of these two factors made it difficult to arrive at the true level of membership of these groups/movements. Nonetheless, notwithstanding these discrepancies, the value and significance of the results cannot be challenged and will no doubt allow a satisfactory assessment of the spiritual benefits provided by these religious movements. This assessment may be inferred from the replies to the

account the local environment and recent trends.

other searching questions, in particular those related to

The general objectives of the census under review were

one ought to emphasise that one of the principle goals

explained in a document sent to all leaders of youth groups/ movements. It was explained that the census was primarily intended to: yy Identify which adolescents were benefitting from this type of pastoral work. yy Find out the extent of the impact of the Church’s pastoral activities among adolescents;

spiritual characteristics of respondents. Nevertheless, of this study was to identify ‘who’ attends religious groups/movements.

2.1. Demographic characteristics 2.1.1. Age cohorts The following table illustrates the population by main age groups. As one would expect, the majority

The main results can be read in this brief report.

of persons attending these groups/movements were

2. Enumerated population

between 12 and 15 totalled 2,314 and represented 47.4

In focusing on the number of enumerated persons one has to keep in mind two important factors:

within the younger age groups where those aged percent of those enumerated (Figure A).

yy Firstly, as already stated, the census reference period was a relatively short one, extending over 11 days. There could be cases where some groups meet

Figure A: Age of respondents

on a monthly basis so that some adolescents were not in a position to complete the questionnaire. Other groups could not be contacted despite various

12-14 1955 (40%)

attempts. In such cases, the estimated enumerated

15-19 1266 (25.9%) 20-24 776 (15.9%)

population reported upon does not represent the

25-29 515 (10.5%) 30-34 252 (5.2%)

true population. It is, in fact, higher than that reported upon.

35 and over* 66 (1.4%)

yy Secondly, question number 15 was related to the

Missing value 53 (1.1%)

attendance of respondents at meetings of different groups. There could be cases where the same person, who was a member of more than one movement, filled in more than one questionnaire. In this respect, there could be a minor element of double counting in arriving at the total number of persons who are members of these same groups.

[n= 4883] [Missing value = 53] *The study was intended for those aged between 12 and 35, however there was a small number of respondents who had reached their 35th birthday by the time of the study.

Demographic data on the Maltese population by the same age groups is being included so as to provide an indication of the relationship between the whole population within these age groups and the number of those who attend meetings of religious groups/ movements.


It was also established that nearly eighty percent of

Table 1: Respondents’ selected age groups Age group



members were single. A further classification of this


population 12-14
























statistic indicates that 489 were engaged or dating steadily, while a very small number [N=24] were living with a partner. The married component is very low considering that only 267 persons or about 5 percent were married (Figure B).

Figure C: Gender of respondents

After reading the above table, the obvious question that comes to mind is whether the number of those who attend these groups/movements really reflects a commitment on behalf of Maltese adolescents to

Male 2640 (54.1%) Female 2196 (45.0%) Missing value 47 (1.0%)

join or attend these groups1. There could be several considerations that one may examine. These should be the subject of reflection for both the leaders and the members themselves of the groups/movements, as well as the Ecclesiastical authorities.

2.1.2. Gender and marital status

[n= 4883] [Missing value = 47]

On a gender basis, 2,640 or 54.1 percent were males while 2,196 or 45 percent were females (Figure C). Figure B: Status of respondents 80 70 60 Single 3873 (79.3%) 50

Dating Steady/Engaged 489 (10.0%) Married 267 (5.5%)


Single Living with a partner 24 (0.5%) Dating Not Steady 14 (0.3%)

30 20 10 0

[n= 4883] [Missing value = 195]

1 Nevertheless, one ought to note that in a study carried out by DISCERN published by Aġenzija Żgħażagħ titled: ‘Mirrors and Windows: Maltese Young People’s Perception of themselves, their families, communities and society,’ it was revealed that only 16.8 percent of youth in Malta are members of a youth club/organisation. Hence, almost 25 percent of this 16.8 percentile form part of a religious group/movement.

In a relationship but not steady 7 (0.1%) Separated 6 (0.1%) Religious (e.g. priesthood) 6 (0.1%) Divorced and re-married 1 (0.0%) Divorced and cohabitating with a partner 1 (0.0%) Missing Value 195 (4.0%)



2.1.3. Nationality

2.1.4. Parish territory

The absolute majority of the respondents were Maltese

The majority of the respondents were asked in which

[N=4752] with 0.3 percent claiming that they held a

parish they reside, with 27.2 percent claiming that

European citizenship and 0.5 percent of non-European

they live in the Northern Harbour area, which includes

nationality (Figure D).

considerable large localities such as Birkirkara and Ħal Qormi (Figure E).

Figure D: Nationality of respondents

Figure F illustrates the zones where the groups/ movements hold their meetings/activities. When


comparing Figure E with Figure F below it may be concluded that again the majority of the respondents


meet in the Northern Harbour area. Nevertheless, the Northern area seems the least popular with respect to


both the ‘parish of residence’ and the ‘parish territory’. 40 20

Maltese 4752 (97.3%)

Figure F: Youth groups’/movements’

Non-European 22 (0.5%)

parish territory

European 17 (0.3%)


Missing value 92 (1.9%)

[n= 4883] [Missing value = 92]

Figure E: Respondents’ parish of residence

40 35 30 25




15 20 10 15 5 10



0 Northern Harbour 1298 (26.6%) Southern Harbour 971 (19.9%) Western 867 (17.8%) South Eastern 863 (17.7%) Northern 768 (15.7%) Missing value 116 (2.4%)

[n= 4883] [Missing value = 116]

Northern Harbour 1723 (35.4%) Southern Harbour 1009 (20.7%) Western 758 (15.6%) South Eastern 715 (14.7%) Northern 504 (10.4%) Random Parishes 160 (3.3%) Missing value 14 (0.9%)

[n= 4883] [Missing value = 14]


2.1.5. Education and employment status The educational background of the members indicates that 3,518 or 72 percent were full-time students, while just over 3.0 percent were part-time students. The enumeration showed that 2,491 were attending secondary schools, while 1,542 were attending courses at post-graduate or tertiary level. Several graduate members, some 700, were identified. The majority, just over 100, were graduates in education followed by those who were graduates in accounts, economics,

job [N=1,015] were further questioned as to what their job was. Again the majority work in the educational sector [N=205], followed by 105 in the commercial sector and 87 in the health sector. 51 participants said that they are currently at home holding the role of house-wives or house-husbands. On the other hand, the majority of those respondents who have a part-time job [N=297], i.e. 105 of them, work in the food and beverage sector.

management and medical sciences.

3. Groups/Movements

Those who were already participating in the labour

movements exist in their respective parishes. As one

market - just over a thousand - had a full-time job, while a small number [N=276] were working on parttime basis. Around 178 claimed that they were looking for employment, it being a full-time or a part-time job (Figure G).

Figure G: Education level and employment

All parishes in Malta reported that several groups/ may expect, the traditional groups/movements, such as the Society of Christian Doctrine, altar boys groups, the neo-Catechumenal and Catholic Action Groups, are found in most parishes. Other groups such as Young Christian Workers, Glow, True Calling, Catholic Social Teaching Group, SPYS, Singles for Christ, and Fireteam seem to be popular in a few parishes.

status of respondents

All the groups/movements that participated in this


study [N=396] were classified into eight categories. Since MUSEUM, ŻAK, Neo-Catechumenal Way and


Youth Fellowship were the largest national movements, holding more than 200 members, they were kept as


two separate categories. As aforementioned the parish groups considered in this study were only those that


undertake some form of spiritual formation.


The parish groups’ category, includes groups such as: yy Altar-boys


yy Mass animation groups yy Parish groups for youth and adolescence


yy Parish feast groups


yy Parish commissions


The category movements includes movements such as: Full-time student 3518 (72.0%) Full-time employees 1015 (20.8%) Part-time employees 276 (5.7%) Part-time student 154 (3.2%) Seeking a part-time job 116 (2.4%) Seeking a full-time job 62 (1.3%) Other 52 (1.1%)

One has to note that there are respondents who, besides having a full-time job, are also following an academic course on part-time basis. Likewise, there are those who whilst being full-time students also have a part-time job. Respondents who claimed that they had a full-time

yy Caritas yy Charismatic Groups yy Couples for Christ yy Focolare Movement yy Ġesù Salvatur yy Girl Guides yy Legion of Mary Malta yy Marana Tha yy Married Couple Groups yy Scouts yy Y4J



The category religious groups includes groups such as:

When putting the organisations together the largest

yy Augustinian Groups

group was the ‘parish group’ category [N=1631], with

yy Augustinian Sisters Groups

the ‘parish groups for youth and adolescence’ totalling

yy Carmelite Groups

1,122; ‘altar boys’ 258 and ‘mass animation groups’ 119,

yy Daughters of the Sacred Heart

followed by the MUSEUM [N=808] and the religious

yy De La Salle Brother Groups

groups categories [N=614]. On its own ŻAK Malta

yy Dominican Order Groups

amounted to almost 11 percent of all enumerated

yy Franciscan Capuchins Groups

persons, while the other national movement Youth

yy Franciscan Conventuals Groups

Fellowship counted 5 percent of the total. The specific

yy Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart

groups/movements which are displayed separately have

yy Friar Minor Groups

more than 200 members (Figure H).

yy Jesuit Groups yy Missionaries of Charity

The following table illustrates the number of groups/

yy MSSP Groups

movements in each parish territory as well as their

yy Qaddejja taċ-Ċenaklu

reported membership. The groups are categorised

yy Salesian Groups

according to the territory basis of the parishes, which

yy Secondary School Groups led by Religious

means that large movements such as ŻAK Malta

yy Sisters of Charity

and Youth Fellowship are integrated into the parish in which they hold their meetings. Indeed, there

The category other includes groups such as:

are marked differences in the membership of these

yy Chaplaincies

groups/movements. On the basis of the number of

yy Diocesan Vocational Groups

questionnaires completed at the centres, the Youth

yy Prayer Groups

Fellowship sub-group ‘72’ in Guardamanġia with

yy Students’ Groups

119 members tops the list followed by the Neo-

yy Theatrical Groups

Catechumenal Way movement in San Gwann with 87

yy Voluntary Groups

members. Other centres that reported relatively high

Figure H: Youth groups’/movements’ membership 35








[n= 4883] [Missing value = 185]

Parish Groups 1631 (33.4%) MUSEUM 808 (16.5%) Religious Groups 614 (12.6%) ŻAK 521 (10.7%) Movements 422 (8.6%) Neo-Catechumenal Way 328 (6.7%) Youth Fellowship 245 (5.0%) Other 129 (2.6%) Missing Value 185 (3.8%)


membership include the ŻAK centre in Siġġiewi, the Grupp Adolexxenti Żġħażaġħ of Żebbuġ, the NeoCatechumenal Way movement of the Immaculate Conception parish of Ħamrun, the Parish Centre in Luqa and the Oratorju Sależjani (Sliema).

Table 2: Groups/movements and number of participants in the parishes’ territory Parish Attard Balluta Balzan

No. of

No. of

Groups Participants 7 87 4

Parish Msida



No. of

No. of

Groups Participants 8 119 3







Birkirkara Santa Elena



Raħal Ġdid Kristu Re



Birkirkara San Ġużepp



Raħal Ġdid Lourdes



Birkirkara Santa Marija















Qormi San Ġorg






Qormi San Bastjan





















Fleur De Lys



San Ġiljan





San Ġwann






San Pawl il-Baħar



Floriana Gżira



Santa Luċija






Santa Venera









Hal Għaxaq






Ħamrun San Gejtanu



Sliema Ġesù Nazzarenu



Ħamrun Imm. Kunċizzjoni



Sliema Sacro Cour






Sliema San Girgor






Sliema Stella Maris


















Ta’ Xbiex












Valletta San Duminku










Valletta Santu Wistin

Marsa Trinità



Valletta San Pawl

Marsa Marija Reġina



Wied il-Għajn





































Random Parishes Totals



As can be read from the above table, the number of

themselves ‘members,’ because attending these groups’/

members of particular groups varies considerably from

movements’ meetings and activities has become

parish to parish, not necessarily in consonance with

part of their everyday life and so they feel a sense of

the size of the parishes. For instance, when comparing

commitment towards this group/movement. Another

Birżebbugia and Gwardamangia, which is relatively

9.8 percent [N=432] claimed that the reality that they

smaller, the former has five groups with an average

participated directly in the activities of the group/

membership of 22, while Gwardamangia accounts for

movement was what made them feel like ‘members’.

eight groups with a mean membership of 37. One has

Only 6.1 percent [N=299] gave a more spiritually-

to note, however, that there are parishes that have five

oriented motive as to why they considered themselves

to ten groups with a mean average of 10 to 20 members

‘members’, claiming that this sense of belonging

each. In addition, one has to remark that there were

towards the group/movement sustains their spiritual

several cases where the reported membership of

life, their faith and their relationship with God.

a number of groups was at a low level, sometimes signifying a membership of 5 or less.

4.2. Leadership role in the group/movement The respondents were next asked whether they held

4. Attendance

any particular executive role such as that of president,

The majority of members, almost 70 percent of those

cashier or leader in the group/movements they attend.

who completed the questionnaire, reported that they

To this question 23.5 percent replied in the affirmative.

attended meetings on a regular basis, claiming that they

This shows that almost one-fourth of the respondents

had been present for the last three meetings/activities

hold some form of executive role (Figure J).

which were held by their respective group/movements. Only 2 percent stated that they had not attended for the last three meetings/activities (Figure I).

Figure J: Leadership role in the group/ movement

Figure I: Attendance

No 3527 (72.2%) Yes 1146 (23.5%) Missing Value 210 (4.3%)

Every time 3345 (68.5%) Twice 919 (18.8%) Once 377 (7.7%) None 148 (3.0%) Missing Value 94 (1.9%)

[n= 4883] [Missing value = 210] [n= 4883] [Missing value = 94]

4.3. Reasons for attending groups’/movements’ meetings

4.1. Membership

A more detailed account of selected views or reasons

When the respondents were asked whether they

expressed by members can be read in the following

‘consider themselves members of the group/

table (Figure K). Respondents were asked to indicate

movements,’ 3.2 percent [N=154] gave a blunt answer

their main reason/s by classifying these under three

in the negative and another 1.5 percent [N=71] said

preferences with the first preference signifying

that they did not consider themselves members as a

their most important reason as to why they attend

result of their lack of attendance or due to the group’s/

these groups/movements. It is to be noted that, as

movement’s inconsistency in meetings. However, the

in some other questions, not all who were given the

absolute majority 90.6 percent [N=4424] stated that

questionnaire answered the question.

they did feel members of the group/movement they attended. Out of these, 25 percent [N=1107] consider


‘To help strengthen my faith’ was the reason most

that they attended church functions such as mass or

chosen as first preference by the respondents, followed

adoration, while 692 said that they sought spiritual

by ‘to meet my friends’. 4.6 percent of the respondents

direction. Around 80 percent indicated that they

[N=225] revealed that they attended the meeting and

attended mass - attendance at mass on Sundays was the

activities of the group/movement because they had

subject of another question - while around 17 percent

‘nowhere else to go’. 0.6 percent [N=28] chose this

attended catechesis. The reading of spiritual books was

reason as a first preference, while 1.6 percent [N=79]

reported by almost 20 percent of the respondents.

chose this reason as their second preference. Around 37 percent said that they spent some time Figure K: Three main reasons for attendance 80

reflecting on their life. Personal encounter with God through prayer was indicated by just over half of the respondents, while the same proportion said that they resorted to the sacrament of reconciliation on a regular basis. Just below 78 percent reported that they


spent some time in prayer, even saying the rosary. Involvement in voluntary work was indicated by 28


percent. 50

Table 3: Other activities to deepen one’s faith 40

Activity to deepen faith 30



0 N=4883 As a mission to the church 1st: 218 (4.5%) 2nd: 279 (5.7%) 3rd: 333 (6.8%)

To help strengthen my faith 1st: 1227 (25.1%) 2nd: 732 (15.0%) 3rd: 501 (10.3%)

To learn about my religion 1st: 238 (4.9%) 2nd: 498 (10.2%) 3rd: 508 (10.4%)

To meet those sharing my values 1st: 391 (8.0%) 2nd: 756 (15.5%) 3rd: 585 (12.0%)

To develop my talents 1st: 167 (3.4%) 2nd: 396 (8.1%) 3rd: 498 (10.2)

To meet my friends 1st: 1030 (21.1%) 2nd: 562 (11.5%) 3rd: 734 (15.0%)

Nowhere else to go 1st: 28 (0.6%) 2nd: 79 (1.6%) 3rd: 118 (2.4%)

Adoration Seeking spiritual direction Attend Mass Catechesis Read spiritual/religious books Reflect on one’s life Attend prayer meetings Receive sacrament of

Number of


respondents 1158 692 3885 849 913 1807 661

23.7 14.2 79.6 17.4 18.7 37.0 13.5



1028 2585 1218 1375

21.1 52.9 24.9 28.2

reconciliation Using the bible to pray Personal prayers Saying the rosary Doing some voluntary work

Besides these main activities, participants indicated other activities, such as assisting at liturgical services, doing voluntary missionary work, attending religious talks and worshipping through singing.

5.1. Attendance at Sunday mass Attendance at Sunday mass was the subject of a separate question (Table 4). Two questions were asked:

5. Activities related to faith Apart from attending the groups/movements, participants were asked to indicate whether they attended or carried out other activities to deepen their faith (Table 3). Over a quarter of the respondents said

attendance at mass last Sunday and attendance at mass on the Sunday before. In the former case (last Sunday mass) 4211 or 86 percent answered in the positive, while more or less the same number answered ‘yes’ to the second question.



On the basis of this information, one may infer that around 14 percent of those who completed the

Table 5: Other Activities

questionnaire may be staying away from mass on a Sunday. This indicative statistic may not be easily

Number of

acceptable and may be considered as an opportunity for Frequently spend time

further study. Table 4: Mass attendance Attendance at mass on the Sunday


proceeding the census reference period Attendance at mass on the


previous Sunday

5.2. Other activities In order to get more of a holistic picture, the respondents were asked which activities they carried out in their free time. The majority of the respondents [N=2283] revealed that besides participating in the meetings/activities, they found time to meet their friends in other settings such as at a disco or a bar. This is practised by 2212 respondents who claimed that in their free time they frequently spent time on social networking sites. In the category ‘other’ 179 participants said that they spent time reading and 114 dedicated time to their hobbies such as cooking, photography and doing crafts (Table 5).



playing computer games Carry out sports/physical



exercise on a regular basis



Practise/participate in arts



Meet my friends to have fun Frequently spend time on



social networking sites







Section B



1. The members and the groups/movements

Table 7: Gender by Age [%]

Table 6: Age by Youth groups/movements

12-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34

membership [%]

Parish Groups


Religious Groups

Neo-Catechumenal Way


Youth Fellowship



12-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35 and over

Male Female

43 31 14 8 3 2

17 33 23 15 8 4

29 21 23 18 9 0

15 26 21 19 15 3

65 18 9 4 4 0

5 11 35 39 10 0

51 33 14 2 1 0

2 56 16 14 10 2

52 48

57 43

54 45

55 45

35 and over 64 35

59 41

As one can see in Table 7 males attend Catholic organisations more than females. Besides this, whereas male membership increases by age, female membership falls. Further study needs to be undertaken for one to analyse this trend. However, as can be seen from Table 8 this phenomenon varies from parish to parish/ religious group to religious group/movement to movement.

Table 8: Gender by Youth groups/movements membership [%]

When one analyses the age of the members, the inverse

Parish Groups


Religious Groups

Neo-Catechumenal Way


Youth Fellowship



proportion between age and membership is quite stark:

53 47

43 57

61 39

49 51

81 19

48 52

39 61

59 41

membership diminishes as adolescents and youths grow older (Table 6). 39 percent of all members2 fall in the age cohort 12-14; and the highest percentage of these attend the MUSEUM, followed by ŻAK and the Parish Groups. In the age cohort 15-29 years, attendance was as follows: 85 percent appertained to Youth Fellowship, 71 percent belonged to Movements, and 66 percent to the Neo-Catechumenal Way. Youths attending a cluster of associations under the heading “other” amount to 86 percent of this cohort. It is obvious that few youths above the age of twentyfive are attending any Church organization. How is the Church going to reach them? A strategy has to be reinvented so that these people will not only remain practising Catholics, but will also be in “a state of continuing formation”, otherwise the Church would have to rely solely on the Sunday Mass homily, wherein the Church is also at a deficit.

2 39 percent (N=1955) is the number of enumerators aged between 12 and 14.

Male Female

It is symptomatic that all organisations seem to attract students and employed youngsters; how is the Church ministering to the unemployed? Due to obvious time constraints, the majority of those who are in part-time jobs, because they are either full time-students or full-time workers, find less time to join an association/ group.


Table 9: Youth groups/ movements by Education and employment status [%] Reduced Hrs/ F/T Parish groups Movements Religious

Student 72 58







Student Employee Employee 3 16 5 4 27 7

F/T Job 2 1

P/T Job 2 2

Leave 0 0

Unemployed 0 0

Groups Other Neo-


























Way MUSEUM Youth

























Fellowship ŻAK

Table 10: Youth groups/movements by Reasons behind membership [%] NeoParish No Yes because I feel I am

Religious Catechumenal

Groups Movements 2 0

Groups 0


Way MUSEUM Fellowship ŻAK Other Total 0 0 0 0 0 4

giving a service/participate Yes because I am part of










the leadership Yes because I participate










in the activities Yes because I consider the










group as second family Yes because I attend










5 13

2 4

3 6

2 2

5 8

1 3

3 4

1 1

22 41

regularly/long-term attendance/commitment Yes - Other Reasons

One cannot fail to note that 44 percent of those

feel I am a member because personally I consider the

respondents who said that they do not consider

group/movement I belong to, as my second family’

themselves part of a group/movement [98 of N=225]

scored highest among the ‘Neo-Catechumenal Way’

are members of parish groups. This was by far the

movement. The MUSEUM scored a high percentage

highest percentage. Such negative feedback was mainly

with respect to two reasons in particular. The duration

attributed to the fact that either it was difficult for the

of membership contributes to the high percentage this

parish group ‘members’ to attend all the scheduled

group scored with regard to the reason: ‘I consider

meetings or they were unaware of this scheduling. In

myself a member because of my long-term attendance’.

contrast, the participants gave a number of reasons as

Even if this study was meant for members who were

to why they consider themselves members. A closer-

aged between 12 and 35, a person who would have

look into these reasons in relation to the groups/

attended the MUSEUM classes since s/he was aged

movements reveals that, for example, the reason: ‘I

5 to be prepared for the Sacrament of the First Holy



Communion, and then never ceased attending, s/he

Table 12: Gender by Respondents’

would have been part of this movement for around

Similarly, ŻAK members mainly considered themselves as such, because they had been attending meetings and activities organised by these members for a long time. Respondents who hold an official role in the group/

Male Female


myself a member because I participate in the activities’.

South Eastern

percentage with regard to the reason: ‘I consider


members and indeed, it also scored a relatively high

Northern Harbour

as a movement for the activities it organises for its

Southern Harbour

parish of residence[%]

30 years. Besides this, the MUSEUM is renowned

55 45

54 46

58 41

53 46

51 49

movement attributed this ‘role’ as that something that provoked them to consider themselves members. As regards gender, the predominance of males Table JI, shows that independent of the region of

is widespread throughout all regions. Hence an

residence, Catholic associations tend to lose their

explanation should be sought on other grounds rather

members as these grow up. This is consistent with the

than a residential one. As can be seen from Table 13 this

amount of “pressure” which peers put in contrast to

distribution by sex is least pronounced in the Harbour

Church and parents. However, this issue needs deeper

Region. This may be due to the fact that associations,


particularly “national organisations” that tend to meet in the area, have less of a sexual imbalance among members.

Male Female

Random Parishes

40 25 18 12 3 1


45 28 13 8 5 2

South Eastern

46 23 16 9 4 1


34 28 17 12 6 2

Northern Harbour

42 27 14 11 6 1

Southern Harbour


12-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35 and over

South Eastern

parish territory [%]


parish of residence [%] Northern Harbour

Table 13: Gender by Youth groups’/movements’

Southern Harbour

Table 11: Age by Respondents’

55 45

51 49

64 36

53 46

53 47

53 47


Table 14 shows that across all the parishes where

Unsurprisingly, the absolute majority of MUSEUM

the groups/movements meet, adolescents dominate

and ŻAK members are full-time students, while Youth

the numbers. The percentages wither away across all

Fellowship and the Neo-Catechumenal Way cater

parishes once one reaches the age of 19. The figures

mostly for full-time employees (Table 15).

below show that the parishes in the Southern Harbour and Northern Harbour areas are more ‘equally’ distributed when compared with the rest. Table 14: Age by Youth groups’/movements’

Southern Harbour

Northern Harbour


South Eastern


Random Parishes

parish territory [%]




































35 and over








Youth Fellowship

58 4 26 7 1 2

61 3 25 6 1 3

43 4 37 9 1 2

82 1 12 2 0 2

29 7 49 8 3 1







80 3 6 6 1


Neo-Catechumenal Way

71 3 16 5 2 2


Religious Groups



Full-time student Part-time student Full-time employee Part-time employee Seeking a full-time job Seeking a part-time job

Parish Groups

Table 15: Youth group/movements membership by Education and employment status [%]

54 3 27 8 1 7 0



The results in Table 18 show that about 70 percent of

2. Members holding a leadership role

members attend all meetings. It also shows that the

Given the methodology used in this census, Table 16

difference between sexes, in terms of attendance at

below poses serious questions with regard to Catholic

meetings, is negligible. The same can be said as regards

Associations. It can imply that when one works out

civil status (Table 19) and age (Table 20).

the ratio between members with leadership roles and regular members, we have a disproportionate number

Table 19: Attendance by Status [%]

of leaders; or else the organisations do not have any form of control as regards the attendance of members, and as a result these members did not fill in the census form. The problem is more serious because usually the temptation of organisations is to inflate and not deflate the numbers of their membership. This problem is further confirmed by Table 17.

Dating Steady /


69 20 8 3

Engaged 73 16 9 2

72 18 8 2

The likelihood is that the commitment towards the

Table 16: Leadership role

group/movements, measured in this instance through

in the group/movements by Age[%] 12-14





15 48

29 26

30 12

14 9

10 4

Yes No

Every time Twice Once None


35 & over 2 1

the attendance dimension, tends to peak when the members reach their twenties (Table 20). This may be attributed to the fact that youth would be more independent at that stage of life. For instance, if they are still students during that phase, they are not bound to carry out homework on a daily basis and so they can juggle their free time in the evenings in quite an

Table 17: Leadership role in the group/

autonomous way. If they are in a relationship and are

movements by Gender [%]

Yes No

either not yet married or parents, then that means that

Male 57 53

Female 43 47

they also have more time on their hands after a day’s work. These realities lead to more commitment towards one’s own membership in groups/movements. Table 20: Attendance by Age [%]

Table 17 shows that male members tend to take more


of a leading role in the groups/movements. This is not different from what happens in other spheres of social


life where men are still predominant and tend to hold

15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35 and over







21 8 3

20 8 4

16 6 2

16 7 2

14 7 2

13 17 2

3. Attendance

time Twice Once None

Table 18: Attendance by Gender [%]

As one would expect, commitment in terms of

the highest positions of ‘power’.



Every time












attendance is higher among those having a leadership role (Table 21)

Table 21: Attendance by Leadership role in the group/movement [%] Every time Twice Once None

Yes 82 12 3 1

No 65 22 9 4


4. Faith/Spiritual practice and free time activities amongst the members of youth groups/ movements


Religious Groups

Neo-Catechumenal Way


Youth Fellowship



Adoration Seeking spiritual direction Attend Mass Catechesis Read spiritual/religious books Reflect on my life Prayer meeting Sacrament of Reconciliation Using the Bible to pray Personal prayers Rosary Voluntary work

Parish Groups

Table 22: Faith/Spirituality practice by youth groups/movements [%]

25 10 78 10 12 31 10 43 13 45 19 29

29 17 83 13 29 49 23 47 29 63 37 32

25 15 82 17 19 43 14 44 19 55 21 40

15 10 63 26 15 36 5 60 34 56 21 13

25 20 85 38 29 34 16 66 30 59 48 24

43 42 87 14 46 65 36 46 62 82 21 31

12 5 78 7 8 33 5 34 7 44 10 23

26 19 71 11 22 43 12 37 16 50 19 35

Table 22 illustrates that mass attendance, as an activity

Members from the Youth Fellowship and ŻAK movements

that respondents carry out to deepen their faith, scored

revealed that they chiefly resort to personal prayer, which

a high percentage across all the groups/movements.

comprises the use of the Bible, as an activity to deepen

On the other hand, certain trends are evident with

their faith. Reciting the rosary and attending catechesm

respect to particular groups/movements, especially

lessons are amongst the most popular religious/spiritual

those characterised by a sound spiritual element and/or

activities amid MUSEUM members. The latter movement

charisma. These respective groups/movements tend to

and the Neo-Catechumenal Way were the two movements

be vigorous regarding religious/spiritual faith practice.

that scored a high percentage vis-à-vis the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Table 23: Faith/Spirituality practice by Age [%]

Adoration Seeking spiritual direction Attend Mass Catechesis Read spiritual/religious books Reflect on my life Prayer meeting Sacrament of Reconciliation Using the Bible to pray Personal prayers Rosary Voluntary work

12-14 17 7 81 22 13 26 12 54 14 46 29 19

15-19 23 11 77 12 14 39 12 40 16 52 18 35

20-24 33 24 79 16 28 53 19 45 32 62 23 41

25-29 32 26 81 18 31 46 17 46 35 63 26 30

30-34 33 28 81 15 36 52 13 47 38 62 27 29

35 & over 35 24 35 24 79 14 30 41 17 38 27 52



Table 23 illustrates that the trend is for one to seek

Amongst the leaders of the groups/movements the

more of an individualistic spiritual journey the older

practices of faith are more apparent [Table 25] with

s/he gets. In line with this, Table 23 shows that mass

the exception of mass attendance, catechesis and the

attendance experiences a drastic drop from 81 percent

sacrament of reconciliation. Leaders make more use of

amongst those aged between 12 and 14 to 35 percent

religious books, spiritual readings and the Bible to pray.

for those aged 35 and over. In contrast, the reading of spiritual/religious books experienced an increase by leaps and bounds from 13 percent amongst 12-14 year olds to 79 percent in the 35 and over age-cohort. Voluntary work also experienced a noteworthy increase when considering the youngest and the oldest respondents. The reciting of the rosary is more or less the sole activity that keeps constant among the different age cohorts. On the other hand, the sacrament of reconciliation experienced a significant drop from 54 percent (amongst 12 to 14 year olds) to 40 percent (amongst 15 to 19 year olds) but after that drop it stabilises by the time they reach their 20s. As far as gender is concerned, when considering the activities which respondents carry out to deepen their faith [Table 24], one may conclude that, on the whole, covering a number of activities such as reflecting on life;

Table 25: Faith/Spirituality Practice by role in group/movement [%] Adoration Seeking spiritual direction Attend Mass Catechesis Read spiritual/ religious books Reflect on my life Prayer meeting Sacrament of Reconciliation Using the Bible to pray Personal prayers Rosary Voluntary work

Leadership 35 25 79 17 27

Member 19 10 76 16 15

44 18 48 29 58 28 41

33 11 45 17 49 22 23

going for adoration and/or prayer meetings; receiving

Table 26 indicates that there is a relationship between

the sacrament of reconciliation; using the Bible to

regular attendance to the groups’/movements’

pray; and doing voluntary work, the male and female

meetings and activities and one’s faith/spiritual

respondents are on the same wavelength. However, a

practice. Moreover, the numbers show that an increase

difference can be seen on two particular counts: the

in attendance is proportional to an increase in one’s

males are keener to resort to catechesis - 21 percent

faith/spiritual practice, with the exception of mass

compared to 13 percent - while the females prefer to

attendance which more or less keeps a relatively high

pray on their own - 57 percent of females to 48 percent

percentage, although it does drop by 13 percent with

of males.

respect to those who were never present for the last 3 meetings/activities held by their groups/movements.

Table 24: Faith/Spirituality practice by Gender [%] Adoration Seeking spiritual direction Attend Mass Catechesis Read spiritual/religious books Reflect on my life Prayer meeting Sacrament of Reconciliation Using the Bible to pray Personal prayers Rosary Voluntary work

Male 23 16 77 21 20 36 12 48 21 48 27 27

Female 24 12 82 13 17 38 15 46 21 57 22 29


Table 26: Faith/Spirituality Practice by Attendance [%] Adoration Seeking spiritual direction Attend Mass Catechesis Read spiritual/religious books Reflect on my life Prayer meeting Sacrament of Reconciliation Using the Bible to pray Personal prayers Rosary Voluntary work

Every time 27 17 81 18 22 40 15 49 24 55 27 31

Twice 19 8 81 16 13 33 12 50 17 54 25 23

Once 16 10 80 16 11 32 8 44 16 50 20 24

None 18 7 68 12 14 27 8 34 12 36 17 24

Table 27: Free time activities by Age [%] Frequently spend time playing computer games Carry out sports/physical exercise on a regular basis Practise/participate in arts (e.g. drama, music, painting) Meet my friends to have fun (e.g. at the disco/bar) Frequently spend time on social networking sites

As regards the age variable, when analysing the activities which the respondents carry out in their free time, the 12 to 14 year olds revealed that they particularly spend time playing computer games; however, they also carry out some form of sports activity and/or physical exercise on a regular basis. The trend for those in their twenties is to spend their free time with their friends in other settings rather than in the meetings/activities organised by the group/ movement to which they belong. Those aged 15 to 24 years tend to spend a significant part of their free time on social networking sites (Table Afi). Male respondents prefer to spend their free time playing computer games or carrying out sports/physical activities, while their female counterparts prefer to spend their free time meeting their friends, chatting on social networking sites and practising one or more of the performing arts (Table 28). Table 29 below does not show any correlation between activities the respondents carry out to sustain their faith and leisure activities they carry out in their free time.

12-14 56 54 33 38 42

15-19 35 39 33 59 57

20-24 23 36 27 62 54

25-29 16 41 20 43 34

30-34 15 36 18 23 23

35 & over 8 35 20 17 17

Table 28: Free time by Gender [%] Â Frequently spend time playing computer games Carry out sports/physical exercise on a regular basis Practise/participate in arts (e.g. drama, music, painting) Meet my friends to have fun (e.g. at the disco/bar) Frequently spend time on social networking sites















Voluntary work


Personal prayers

Using the Bible to pray

Sacrament of Reconciliation

Prayer meeting

Reflect on my life

Read spiritual/religious books


Attend Mass

Seeking spiritual direction


Table 29: Faith/Spirituality practice by Free time activities [%]

Frequently spend time playing computer games

21 10 80 21 16 32 12 52 17 50 27 24

Carry out sports/physical exercise on a regular basis

23 15 82 20 26 38 15 51 22 54 29 29

Practise/participate in arts (e.g. drama, music, painting)

29 15 84 19 23 44 17 54 23 61 29 37

Meet my friends to have fun (e.g. at the disco/bar)

25 15 81 15 18 43 16 48 21 56 22 35

Frequently spend time on social networking sites

26 15 85 17 19 43 15 52 21 59 24 33 Again, the percentages of the respondents who attended

5. Mass Attendance

mass ‘the Sunday before last’ was on the whole

The results obtained in Table AJI show that mass

homogeneous across the groups/movements. However,

attendance is quite uniform across the parishes of residence of the respondents.

it is noticeable that the Neo-Catechumenal Way and the

Table 30: Mass Attendance Last Sunday

(Table 32).

MUSEUM movements scored the highest percentages

by Respondents’ parish of residence [%]

membership by Mass Attendance on Sunday

Religious Groups

Neo-Catechumenal Way


Youth Fellowship



before the last [%]


No 18 11 13 14 10

Parish Groups

Southern Harbour Northern Harbour Western South Eastern Northern

Yes 82 89 87 86 90

Table 32: Youth groups/movements



















There is also very little correlation between mass attendance and the age of the respondents [Table 31].

Table 31: Mass Attendance Last Sunday by Age [%]

12-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35 and over

Yes 88 86 86 87 87 94

No 12 14 14 13 12 6

When the respondents were asked to identify three reasons as to why they attend the religious group/ movement, the preference most chosen was, ‘it helps strengthen my faith.’ This preference is highest amongst the movements, particularly ŻAK and the NeoCatechumenal Way, which scored 51 percent and 46 percent respectively (Table 33).


6. Attendance in the groups/movements

ŻAK scored highest with regard to the second most

Table 33: Youth groups/movements

preference; however this time they were followed by

chosen reason, i.e. ‘to meet my friends’, as a first Parish Groups (Table 36) rather than by the other

membership by One specific reason for


Less Important

2 13



6 17 12

When one analyses group membership in the age-

1st Preference Most important 2nd Preference -

cohorts, one may conclude that the help young people

Important 3rd Preference -

need to strengthen their faith, increases with age,

Less Important





7 20 13 19

Youth Fellowship

13 13 20


15 43 24 46 29 51 16 20

Neo-Catechumenal Way



Youth Fellowship


Neo-Catechumenal Way

Religious Groups

friends’ [%]

Religious Groups

Important 3rd Preference -

specific reason for attendance – ‘to meet my


Most important 2nd Preference -

Table 36: Youth groups/movements by One

Parish Groups

1st Preference -


Parish Groups

attendance – ‘it helps strengthen my faith’ [%]

26 12 17

4 22

4 42 22

10 12 13

5 16

6 15

12 19 20 10 19 22


11 12

particularly once the person reaches his/her twenties (Table 34).

When one delves deeper into the preference, ‘to meet my friends’, it is evident that the younger the members

Although the differences are not particularly striking

are more eager to attend the group/movements

Table 35 shows that females are more likely to attend a

precisely with the intention of encountering their

group/movement because this helps them to strengthen

friends (Table 37).

their faith. Table 34: Age by One specific reason for attendance – ‘it helps strengthen my faith’ [%] 12-14 20 14 11

1st Preference - Most important 2nd Preference - Important 3rd Preference - Less Important

Table 35: Gender by One specific reason for attendance – ‘it helps strengthen my faith’ [%] 1st Preference - Most important 2nd Preference - Important 3rd Preference - Less Important

Male Female 23 27 16 13 11 10

15-19 23 15 11

20-24 34 16 11

25-29 34 17 8

30-34 39 14 6

35 and over 27 12 3



Table 37: Age by One specific reason for attendance – ‘to meet my friends’ [%] 12-14





35 and over

1st Preference - Most important







2nd Preference - Important







3rd Preference - Less Important







Conclusions As stated at the beginning of this section, the census indicators are not an end in themselves, but are essential tools in evaluating the present state of the religious groups and movements under study. One may assess whether the present strategies are enabling these groups/movements to increase numerically and spread their charism among a larger number of young people, and whether they are attaining the desired results. Group leaders may also be in a position to identify which initiatives have proved to be effective in assisting more young men and women, and indeed Maltese society in general, to accept and adhere to the Church’s teaching and thus deepen their faith in God.



understanding members

Section C:

Making Sense of Youth Religious Organisations




The group leaders were the most adept at giving a clear

The aim of this study is to obtain knowledge on the

explanation of the way their group operates. Many

various religious youth organisations in Malta. Different

leaders stated that there is no rigidity in their group and

participants involved in religious youth organisations

most meetings are done in an informal manner; ‘There

were interviewed in focus groups according to their

are certain boundaries to remain focused on spirituality

particular age group and role in the organisation. The

but at times the youths themselves decide what they

main categories chosen for interviews were young

want out of the group’ (leader4). A leader maintained

adolescents, youth in education, youth in employment,

that the objectives of groups were most of the time

group leaders, youth who were sixteen years and over,

reached gradually; ‘It is not like imposing the rigid

couples and parents. Fourteen focus group interviews,

structure and purpose of the group on them, but slowly

conducted in a semi-structured manner, were recorded

these same aims become part of them’ (leader).

and later transcribed3. This study yields information on the characteristics of these organisations, their

There is an agreement amid those who took part in

respective roles and the way they function in society. It

the focus group sessions that the Church’s teachings

refers to religious groups that often form part of a bigger

and the glory of God were the core focus of these youth

national or even international religious organisation. In

organisations. Older participants were very much

this narrative account, the use of the term ‘younger’ or

aware that the aim of their group is to disseminate

‘adolescent’ participants refers to the twelve to fifteen

Christ’s teachings; ‘Our aim is to spread the Word of

years age group whereas ‘older’ participants refer to

God, which we have received, to others and we do this

the sixteen to thirty years’ age group. It is important to

at work and everywhere…we try to spread God’s words

note that most students above the age of compulsory

with His help’ (thirty-four years, couples’ group). All

education were in tertiary education. The majority

participants, who were in their twenties, maintained

of youth, who were in employment, had obtained a

that God is the centre of their group and that their

first degree. Thus, this may indicate that those young

group is intended to help them grow spiritually.

people who participated in Roman Catholic religious organisations in Malta tend to have a particular ‘habitus’

All participants were aware that their religious

that allows them similar life chances.

association was founded by a spiritual leader. What’s more, most of these organisations were parish-based.

1. The Formality of the Group and its Aims

Most leaders also confirmed that the main focus of the

The formality of the groups was ambivalent to

group was spirituality, enhanced through prayers and,

participants. For most adolescent participants, their

at times, a ‘healing ministry’. The role of the priest

group setting was informal. Parents of adolescents also

was often to meet leaders and discuss with them the

said that their children attended an informal religious

leadership issues of their groups, rather than to have an

group. The raison d’être for this interpretation is often

election of the leader and the “core group”. Voluntary

the fluidity in the structure of the groups. Whilst most

work is one way through which religiosity is expressed

groups operated in an informal manner, most of them

in the group. Most leaders said that their members

formed part of a larger, more formal national network,

were aware of and were often involved in voluntary

which at times extended also internationally. Two

work, nationally and internationally, as part of the

participants in the older participants’ groups, as well


as another from the couples’ focus group, maintained that they belonged to an international group. One

The parents of the children who attended religious

leader described how one branch of the group works

organisations were very much supportive of their

on a weekly basis with the parish priest yet, once in a

children being involved in such groups; ‘It is a good

while, they organise joint events with other branches

place where they can grow…rather than choosing

of the parent organisation found in Malta. Some of

alternative places that may lead them to becoming

the older participants, who were in tertiary education,

badly influenced’ (parent5). It is important to note

maintained that their group had a more formal setting. 3 Original quotes were in Maltese. These were translated and adapted into English without losing the exact meaning of the original quote.

4 The age of the leaders was not given during the interviews. 5 The age of the parents was not given in the interviews and all participants were referred to as the ‘interviewee’.


that some of these parents were themselves leaders of

by informing the people that they had been sent by the

similar groups. They felt comfortable that their children

parish priest. Older participants referred to problems

were attending these groups because they were assured

they faced when trying to recruit new members; ‘We

that these places were safe and taught them moral

are faced with a difficulty in encouraging new members

values. Additionally, one parent maintained that her

to attend because when we utter the name of our group

children were not receiving religious teachings at home

people are put off since it has a religious connotation’

due to other commitments and thus these organisations

(nineteen years, university student). Another

were places for youth to develop their spiritual “self”.

participant said that there is no formal outreach

The very fact that these groups are affiliated with the

strategy to engage new members. Nevertheless, she

Church gave parents a sense of security.

said that one-to-one discussions with individuals who may be interested seemed to function. An adolescent

1.1. Promotion and the Acceptance of New Members

participant said that they often organised ‘cake sales’.

Individuals spoke about methods that they adopt to

the same time giving out flyers that promoted their

encourage new members to join their group. In the


They sold cakes as a fundraising activity, while at

couples’ group, one participant said that attendance at meetings was promoted during mass with the hope

There are no restrictions on the acceptance of new

that they would register an increase in attendance. A

members: they are often allocated groups in relation

leader from a couples’ group said that they often made

to their age. Some groups are set up in schools where

door-to-door visits to do promotion, and people had

students are encouraged to join these organisations.

occasionally associated them with the Jehovah Witness

One particular group was more systematic in attracting

sect, however this misunderstanding was cleared up

new members; ‘Once a month we organise a meeting



for friends of members to promote our organisation

personal and spiritual formation. In addition, as stated

and encourage new memberships’ (eighteen years,

by an older participant who had a full-time job, the aim

university student).

of groups was to have ‘social, spiritual and personal formation of the individual…it is a place where one

Members are rarely dismissed from groups. In one

operates in a group’ (twenty-three years, employee).

particular group, a participant stated that if a member failed to attend meetings for three months, he/she is

A reference was constantly made to the level of

asked to decide whether or not to remain a member of

sociability within the group. Groups were meeting

the group. At times this is extended for another three

places where one could make new friends and acquire

months to make a decision.

life skills. It was also a place where they felt at ease to voice their own problems as young people; ‘The

1.2. Aims of Groups: Spiritual Formation and Recreation

sisters are always there when we have problems, always

Adolescents agree that these groups provide an

not only listen to us but also help us find solutions’

environment for spiritual support. They felt that this

(fourteen years, student). Leaders emphasised that

was natural considering that they are aware of the

their role involves listening to the individual members.

religious foundations of these groups, which are very

They maintained that their duty was to bring awareness

often founded by nuns or priests. Younger participants

of what is right and wrong in line with the Church’s

felt that groups were necessary to put them on the

teachings. They all believed that they had made a

‘right track’ and thus make wise choices in line with the

positive impact on youths and felt the responsibility

Church’s teachings. They emphasised the important

that their role entails.

function of the Church’s teachings in the group for their

ready to listen to us and help us solve our issues. They


It is clear that these groups are not simply occasions

There is evidence of a hierarchal structure in these

for meeting friends, but have a wider purpose. Catholic

religious organisations, demonstrated mainly by the

teaching is central to every meeting. A student aptly

way the leader is addressed as ‘miss’ or ‘superior’

summarised the scope of the group as a place for

(superjur). Some of these leaders are nuns or priests

‘formation and recreation’ (fourteen years, student).

and this automatically brings a sense of authority in the

Members also felt that their leaders were their

group. When the leader is a priest he is seen as having

counsellors whenever they encountered problems.

a higher authority and thus treated more formally compared to other leaders; ‘At times young members tend to speak vulgarly but when the priest is present,

2. The Role of the Leader

they don’t dare to speak like that’ (leader). The priest

In most groups, leaders are not chosen democratically

is a continuous reminder of the focus of the group,

and most members stated that they had no say in the

to follow Christ’s teachings. A parent emphasised

appointment of leaders. These were often chosen ‘minn

the important role of the leader, who at times may

fuq’ (by a superior authority). A twenty-five year old

determine the life-span of the group itself. She argued

youth said that he knew of groups that elected their

that when the priest responsible for the group changes,

leader. Most leaders said that they were appointed by

the dynamics of the group are influenced and at times

members of the clergy or, in most cases, the leaders

lead either to members leaving the group or to the

were themselves nuns or priests. Most participants said

actual dissolution of the group. This frequently happens

that their leaders did not change and had remained

in parish-based groups rather than in the established

in their position of leadership for years. Others

formal groups.

maintained that their leaders changed according to their age. Some older participants that were interviewed

2.1. Characteristics of a Good Leader

(16-28 years) maintained that they were acting as

One leader summed up the characteristics of a good

leaders for younger groups (8-14 years). However, a

leader as ‘being like them [members] but not acting like

member of a movement referred to a more structured

them’ (leader). In the opinion of the leaders present a

form in choosing leaders; ‘Nominated names and their

leader needs to be close to the group and understand

photos are put in a booklet and through prayer and with

its members’ point of view. The leader in these religious

the help of the Holy Spirit, a leader is selected’ (twenty-

organisations influences the level of commitment

three years, student).

of its members as well as the reality of whether the organisation grows naturally or is short-lived. They

Although formal leadership training exists, a number

also agreed that the leader who liaises with the clergy

of leaders do not avail themselves of this opportunity.

needs to be close to God. Such members of the clergy

Only one leader said that he attended a course on

are often present for meetings. One particular leader

prayer. Whereas most leaders were lay persons,

referred to times when they had no priest appointed

however, in the background of each group there was

as a leader and the group felt his absence. However,

always the presence of a member of the clergy. In some

older participants stated that their groups were ‘self-

cases, as one twenty-eight year old member of the

sufficient’ (twenty eight years, employee) and the priest

couples’ group pointed out, there were disagreements

had no particular role or influence; ‘It would not make a

between members of the clergy and the lay leaders.

difference if there were a priest or not’ (seventeen years,

Some leaders, who depart from the religious focus of

sixth form). On the other hand, another participant, a

the group, are encouraged to get back on track and

twenty-one year old university student said that this

focus on God’s teachings.

year was a very difficult year because their leader, a priest, had passed away and this had had a significant

In the Neo-Catechumenal Way, catechists act as a

impact on the group.

middle-person to solve these issues; ‘We always pass our conflicts onto the catechists, who guide us with

The leaders believed that they had a lot of influence on

the help of the Holy Spirit,’ (thirty-four years, couples

what was done in the group. They decide on the agenda


and what needs to be done even if the members are not in favour. Every leader has his/her way of doing things



and this is significant in the formation of the group.

the form of two-way discussions rather than a rigid

Having said that, one leader maintained that although

lecture. In one particular group, meetings were more

the charisma of the leader was important, however s/

structured by keeping a manual of meetings and week

he still needed to operate within the established statute

after week the meetings were set in accordance to the

and parameters of the organisation.

manual. One leader, who is also a parent, said that there were no clear guidelines as to what is put on the agenda;

Members also felt that this was important and that a

however they tended to design meetings according to

leader needed to have a charismatic personality. The

the different times of the year. For instance, during

leader must be able to enjoy her/himself with the

Christmas and Lent, meetings are held focusing on these

rest of the members and participate in the activities.

themes. Having said that, this leader maintained that the

Nevertheless, emphasis was constantly made on the

agenda was frequently influenced by what the members

spiritual element of the group.


The responsibility and role of the leader seems to

In some groups, two kinds of meetings are organised;

change in accordance with the different age groups.

‘There are two kinds of meetings, the ones that are

Whereas younger participants maintained that the

carried out by the leaders and the ones which we organise

agenda of the meeting was often set by the leader, older

ourselves…we choose a title from a selection given to

participants had more say and responsibility in the

us by the leader and prepare the next lesson’ (fourteen

group. A case in point was a particular group where

years, student).

members were in post-compulsory education. In this group the members were periodically assigned to chair

In another group, tailor-made for young couples, the

the meeting. It was the responsibility of that person

leader said that they came up with the agenda together

to obtain information and seek assistance from other

with the couples. However, he said there was always a


representative of the Family Commission, present as a silent member, to observe that the lessons were held in

From these comments one can draw the following

keeping with the Church’s teachings. Similar to other

conclusion. This insistence on charisma has its

participants in this focus group, he maintained that lay

strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, it can

persons were responsible for the group rather than a

provide a dynamic link to the group. On the other

member of clergy.

hand, it is a great temptation for such leaders to become either authoritarian or paternalistic, hence

Some maintained that the format of the meetings was

hindering the healthy growth of the members and the

divided into two. An hour was dedicated to ‘praise and

development of the group. Besides this, when this type

worship… followed by a talk or bible discussion’ (eighteen

of leader leaves the group, a vacuum is felt creating a

years, university student). One participant declared that

sense of nostalgia or the actual disintegration of the

on a weekday they organised meetings and on weekends


they celebrated mass together. Another participant in the same focus group maintained that they discussed the

3. Agenda of Meetings

liturgy on Tuesdays and celebrated mass on Saturdays.

The number of meetings varies from once a month to daily meetings. A twenty-two year old participant

From these statements one can see two different

stated that at that moment they were meeting every

outcomes evolving. When there is no regular strategic

day because they were redecorating a room for a new

plan for the meetings, the organization can be either

youth group within the parish church. The leaders who

person-centred or group-centred or leader-centred.

were often in charge of the agenda of the meetings

It is right that the needs of the individual are catered

maintained that they tried to organise various events

for. However, without a coherent program based on an

focusing both on spiritual well-being as well as on

underlying philosophy and stretched over a reasonable

personal development. They organised both prayer

period of time, it would not be possible to transmit a

meetings and discussions on social issues. Some

coherent message; on the contrary, the pick and choose

younger participants preferred their meetings as taking

mentality would be fostered.


3.1. Outdoor Activities and Live-Ins Special attention was given to activities such as “live-ins”, as being central to the group. During such activities, members feel closer to each other. Leaders also referred to live-ins based on a theme or weekend seminars organised for the group. The topics discussed vary and space is given to adolescents to decide the agenda. Adolescents felt that the aim of live-ins was to learn through various creative activities. They feel comfortable to express their anxieties and problems without fear of being ridiculed or condemned. Besides organising games and team-building exercises, meetings are also focused on discussing a particular topic. Visual media such as PowerPoint presentations are often used to stimulate discussion. The informality of the meeting is created by bringing food to meetings and having time to get to know each other better. The structure of the meetings is not fixed but varies according to different events. Outdoor activities like BBQs, as well as Christmas and Easter activities, are also part of the meetings. One particular participant from the couples’ group maintained that they did not

have a fixed meeting place but each time they met at a different house belonging to one of the couples. Games and workshop sessions are central to the events organised during meetings. One leader maintained that the purpose of games was not just recreational but ‘there is always a deeper meaning, connected to morality and values’ (leader). The link with Christ’s teachings is always made to give members a different viewpoint rather than simply leading them to think logically without any spiritual undertones. Sessions of prayer are centre stage in each organisation. Even though there are variations in the time dedicated to prayers, mass or Bible readings, all leaders and members referred to these as an important element of the meetings. Some older members said that they had a role to animate mass and organise it in a harmonious manner. One particular leader argued that the agenda of the meetings differed in relation to the varying age groups; ‘Youths who are more mature tend to be more



motivated to learn about God’ (leader). While the

Participants in tertiary education saw commitment in

agenda of the group focuses on religious teachings,

terms of team work; ‘Everyone would have their area of

some leaders maintained that some members simply

responsibility for organising activities and you cannot

attended to have a good time with their friends; ‘They

let them down if you are made responsible for a task’

come for the sake of meeting others and having fun

(eighteen years, university student). A distinction was

not to learn about Christ’ (leader). Older participants

made between those members who missed meetings

in the couples’ group organise meetings that are more

because of other commitments like study and work, and

tailor-made to family life, for instance about family

those who did so because they were losing their sense


of belonging. The level of commitment expressed by twelve- year-olds was found to be different from that

4. Level of Commitment

of fifteen-year-olds due to their study requirements

Various age groups interpreted the concept of

in preparation for their O’ levels. This element was

commitment in a different manner. Whereas younger

expressed also by older participants who maintained

participants referred to attending meetings as an

that their study and work influence their level of

index of commitment, older participants referred

commitment to the group.

to a more active participation. Moreover, leaders understood commitment as being able to transmit

The couples’ groups interpreted commitment as

God’s teachings and bring youths closer to God.

attending meetings even though attendance was not compulsory. A twenty-two year old participant said that

Most adolescent participants agreed that commitment

at that moment his group was passing through a bad

was expressed when they attended regularly and

phase because some members were missing meetings

found the time to get involved. Furthermore, some

due to other priorities. The lack of commitment in his

participants maintained that being committed

group was also felt by the deficiency in preparation

implied much more than passive attendance: it

for meetings especially when the members had to

referred to being actively involved; ‘I think that being

present the meeting. Those participants who work and

committed is being attentive and taking part rather

are married said that it was hard at times to be fully

than simply being there’ (fourteen years, student).

committed to their organisation. A participant said

An eighteen-year-old student made a distinction

that ‘it is all about finding the right balance for all the

between the expected commitment of a thirteen-

commitments in life’ (twenty-five years, employee).

year-old youth and that of older youths; ‘attendance is important and the type of work should be in

Nevertheless, a high level of commitment is expected

accordance with the age of the member… you cannot

from both members as well as leaders. Members

expect a thirteen-year-old to work like an eighteen-

expect their leaders to be more committed and actively

year-old… prayers in the group are also important’

involved; ‘I expect the sisters to be committed and

(eighteen years, student).

meetings to be held regularly with various activities throughout the year’ (fourteen years, student).

The parents think that the main reason why their children are committed to religious organisations is

Leaders maintained that commitment was vital to the

that they enjoy meeting their friends. Parents, whose

organisation; ‘it is very important for us. We are not

children are introverts, felt that the organisation was

just any other organisation; it is a journey with God and

profitable to their children’s social wellbeing.

involves preaching His doctrine’. Leaders are aware

Commitment was also interpreted on spiritual

that young people may have other priorities such as

grounds, however this was harder to define; ‘How

studying that determine their attendance at meetings.

can I assess the commitment of one’s spirituality to

There are also certain meetings that are more flexible.

the group? (twenty-eight years, employee). Another

A case in point was the Saturday session of one group

participant in the same focus group said that her level

to which young people were not expected to commit

of commitment helped her spiritually. Moreover, one

themselves weekly. A twenty-five year old participant

adolescent said that ‘being committed is… to bring

interpreted commitment as something connected to

other youths closer to Jesus’ (fourteen years, student).

one’s reliability; there are people who are much more


reliable than others and are ready to do their utmost for

thought that the sense of belonging of their children

their organisation.

to these groups was prompted by the fact that they enjoyed going to group meetings and looked forward

Participants also referred to factors that disrupted

to attending even when they were busy with a lot of

the level of commitment. Parents maintained that the


internet is taking over most of the free time of youth. Moreover, the use of the mobile phone is a source

One important aspect that brought a sense of belonging

of distraction; this was also evident in the various

among the members according to one leader was ‘time’.

disruptions by phones ringing during most of the focus

The more time the members spent with the group,

groups. Older participants in the couples’ group argued

the more they felt comfortable with it and that they

that young people were ‘alienated’ by other influences.

belonged to it. Furthermore, it is important for some leaders to assign roles to the members to stimulate

5. Sense of Belonging

active involvement in any event organised. This is in

Teamwork, especially during live-ins, produced a sense

line with the theory of the sociologist George Homans

of belonging to one’s group. Some participants present

(The Human Group).

in the adolescent focus groups said that one important source of belonging was reflected in the way members

6. Personal and Spiritual Development of Members

treated one another. It is important for members to

The Leaders emphasised the need for the personal

feel welcomed and accepted by other members. One’s

development of youth. They often spend several years

enthusiasm to work and be part of the team is another

in charge of the same groups and they can observe the

indicator of one’s sense of belonging to the group.

progress along the years. They believe that personal communication is what earned them trust. Leaders

Older participants in tertiary education maintained that

often communicate with parents to work together on

sharing one’s everyday life experiences with the group

the personal development of each child. One leader’s

enhanced the sense of belonging; ‘It’s about sharing the

satisfaction is when he meets past members who are

walk of life together and in the process getting to know

now adults and thank him for his work because his

the other person well’ (twenty-three years, student).

words and actions made a difference in their youth.

Music is also used as a tool to enhance solidarity among members whilst praising the Lord. Additionally, a

Progress is not only discerned by leaders but at times

feeling of belonging is created by the fact that members

by parents who are happy with the way their child is

can be open and share their everyday problems; ‘We are

seen to be developing his/her social skills. However,

like siblings. Everyone can open up and voice his/her

the leaders stated that parents were not always

problems, whether it is about their marriage, their work

cooperative. They find it taxing to change the culture

...’ (thirty-four years, employee).

of some families that at times allow smoking, drinking and certain behaviour; ‘parents provide cigarettes,

The particular language used by various members,

contraceptives and whatever their children do, it is with

especially older ones, is noteworthy. They tended to

the consent of their parents’ (leader).

refer to their group as the ‘community’, thus denoting an element of solidarity and familiarity. Moreover, a

Younger participants are aware of the positive

number of members referred to ‘sharing sessions’ as a

contribution which their group makes to their general

way of getting to know one another more closely.

wellbeing. A twelve-year-old participant said that she had changed since she started attending the group and

An older participant tried to explain what created a

now she was able to make more rational decisions.

sense of belonging. He said that there was a need to

Another adolescent in the same focus group referred to

know members individually and be at their disposal

the way her relationship with God had totally changed.

whenever they needed him. It was also important to support and empathise with them in their problems:

All participants agreed that their groups helped them

‘Treat the person not just as another person, another

spiritually. One member argued that it clarified certain

number’ (twenty-three years, student). Parents

issues regarding the Church that he was not aware



of; ‘We had a meeting on sexuality and the Church’s

to their friends; ‘spirituality is on the decline amongst

teachings. Spiritually it has helped me to understand

youth’ (sixteen years, student). They perceived their

the Church’s stands on various issues and it has also

peers as secular with no interest whatsoever in religious

guided my behaviour’ (twenty-four years, student).

associations. Leaders also referred to these secularised youths who lost interest in the Church; one leader

7. A Spiritual Subculture amongst Secularised Youth?

maintained some youths were deciding not to receive

All participants agreed that spirituality is central to

do not belong to any religious organisations; one leader

their meetings. They do not question this because

said that one particular youth joined a seminar with

they are aware that they form part of a religious

the purpose of persuading those present that there

organisation. Some interpreted becoming a member

was no God. This needs to be addressed in relation to

as a continuation after the end of compulsory religious

the psychological and biological changes taking place

lessons. When asked whether the organisation

in teenage years during which youth tend to question

enhanced their spirituality, they all agreed that it did.

issues that are ordinarily taken for granted in their

They find comfort in their leader, especially during

life. When religion is seen as a dogma or as a result of

those moments when they start questioning their faith.

indoctrination by parents, youth tend to rebel against

the Sacrament of Confirmation’. Most of these youth

it with their coming of age as a part of their “protest” An interesting fact that was emphasised amongst

against their parents.

youth of different ages was that they felt that there was a distinction between them, as spiritual youths,

One leader said that eventually some of the members

and their friends who did not share their spirituality.

who rebelled against religion decided to leave the group

Adolescent participants said that most of their school

because they felt ‘out of place’. Others may still form

friends did not practise any religion and did not attend

part of religious groups and treat it simply as a youth

church celebrations. Most of their friends, who did not

centre where they can enjoy themselves and meet

appertain to any religious group, doubted their faith and

friends. One older participant, who was in full-time

some even maintained that they did not believe in God.

employment, said that there were some members in the group who doubted their faith and questioned

When asked whether it was a question of bluff and

everything that was being said. Some of these are very

peer group pressure, most adolescents stated that

hesitant to attend mass and to participate actively in

according to their subjective views, there was a

religious events. They simply attend to pass their time

remarkable difference in their spirituality compared

and meet their friends. However, most members are


believers. Another older participant maintained that

Parents also expressed the feeling that being religious,

although the majority of the members participated in

which they interpreted as ‘being good’, was something

religious events, they had different levels of spirituality.

valued by a minority amongst youth today. They thought that it was very easy to be carried away by

From the responses of the participants, an impression

negative and bad influences today. This moral panic

was given that involvement in a religious organisation

stems from the fact that negative news travels fast; and

places them in a subculture of their own among other

that such news is often sensationalised is what induces

youths. Spiritual groups may be interpreted as not

people to talk more about it. Parents also said that

being ‘cool’, not hip; often referred to as ‘nerds’ or

their children often spoke about their peers who do not

‘ta’ wara il-muntanji’. Some stated that they were

believe in God.

considered as being in a ‘sect’, treated differently and were often questioned on their beliefs. Their actions are

Members of the couples’ group said that they are often

always judged in terms of their label. If they act like any

associated with the Church and this may influence

other teenager, the reaction is often of shock because

individuals not to join their group. One participant said;

they are expected to act ‘saintly’ when in the company

‘They get interested in our meetings and yet, when they

of their peers. They are not expected to go to nightclubs,

learn that it is something within the Church they lose

drink or enjoy life; ‘you cannot go to Paceville, you

interest’ (twenty-five, employee).

cannot drink or do anything wrong’ (twenty-three years, employee). This feeling was expressed amongst

8. The Meaning of the Church

the younger youth (12-18) as well as the older ones in

Various groups of youths, differing in age, were asked

tertiary education. One participant was aware of this

how they perceived the Church and its mission. A

inference and said ‘you can still be cool and believe in

distinction was made between the Church and Christ’s

God at the same time’ (fourteen years, student).

teachings; ‘It’s not that people don’t believe in God, they just don’t believe in many aspects of the church’

Some young people felt labelled when they declared

(sixteen years, sixth form student).

that they were part of a religious group. A way of dealing with this was by ‘keeping strong... still being

The majority of youth were very critical of the Church

happy irrespective of my problems and they realise

and whereas they felt they belonged to their religious

that spirituality is what makes me strong’ (twenty-

group, they felt as outsiders in their parish church;

three years, employee). Older participants said that

‘My religious community is important, not my parish

it was very common to find university students who

Church’ (twenty-three years, student). There is a

were secular. Nevertheless, there was a general feeling

distinction between their group and the Church and

amongst the older participants that even though young

they do not necessarily link the two. However, people

people are more secularised, they are not complete

outside the organisations still tend to consider the

atheists or agnostics; ‘In reality there are a lot of people

groups as part of the Church.

that doubt their faith but they are not truly atheists’. In particular, even though members of religious

A general feeling drawn from the interviews was that

organisations might pass through a time of doubting

members see the Church as an institution that is

their faith, yet they are not atheists. One participant in

bigger than them and that presents a formal structure

the couples’ group said that ‘individualism is resulting

they find it hard to relate to. The negative attitude of

in secularisation’ (twenty-eight years, employee). An

the mass media towards the Church, with allegations

older participant vented his frustration that at work

of paedophile cases and its standing on issues such

his workmates were very critical when he wanted to

as homosexuality and IVF, are further contributing

have a statue of baby Jesus as part of their Christmas

towards casting an “outsider” image for youth. A

decorations in the offices. He maintained that the

participant in the adolescent focus group maintained

argument brought forward by his colleagues was that

that Facebook could also be used to present a negative

the presence of this particular religious symbol at work

image of the Church. She referred to the way some

might be a possible breach of human rights!

photos of the Pope and the Vatican that highlight the riches of the Church in contrast to world poverty were



circulating among youths. A counter reaction was made

there was a widespread agreement that most of the

during the interview to remark that the current Pope is

people involved in the village feast were not interested

making an effort to change this image.

in its spiritual element.

Some younger participants referred to Mass when they

Youths are aware of the fact that the increased

thought about the Church. Another division emerges

importance being given to “reason” played an important

between their views on the Church compared to those

part in the way individuals perceived the Church. Some

of their friends outside their religious organisation.

argued that religious doctrine cannot be interpreted

They stated that most of their friends interpreted

logically; ‘It’s hard to make sense of the way The Holy

going to church as a waste of time, as listening to

Mother conceived a child... yet you need to have faith

complaints: ‘My friends think of the church as a place

without question’ (seventeen years, sixth form student).

where you go for three quarters of an hour to listen

This may be hard when youths become critical of

to someone moaning’ (fourteen years, student). Their

anything that cannot be logically explained. Having said

lack of interest stems also from the negative image

that, one participant, a twenty-one year old university

of the Church as a corrupt institution, as well as the

student, stated that changes in the Church, which are

“memory” of the 1960s interdict on members of the

being brought about by the new Pope, are already

Malta Labour Party. This perception was also expressed

proving to be fruitful. Older participants in full-time

amongst older participants in the couples’ group. Older

employment also referred to the changes brought about

participants, who were in full-time employment, said

by the new Pope; ‘The Pope is emphasising on the

that there existed a widespread feeling that the Church

new image of the Church that tries to reach everyone’

is a conservative body. Most people do their utmost

(twenty-seven years, employee).

not to be associated with the Church because they want to avoid any association with an organization which

9. Interpreting Mass

is considered to be outdated. Also participants said

Participants are aware of the changes in the mentality

that people in general are very critical of the Church,

of both youths and their parents; ‘Our parents brought

especially its priests; ‘People point their finger at

us close to the Church. But nowadays there are parents,

priests’ (twenty-seven years, employee).

who after their children do their Holy Communion, don’t bother going to Mass with their children anymore’

The leaders confirmed that some youths have this

(sixteen years, student).

perception of the Church. Some leaders also referred to the separation made between the Church and their

Older participants had some reservations about Mass;

religious “Community”. They maintained that some

‘ I prefer going to Mass with my group even though

groups prefer to identify themselves with their religious

it lasts one and a half hours…the homily tends to get

group, often referred to as “the Community”, rather

boring at times at the parish church’ (twenty-three

than the Church. This dichotomy was also witnessed

years, employee). Most parents maintained that their

by the fact that most youths in these organisations are

children perceive Mass as ‘boring’ and most of the

not actively involved in the village feast. They do not

time they do not understand the liturgy. Most children

feel a sense of belonging in their parish and one leader

are forced to attend Mass by their parents and are not

said that his members were even ‘embarrassed’ to be

actively involved in it. Also, they do not appreciate the

considered part of the Church. Older participants in

importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, nor do

the couples’ group expressed their anger when talking

they consider it valuable.

about the village feast and its celebrations that go beyond the actual church functions and which puts

10. Contribution to Society’s Collective Conscience

more emphasis on the outdoor feast celebrations. One

Most participants maintained that they believed

participant said that ‘when the archpriest invites people

that their group was contributing to the wellbeing of

for adoration sessions, few people turn up, but when

society in general. Some participants believed that they

there is a call for ‘reffiegħa’ (people carry statue in the

were reaching this aim by organising events to meet

procession), hordes of people attend’ (twenty-eight

others and preach God’s word. Others said that they

years, employee). During the couples’ focus groups

did voluntary work with the elderly, thus involving


themselves in the community. One participant, who


formed part of an international religious organisation,

The ambivalence in defining the formality of the groups

maintained that their work extended beyond national

amongst different age groups was explained in relation

boundaries and involved doing voluntary work in other

to youths’ perception of the way the groups operate as

countries, especially those where Catholicism was

well as their wider organisational structure. Despite


the fact that participants defined the formality of their groups differently, all participants agreed that the glory

Most leaders seemed to agree that their groups had

of God was central to every group. All participants

a positive impact on these young people. When these

were aware that the aim of the group is to transmit a

were followed over a number of years, their members

religious way of life and ‘to be closer to God’ (fourteen

had developed a social conscience. Older members are

years, student). The group leaders tended to present a

also aware of their contribution towards a wider society.

clearer definition of the formality of the groups. Apart

Their contribution is mainly felt by helping other

from the aspect of spirituality, another important

younger youths.

dimension for groups was the ‘fun factor’. Members enjoyed meeting up and spending time together as

It is noteworthy that politics and industrial relations

friends. This increased their level of commitment.

never figured in the discussion. This is an indication

Workshop sessions and games were an integral part of

that charity and love are interpreted in a “humanitarian

meetings to stimulate youths.

/philanthropic” (the “helping professions”) way, rather than in reconstructing a world based on the values of

However, both formal and non-formal organisations, by

the Gospel.

and large, have well-prepared meetings and activities. In most cases, members participate fully in meetings

11. Formal and Informal Structures!

and are assigned tasks to present issues and themes.

A distinction which can be read between the lines is that

It was clear from the interviews that in non-formal

between organisations that are formally structured and

organisations the role of the leader is perceived in

those that are informally structured. The latter are very

terms of his/her charisma and this played an important

often parish-based and priest-centred: their identity

role in determining whether the group was short- or

can be seen as a reflection of their particular leader. On

long-lived. Moreover, the presence of a member of the

the other hand, those organisations that are formally

clergy in the background of every group was a constant

structured have a national or international “organ”

reminder of the purpose of the group, the teaching and

as their point of reference. These may be looked at as

dissemination of God’s teachings.

old-fashioned, while the informal are more dynamic. However, it is clear from the focus groups that formal

There seems to be a sense of moral panic caused by an

organisations have a broader and more programmed

increase in secularised youth outside such religious

formation than the informal organisations, whose

groups. This needs to be interpreted within the context

“meetings” and “talks” are ad hoc and are not

of the dynamics of being a teenager. Whilst it is true

necessarily a part of a general educational or pastoral

that the level of spirituality has declined among youth,


nevertheless individuals, in their coming of age, are in a process of realising who they are and who they

It emanated clearly from the discussions in these

want to be. With the stress of peer pressure as well as

groups that the members of the formal organisations

the continuous emphasis on being seen as ‘cool’, many

are more mature both on the level of personality and

youths are showing opposition to the Church and its

social responsibility as well as on the spiritual level.

traditional doctrine since these are perceived to be seen

However, both types of organisations have a tendency

out of sync with what is fashionable and relevant.

to be more inward- rather than outward-looking. Hence, their impact on society is less effective.



Appendix 1 For office use: Progressiv No

Census Youth and Adolescences 2013 Tick with ✔ where applicable 1. Group/Movement where this form is being filled: 1 2. In which parish do you live at present? 2 3. How old are you? 3 4. Gender: Male Female


5. Status: [Tick one only]





Single living with a partner


Dating Steady / Engaged






Separated and cohabitating with a partner


Annulled and not re-married


Annulled and re-married


Annulled and cohabitating with a partner


Divorced and not re-married


Divorced and re-married


Divorced and cohabitating with a partner



6. Nationality:


7. Presently you are: [You can tick more than one] 3

Full-time student



Part-time student



Full-time employee




Part-time employee



Seeking a full-time job



Seeking a part-time job





8. Your highest level of education at present: [Tick one only] 3

Graduated in __________________________________________________________________










9. If you work full-time, what is your job? 3





I don’t work on a full-time basis


10. If you work part-time, what is your job? 3



I don’t work on a part-time basis

11. Do you consider yourself a member of this group/movement?



Yes, because ___________________________________________________________________


No, because ___________________________________________________________________

12. Do you hold any particular executive role in this group/movement (e.g. president, cashier, leader)? 1





13. How many times have you been present for the last three meetings/activities? [Tick one only] 3

Every time









14. In order of preference, which are the 3 reasons why you attend the religious group/s or movement/s? [1 is the most important and 3 the least important] 3

To meet my friends



To meet people sharing my own values



It helps strengthen my faith



I have nowhere else to go

23 24


To develop my talents


To learn about my religion



With a sense of mission towards the Church



Other: ______________________________________


15. Do you attend any other religious group or movement? 1

Yes, which is/are ____________________________________________________________




 16. From the religious groups/movements that you attend, which one do you prefer? 3



I have no preferences


 17. Apart from attending this group/s and/or movement/s, do you attend or carry out other activities to deepen your faith? [You can tick more than one] 3




Seeking spiritual direction



Attend Mass






Read spiritual/religious books



Reflect on my life



Prayer meeting



Sacrament of Reconciliation



Using the Bible to pray



Personal prayers

39 40




Voluntary work



Other: ______________________________________


18. Activities that you carryout in your free time: [You can tick more than one] 3

Frequently spend time playing computer games



Carry out sports/physical exercise on a regular basis



Practise/participate in arts (e.g. drama, music, painting)



Meet my friends to have fun (e.g. at the disco/bar)



Frequently spend time on social networking sites





19. I attended mass last Sunday 1




20. I attended mass the Sunday before the last 1







21. Have you already participated in this study through another group/movement? 1







Acknowledgements The Archbishop’s Curia Parish Priests and Directors of Religious Congregations Reference persons who helped in the ditribution and collection of the quantitative questionnaire All the groups and movements for their participation Spaces for Focus Groups: MCAST – Paola, St.Aloysius Sports Complex, Dar l-Ewropa and University of Malta Volunteers at Discern The two Councils of KDZ Tony Micallef and Volunteers at the Diocesan Office for Voluntary Work KDZ Staff Discern Staff Data Processing: Joe Aquilina, Claire Attard, Sarah Borg, Saviour Butigieg, Claudine Camilleri, David Mallia, Amanda Muscat, Samuel Sant, Noel Zammit Pawley Data Input: Martha Dimech, Carmen Duca, Valerie Gauci, Christian Grima, Josephine Mifsud, Noel Zammit Pawley Focus Groups Transcriptions: Rebecca Chircop, Joseph Degabriele, Carmen Duca, Kevin Micallef, Josephine Mifsud Proof Reading: Sylvana Butigieg Logo Design: Martina Caruana

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