I have been an active Catholic for most of my life. One of my greatest joys is sitting in church before mass, surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ from under one to over a hundred years of age. They are my Catholic community. I may sometimes feel lonely in my spiritual walk but I know I am never alone!
There are times when I have had the opportunity to visit other spiritual traditions and noted that while some of them also had many young adults in their congregation, others did not. Being a competitive person by nature, I confess that I sometimes felt a smug satisfaction in remembering that a good number of young Catholics still remained in our pews. The presence of young adults provides a community with energy, joy and hope. Sadly, I took their presence for granted; I assumed they would always be there. Now I am not so sure…
Several years later I moved from parish to campus ministry. I knew that often there was a drop in the number of students who practiced their faith from high school to college. However, I grossly underestimated the size of this drop. My university had an enrollment of over 5,000 students, 60% of whom claimed to be Catholic. About one third of these students described themselves as “active” in their faith. With my average math skills, I figured our campus mass should be overflowing with 400-600 students. Ok, that would have been great! However, weekly attendance fluctuated between 50 and 80 students. Obviously my definition of being an “active” Catholic and that of the student’s greatly differed!
The steady decline in young Catholics has been the topic of many discussions from dinner tables to academic halls. St. Mary’s Press recently published the results of a study completed in 2016 on about 1500 young adults who had been Catholic but no longer identified with the Catholic faith. These results were published in, “Going, Going, Gone; The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics.” I would like to look at some of the main findings from this study and open a discussion to what can be done at the parish level to address these issues. Please join me in the upcoming weeks in this important discussion!
Sincerely in Christ,
Pam Gent, Youth Ministry Leader