The Importance of Young Adults in the Catholic Church May 6, 2010, St.

Albert Cardinal Newman – who is expected to be declared a “blessed” this fall – one step closer to being named a saint – was once asked what he thought about lay people, the nonordained, people in the pews – so to speak. He responded that we priests, "Would look rather silly without them, wouldn’t we?" Celebrating Mass – with no one in the congregation. Preaching – without anyone to listen to us. It’s the same when it comes to young people in the Catholic Church. Often people refer to the young as the future of the Church. But we know that they are both the future and the present and without the “young” – we’d all look rather silly. Without the young – we would be missing generations of people from our Church – especially the generations known as Generation X and the Millennial Generation. Gen X comprises 51 million Americans born between 1965 and 1976. The Millennial Generation is made up of 75 million born between 1977 and 1998 – this is my own generation since I was born in the final weeks of 1979. Unfortunately, when I am praying the Mass and look out at the congregation, I don’t always see many Gen Xers or Millennials. But those that I DO see, are a great source of joy for me – to see you living out your faith, your vocations. This evening I would like to discuss the challenges and promise that young people present for the Church and in the Church. And here I mean not only young adults like us, but also those a bit younger – college students and high school students whom I minister to through my teaching and chaplain duties. First, a consideration – Who are the youth? The Church defines youth in a different way than most. We, of course, live in a society which is always trying to age us – almost tries to end childhood early, by beginning everything earlier – sports, school. Society teaches children to want to wear adult clothes, get your ears pierced – whatever – to show you are an adult and mature. But without promoting immaturity, the Church says – hold on, wait – let children be children, youthfulness should be cultivated, not obliterated. And so the Church considers us “youth” till we are 40 – which is actually backed up by science which says are brains continue to develop into our 30s. So even at age 30, I have some time left as a “youth.” A second consideration – It is easy to become pessimistic about “youth” in the Church. Almost as if to echo the standard “O kids, these days!” But there is certainly as much “promise” in the youth of our Church as there is “challenge.”

” And my own study of Catholic participation among my students shows an impressive level of desire to practice the faith in the future and raise their children in that faith. while only 20% of younger Catholics attend every week. Challenge: Spiritual but not Religious? Yes and No Nearly 2 in 3 Catholic Millennials see themselves as at least somewhat more “spiritual” than “religious. So the students who attend infrequently or not at all are certainly in the minority. . those in their 70s and 80s attend Mass in the highest numbers – over 50% of Catholics attending every week. So the most significant indicator of future religious participation is current participation. there is a silver lining to these statistics – which is that young adult Catholics have the lowest number of Catholics who never attend Mass (15%). Of those who attend infrequently. A significant number of the men studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese went through a time when they were not practicing Catholics.So let’s talk about a few promising trends and a few challenging realities -Challenge: Connection to the Mass and the Sacraments If we were to age an average Catholic congregation by 20 or 30 years – it would be disturbing to find less and less attending Mass. I developed an anonymous survey which I gave to all my students. However. Those in their 50s and 60s attend every week at a rate of just less than 40%. 73% plan to practice their faith in the future. A very significant number report attending from several times several times per year to several times a month. At the present time. Of those who attend Mass each week (some of course by force!) – 85% plan to practice their faith in college and beyond. In short – young adults often return later in life. This indicates to me that those who attend Mass in high school even if it is required by mom and dad as it often is – are doing their children a favor. However. The survey showed that almost half of my students attend Mass each Sunday and another 25% at least half of the Sundays of the month. I wanted to get a sense of their religious participation. When I began teaching high school seniors. Of those who attend a few times a month. about 50%. 55% of practicing Catholics see themselves as more “religious. We know that many young adult Catholics stop attending Mass when they go off to college and are on their own for the first time. many return to the faith of their childhood when they begin their own families. And their children see the point of Mass and the sacraments and their faith enough at least to desire to practice that faith in the future.” On the other hand.

These are higher numbers than found among their parents’ generation. Within the Young Adult Generation." In comparison. Promise: Interest in Charity and Justice Young Adult Catholics are more likely than members of the older three generations to say that feeling welcome and opportunities to help the poor and needy would increase their participation in parish life. technology.the generation between 18 and 29 years of age -.were willing to affirm the statement." Moral relativism especially seen in terms of premarital sex. Catholics in their 20s are more likely than Young Adults in their 30s to desire more opportunities to help the poor and needy. while 63% say the same of euthanasia. . . etc. Older American Catholics were also more willing to embrace moral relativism than were other Americans. In my own Catholic Social Teaching course . 2010 study showed. to embrace the best of the old with the best of the new (devotions. community).54 percent -.Promise: Sense of “Right” especially regarding Life Issues 66% of Catholic Millennials say abortion is morally wrong. Promise: Desire to Know the Faith Young Adult Catholics are actually more likely than Vatican II Catholics to say that learning more about the Catholic faith is “very important” to them (45 percent compared to 33 percent). cohabitation. March for Life . education. nearly 2 in 3 (65%) Millenial Catholics are very interested or somewhat interested in learning more about their faith. gay marriage. What Has Worked: Theology on Tap/World Youth Day/Catholic education Communal Sacramental Service So what is our role? – to live out our vocations faithfully. However. a majority of practicing Catholics in the survey -. there is no definite right and wrong for everybody. to be creative and not stagnant – importance of Fellowship of Young Adult Catholics . 64 percent of other Millennials affirmed that statement. Challenge: Moral Relativism An overwhelming 82 percent of Catholic Millennials -.agreed with this statement: "Morals are relative. . at the rate of 63 percent compared with 56 percent. "Morals are fixed and based on unchanging standards. .