I was a bit disheartened to read a recent article published by Our Sunday Visitor written by CARA researcher Mary Gray in which he explains reasons why so many Millennials are no longer practicing Catholics.
Based on analysis from two different studies the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) conducted, they found such things as:
> the typical age for this decision to leave was made at 13.
> 63 percent said they stopped being Catholic between the ages of 10 and 17.
> Another 23 percent say they left the Faith before the age of 10.
I am well aware of the "rise of the nones" as the largest growing religious "label" in the US lately, and that many young adults who leave don't come back as was once believed (once they marry or once they have kids... they'll be back to Church, many would say.) And I have seen high school youth ministry programs shrink in size over the past two decades. There are have been many guesses why and I've seen families shift focus from religious activities to time-intensive extra-curriculars for the kids (i.e. seasonal sports now include year-round commitments with weightlifting, training camps and ongoing practices.... musical and dance groups have increased rehearsals and competitions... speech and debate now is most of the school year... and so on.)
But this was the first time I have reflected on nearly a fourth of young people saying they "checked out" of the faith by 4th or 5th grade (yes, read that age 10 bit above again.... and let that sink in...)
(See article at: https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/PapalVisit/Articles/Article/TabId/2727/ArtMID/20933/ArticleID/20512/Young-people-are-leaving-the-faith-Heres-why.aspx)
Searching for answers, I read:
<<important to their decision to leave:
that they had stopped believing in what the Catholic Church teaches,
and that they did not like the Catholic Church’s rules and judgmental approach. >>
OK, those facts are not new...
we often spend time in youth ministries 'defending the faith' and correcting misunderstandings.
What was new was a clearer explanation on how young people understand science to be in contrast to Catholic teachings.... this gave me a sense of hope, however.
Young people must hear and see how Catholicism and science cant co-exist....
that gives some clues on ways we may be able to turn around this trend of leaving!
1. We can begin to better educate our catechists, volunteers and core team members on the Church's teaching on MANY of the scientific theories.
“‘Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 159).
2. We can include intercessory prayers to patron saints of the scientific fields
Here are just a few I found with a quick Google search:
Albertus Magnus/Albert the Great – natural scientists, scientists, biology, chemistry,
Barbara - mathematicians, geoscientist
Cosmas – doctors, pharmacists, surgeons,
Damian – doctors, pharmacists, surgeons,
Dominic de Guzman - scientists
Dymphna – mental health professionals, psychiatrists,
Hubert of Liege - mathematicians
Isidore of Seville – computer scientists,
Joseph of Cupertino – astronauts,
Rebekah – physicists
(Challenge the youth to find the patron saint of a certain area... could be fun online or book research project.)
Here is a prayer I found that may come in handy:
O Divine Creator,
Saint Albert was a bishop
who introduced Greek and Arabic science to medieval Europe,
raising understanding of botany,
biology, physics, and other studies of nature.
A scientist himself,
he wrote many books on these subjects.
I ask him to pray for all scientists today,
for their talents to be used
to promote life rather than to destroy it,
for elusive cures to be found,
and for the moral use of the discoveries
that they have already made.
O Lord, fill them with Your Holy Spirit
to guide them into understanding
and respecting that You are the Author
and Master of all creation.
pray for us.
3. We can highlight the many Catholic scientists who have contributed greatly to the various fields of study.
(Another research endeavor for the teens!)
4. We can recruit more Catholics working in scientific fields to be involved with our ministries -- as catechists, volunteers and core team members or at least as guest speakers (talking about how their faith and their work co-exist and perhaps nurture each other!)
What other ideas can you think of?
I'd love for us to pray and work together to try to stop this trend for the current
and next generations of young people.
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.