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.
This question was asked at the workshop "Confirming Young Disciples" by the Center for Ministry Development:
What do you HOPE for young people who are being prepared for Confirmation?
How would YOU answer this question?
(Please, post in the comments section below)
Do we ask our Confirmation team members this each year?
Do we ask parents this?
Do we ask sponsors this?
Hey, what about the candidates themselves....
what kinds of answers do you think they might give?
Perhaps they will surprise us.
In any event, I love the simplicity of the question
and the possibilities of where the responses can take us.
Below, in no particular order are the responses we listed on post-its at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Vienna, Ohio (Diocese of Youngstown, February 19, 2014):
- that they become saints
- alive in love of Jesus in the Gospel
- enlightens them to give the gifts they are given
- continue their growth in their faith
- become true disciples/share their faith
- they become 'alive' in their faith and 'present'
- celebrates the faith that has begun in them
- continue to grow in their faith
- engages us to our community
- calls us to be active in our relationship with God
- they will always have questions & that they are willing to ask the questions, not walk away
- to give life to their faith
- a Personal Pentecost that unites us to the original Pentecost and the living Body of Christ
- empowering them to live as Catholics
- zeal to continue to learn and grow in their faith
- that they come to love Jesus
- open to see God working in their life
- open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their life
- stay thirty (keep pursuing God)
- good examples
- increase in JOY in the Lord
- openness to Holy Spirit in regards to their future
- ownership in Church (participation in life of Church)
- live faith in all parts of life
- they are reborn in openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in them
- strengthen relationships (youth, sponsors, parents)
- loving relationship with Jesus Christ
- model Christ to others
- connection to the Church and parish community
- willingness to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ
- attending Mass on a regular basis
- ACTIVE, not passive
- NOT graduation
- participation in ministry
- see the value of the experience of enrichment: they WANT it, not their parents
- connection to Baptism - understand renewal of those promises and take ownership of it
- they become involved in parish ministries
- they appreciate the gifts and graces that have been strengthened by the Holy Spirit
- they live out their faith
- they come with an open mind to the Sacrament
- they "fall in love" with Jesus
- that they "use" the gifts of the Holy Spirit and produce the fruits
- that they be fully engaged in the Catholic Church
- they become "on fire" in their faith
- live faith in ALL parts of their life
- that they are still practicing Catholics 20 years from now!
Whew, what a list -- of course, we have a lot of hopes and dreams for our youth...and hopefully we step forward in faith to journey with and guide them by living lives of Christian witness!
Come Holy Spirit!
How many young people were confirmed at your parish this year? Last year? The year before that?
How many of these teens are currently active in the parish?
If your answer wasn't "all of them" or 80%, or even 50%, I hope you wonder: what is going on? These young people spent time learning about their Baptismal promises and have been equiped with the gifts of the Holy Spirit -- we need them to be active in our faith communities!
While not yet fully "adult" in some ways, there are MANY ways they can offer their gifts in service to our Church. Liturgical ministries like lector, serving, music and ushers/ministers of hospitality should be open to them. Assisting with catechetical ministries like VBS, CCD, and peer ministries may appeal to several of them. Social action and justice efforts can use their energies. And, of course, all aspects of youth ministry should be welcoming them!
Also, the young people need the Church as they undergo some of the most confusing moments of their lives in regards to establishing their personal identities, negotiating family and romantic relationships, discerning future plans, and surviving the stresses of high school (bullying, popularity, peer pressures, homework, practices/rehearsals, and so on.)
The Catholic Faith has answers to many of their pressing questions....
we have strategies to get through the rough times...
we have decision-making tools to share...
and we have potential mentors to live as disciples of Jesus in a world
desperately in need of them!
This summer, why not take some time with your team to plan ways to reach out to these recent-confimands to personally invite them to be part of the faith community now as fully-initiated members? Get them to some summer youth ministry events and shower them with the love of God so that they will want to return and be involved.
Also, begin planning for the next Confirmation Preparation program. It should lead not only to the Sacrament, but to involvement and engagement in the faith community after the celebration. Far too many youth and their parents see Confirmation as graduation from religious education...
do we add to that mentality?
Or do we see it as an exciting springboard for youth ministry opportunities?
May we allow the Holy Spirit to work with us and through us.
Pardon my liberties with this prayer:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful youth ministers
and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and
connections for our recent Confirmands shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of our parish.
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.