Week Five: Issue(s) with the Church
“Half measures” by Elizabeth Hillgrove
“Going to the Mattresses: One Girl’s Take on Faith and Feelings” by Julie Robison
This is the fifth blog post in a series from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!
The Church’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
In my worst moments, I’ve been known to echo Kanye West, and assert this completely stupid statement: The Church doesn’t care about young people. Now, I’m not talking about the youth. There are plenty of youth groups, programs, fashion shows, Father-Son Lunches, and Mother-Daughter Teas geared towards bringing teens up in the faith. I’m not talking about kids. Religious Education programs and Vacation Bible Schools for children do pretty well and are popular. I’m talking about young adults. People in their twenties and thirties.
What leads me to speak so stupidly? I see a self-fulfilling prophecy in action: Young Adults (in this case meaning the majority of Confirmed Young Adult Catholics) don’t participate in Church events…so the Church doesn’t hold events for Young Adults…so no Young Adults participate in Church events.
It seems like the Church has accepted defeat in holding onto her flock. “Oh, those young adults, we don’t see ’em til they get married and have kids. And even then, only every once in a while!” I’m tired of hearing this. In accepting defeat, we are accepting the possibility of mortal sin and allowing the evils of this world to snatch up our beloved friends and family. Twenties and thirties is the time to continue formation. It’s when the ills of this world – sex outside of marriage, addiction to pornography, disregard for the Sacraments, etc. – have the chance to tunnel into souls. Evil flourishes as the Church (seemingly) sits on her heels and says, “Oh well, we wouldn’t have reached them anyway.”
And why couldn’t we reach them? Because there is no community. Most parishes don’t hold Young Adult groups, or if they do, they are often suspiciously filled with the same people you find in the Adult Faith Formation Group. Every practicing Young Adult Catholic I know has funny stories about being the youngest person in the room by at least 20 years for a parish mission or Catholic organization.
“Catholic Daughters of America?” one woman asked. “Should be Catholic Great-Great-Grandmothers,” she quipped, making me laugh.
The one or two programs run by the Diocese are usually held once a month, which is not enough time to form community. When Young Adults (if they’re blessed enough to find each other) try to organize on their own, many parishes turn them away, unable to support them because they’re not parish organizations. The groups have a short shelf life on their own, and then…poof….they’re gone.
And I’m left scratching my head. What was the point of Religious Education and Youth Groups, then? Why build a faith community for youth and then stop it when we are young adults, when we need it the most? Why are we surprised when Young Adults don’t show up to Mass? Or have an elementary understanding of the Sacraments? Or live lives contrary to Church teachings? If the Church cares for us, why isn’t she seeking us and supporting us? Why is she content to have the majority of her flock lost? Why must it be such a struggle for Young Adult Catholics to find each other?
We need to stop this self-fulfilling prophecy. If we want Young Adults in the Church, we have to stop accepting defeat and begin to actively look for Young Adults. Social media needs to be embraced on the parish level. Websites need to be kept updated and relevant. If parishes can’t support groups, the least they can do is help get the word out through the parish bulletin. Small groups must be given time and space so that community can grow. If we do this, slowly but surely, we will attract Young Adults back to the Church.