Where’s The Hemorrhage?

CNS has young Catholics on its radar today as likely to be inactive and falling away from their practice of the faith. Father John Cusick, “father” of Theology on Tap:

“If Catholic youth ministry is so good, where are all the young adults? They’re missing in action,” he said. “For the moment (in their teens), they have a good sense of church, but then they fall off the end of the table.”

My contention is that the teen sense of church isn’t so good as he thinks. In my neighborhood, I see kids falling off the end of the table when they go to Catholic high school. Local pastors think they’re getting a good deal from $8-10K per year Catholic high schools dotting our region. So pretty much nobody in our deanery has a youth ministry.

My observation is that Mass attendance starts dipping after second grade and by the time we hit middle school, has fallen through the floor. The table isn’t even in sight. Catholic high schools cultivate their own culture, and kids are attracted to sports and other activities a parish can’t provide. My pastor doesn’t like to hear it, but the Catholic high schools are killing our parishes on the young adult front. We lose them young and we scramble like mad to get back a fraction of the defectors.

Cusick is right that an outreach is needed to catch the lost generation, Catholics between age 12 and 25. And he’s nailed liturgy’s Big Three:

Meeting the liturgical needs of today’s young adults will require parishes to improve the quality of preaching, hospitality and music, he said.

“Don’t say, ‘As we read in today’s Gospel.’ I heard it the first time. Tell me how it works in my life. Young adults hunger for a Gospel that works for them on Monday morning when they go to work,” the priest declared.

A good medical treatment is predicated on an accurate diagnosis. It’s not very PC to criticize Catholic schools, but where are my parish’s 320 teens? Especially now that Confirmation’s three weeks past.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Where’s The Hemorrhage?

  1. Gavin says:

    I think out of that big 3 that “hospitality” is the most important. Every young Catholic knows church is for “old people”, from the aged at daily Mass to the boomers doing the music, to the same families that won’t let anyone else do “their” job of EMHC. And by hospitality to young adults, I don’t mean some boomer pretending to be “hip” by telling them stories about smoking pot in the 60s and using buzzwords from the 90s. I mean putting young adults on the same level as other adults: encourage them to liturgical ministries; have special times of adoration or rosary recitation for them; “youth vespers”, stuff like that. Give them opportunities to be with those their age, but doing the same kinds of things older people do. At my confirmation, I was told that it meant I was an “adult” in the church. And yet I was never told I could do anything adult or given the option. All our adulthood meant is we went to another level of CCD.

    The other dynamic at work is people 12-25 just aren’t as devout as others. They’re questioning, not interested, more attracted by sins, you name it. It’s always been that way. But on top of that, those who ARE devout, or at least attend Mass, tend to flock together. Why are all the teens gone from your parish? Because all the kids at your local high school are going to some other parish. I saw it happen with mine, kids who went to Mass went to Holy Redeemer. That’s a difficult dynamic to change, but I’m more of the mind to work with the kids you have rather than try to attract ones you can’t.

  2. Anne says:

    “I mean putting young adults on the same level as other adults: encourage them to liturgical ministries; have special times of adoration or rosary recitation for them; “youth vespers”, stuff like that.”

    Where I come from that would be a turn off….Yes, encourage ministries. However, the other things you mention are not the “adult” things they want from their parishes. They also want to be ministered “to”… (even if they don’t use those words). Those involved in preparing liturgies, especially homilists should keep that in mind. Our parishes need to develope comprehensive youth ministry programs. This means having a whole new mindset in regards to forming our youth and keeping them involved in parish life. Youth ministry based on the social aspect is fun but it takes more than that for our kids to understand what the church is about and have a desire to stay.

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