Keeping and Losing

Leonardo DeLorenzo leads off his essay on the NDCLJ:

A few years ago, I was asked to write an article about how young people going to college could “keep their faith.” The topic gnawed at me but I could not immediately figure out why.

Just reading it rankles me because it misses the boat. When I was at Iowa State’s Catholic campus ministry, I knew that out of 34,000 undergraduates, 8,000 would admit some affiliation with Roman Catholicism on their university documents. Our registered student parishioners numbered about 800. Our best estimates on “associates,” or young people who came on the #1 feast, Ash Wednesday, or its companion Fall semester feast, Parents’ Weekend, was another eight-hundred.

My premise is that the exit sacrament these days is First Communion. At least it’s more of an exit for the 80-90 percent who decline any association by the college years. Catholics who still identify as such at university orientation and leave? Relative peanuts. Just finance campus ministry generously and leave it to competent parishes and chapels on or near campus. Parents worried about CRT or LGBTQ or cohabiting? Forget about it. I’d take your kids to Sunday Mass and other events from age 2 or so. That’s the best thing any of you can do.

Professor DeLorenzo’s article is worth reading.

We do aim far, far too low in the matters of evangelizing and what we do with “members” once we have them. One problem is to think of church populations as “membership.” It continues the image that all you have to do to be a good Catholic (or Christian of any flavor) is a membership card. The intentionality we see in religious life, in Muslims who pray five times daily, in small groups and base communities, in the charismatic renewal–this is what is needed. Not every baptized person needs any one of those. But they do need something like one of them. The alternative? How do you feel about the heady days when we retained ten percent of people who actually admitted they were Catholic? Anybody for a 2% solution?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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