We’ve all read the stories and heard the anecdotes about youth and young adults losing interest in organized religion, or falling away from a belief in God altogether. And we likely all know at least one young person for whom faith isn’t a big priority, or a priority at all.
It’s not surprising in light of some of the trends observed in the broader population. A poll a few years ago by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., found that the number of American adults who don’t identify with any particular religious group almost doubled since 1990. A growing number of young adults — some 22 percent of those 30 and younger — identified themselves as “nones” when it came to religious affiliation.
Meeting the challenge
Clearly the challenges of evangelism and catechesis are great in today’s largely secular and materialistic culture. But there are reasons to be hopeful, too — a few of which have surfaced in the last few weeks in the archdiocese and that you can read about in this issue of The Catholic Spirit:
• Interest in Archdiocesan Youth Day has soared beyond capacity for the event. Registrations for the Sept. 15 gathering hit the 900-participant mark late last month, with a waiting list of several hundred more high school students.
Much like the international World Youth Days that draw upwards of a million people, the local version will feature prayer, music, speakers and testimonials. Archbishop John Nienstedt also will spend the day with the youth.
• Approximately 550 people, mostly college students, were energized last week by an evening of music and worship sponsored by St. Paul’s Outreach that featured Catholic recording artist Matt Maher at Coffman Union on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
• Also last week, a group of young adults hit the streets for a “Gather4Good” day of service and to learn about the wide breadth of Catholic social teaching.
• Late last month, several thousand youth from across the Midwest traveled to the Steubenville North Youth Conference at the University of St. Thomas.
Giving our support
These events complement the effective work that many parishes, youth ministry groups and organizations such as St. Paul’s Outreach, NET Ministries and Partnership for Youth do every day to reach young people with the Gospel message and the encouragement to be active participants and evangelizers in the church.
We need to affirm and support these events and ministries to young people with our voices and our pocketbooks. And we need to continue to reach out to and involve teens whose faith is energized by events like World Youth Day and Archdiocesan Youth Day and who are looking to share that energy when they return home through youth groups, regular youth Masses and invitations to other worship and service activities.
The theme for Archdiocesan Youth Day is “Reason for Hope.” There is much to hope for regarding the future of our church when today’s youth are engaged in ways that deepen their faith, give them purpose and motivate them to evangelize their peers — changing their hearts as well as some of those less-than-hopeful poll results we have read in the past.