I acknowledge that this particular aspect is a problem. I may have gone to Catholic school for most of my life, but not all the friends and classmates I knew stayed with the Church. And while there is a young adult group at my local parish, I am not able to participate in it because I have a prior commitment to teaching second graders Catechism every Wednesday night and don’t want to spread myself too thin.
However, I do give my time to young adult retreats in my diocese and have attended some retreats in the past few years. Every time I volunteered at or attended a retreat, I saw a lot of young Catholic faces, some from high school and others from college and others like me who are figuring out what to do next with our lives.
While young adult participation in local churches is definitely a problem, it’s hard to say that there’s a lack of young adults in the Church as a whole when I saw thousands of them in the EWTN coverage of the March for Life and saw these pictures on my Instagram feed.I think that the Catholic faith is alive and well in the young adult community. But you don’t have to take my word for it! I asked around the interwebs for opinions from my fellow Catholic young adults and here’s what they have to say.
“I think that a lack of participation does exist. Not everyone who is confirmed does stay with the Church during their teen and young adult years, and some may not ever come back. Even though this exists, there is still a great percentage of young adults who participate fully in their parishes and events as such. Since I go to Franciscan, a faithfully Catholic university, I see the young adult church at its strongest. Personally, when I am not at school, I stay actively involved with Choir at mass, our Festivals of Praise, and actively volunteer with our youth ministry. I have many friends that do the same and love and live their faith as much as I do. Some events and such may not be attended by young adults for many reasons: school/college, prior commitments, or other events. The current society also downplays the importance of religion in daily lives, so once Catholics receive all of their sacraments, they may choose to never go to Mass or any religious event again simply because it isn’t ‘cool’ or a norm of society. The foundations of a strong young adult ministry begins, I believe, with a strong youth foundation through high school. And a young adult community must be willing to “keep up with the times” in a sense. The YA ministry at my parish hosts a Theology On Tap program at a local pub. I have bounced between parishes and the parishes that I have seen with a strong YA ministry are those with good youth programs that want to make them come back and be interested in their faith.”- Ashley B., 19, Wayne, PA
“Some of my friends who have left the Catholic faith did so simply because they were lazy, and the root of the problem is that they don’t see the practice of faith as important anymore. My friends who are daily or weekly Mass-goers practice the Catholic faith because they find it enriching to their lives. Yes, young people are leaving, but those who stay do so because they genuinely want to, and they’re the ones who will build the future Church.”- Justin B, , 19, Hong Kong, China
“There are young people who do say that no one ask them to step up when it comes to the church. Therefore they feel like they cannot contribute to the ideas that older people have. the church does need young people. they have to take the first step in saying ‘What can I do for my parish?'”- Julie C., 26, Houston, TX
“In many churches, there’s not much for the young adults. They don’t have any way to get together and talk about their faith. I really feel like if many churches had events for young adults or even had a mass for young adults once in a while, that there would me more involvement. I try to get involved in many of the events for the youth and I’ve tried to help volunteer as well. like for example, last year I was one of the team members for life teen. I’m also thinking about helping out with children’s liturgy. And for me, I feel like I’ve become stronger in my faith since being in college. I went to a Catholic grade school and high school, so while it was good to have that religious education, I feel that I got so much more out of it when I was on my own and had to make my own decisions. It just seemed right to me to continue being Catholic, which also caused me to want to learn more about being Catholic.”- Shalei B, 23, Indianapolis, IN
“Young adults are here. We have so much to give. We have so much to say. The Catholic Church is our foundation but we are underutilized. Parish communities have abandoned us just because of our age. We don’t want the monotony of living out our 20’s going crazy, so invite us in because we want to come home.”- Ally G, , 21, Katy, TX
“I think that young adults who aren’t participating should be encouraged to find avenues within the church that align with their interest, whether that be art, service, social justice, education, etc. I enjoy doing service events and contributing to area food shelters or pregnancy centers when possible.” – Mercedes V., 22, Maryland
“I think there are multiple reasons that young adults seem to be missing and that has to do with the church encouragement and our society. Our society now tells us that its all about us and we can do what we want without consequences. I see many non-Catholics and even Catholics who are trapped in the party scene. Partying, alcohol, and smoking and other drugs are what’s important to the 18-22 yr old and some don’t grow out of it. This is not true for all, but our society tells us it is. Also going off of the growing up nowadays, it seems we don’t have to until our 30s, which is part of the young adults age group. When you turn 18, you’re suddenly an adult with responsibilities. Many high schoolers aren’t mature enough and they’re okay with it because society says we’re not capable of better.”- Illyana M, 20, Keller, TX
“I would say look at New Catholic Generation, look at the Stuebenville conferences, look at Catholic social media accounts such as @catholic_teen_posts on Instagram. The youth of the Church is really active on social media. That’s where I got my start, particularly on Twitter.” – @cathlete4christ, 18, Denver, CO
“On the one hand I am constantly engaging with young adults who are actively participating in the life of the Church, young people who are generous with their time and talents, who courageously follow Christ, are nourished by the cycles, sacraments, and community of the Church, and try to live and spread the message of the Church in society. On the other hand it seems that many young adults are also leaving or falling away from the Church. I don’t know if this is so much because they aren’t participating enough, but because the Church hasn’t reached or connected with them enough. Most young adults don’t stop participating abruptly but slowly slip away. Perhaps they get caught up in their lifestyle’s, or they disagree with aspects of the Church’s teaching, have been hurt, disheartened, or just didn’t really feel like they connected/ belonged.” – Eliza M., 23, Perth, Australia
“You can’t force people to go to Church. You have to invite them to it, not force them. They have to come out of free will to open their heart to Jesus and get interested or they will fade away from it to look for something else to fill their craving.” – Matt F., 28, Houston, TX
“One of the most attractive parts of Catholicism, in my opinion, is the tradition. The unchanging faith and morals to hang on to in this rapidly changing society. I know I am not the only young adult who thinks this way either. I remember my first Traditional Latin Mass, when the procession started along with chant and church bells, I started crying because it was as if I’d just entered heaven and the angels were singing. This difference, this archaic tradition brings you out of modern day life and reminds you of what’s really important. In our effort to bring people up to heaven, we shouldn’t be trying to bring heaven down so that it will be more relateable. At my parish, people of all ages come; we usually have 10 altar boys, give or take, ranging from around 10 to in their 20s.” – Mary B., 16, Calgary, Canada
“It is unfortunate that many Catholic youth aren’t participating, but there are so many that are on fire for their faith. I have hope that this generation can be groundbreaking for the Church. I myself converted as a high schooler and I’ve watched 4 kids be drawn to it and go through RCIA or are currently going through RCIA. The Church is attracting so many kids. It’s truly remarkable. Youth ministry makes a huge impact. If it weren’t for youth ministry and the power of the Mass and Adoration I never would have converted.”- Gabby G., 18, Edwardsville, IL