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Issue Date:  March 25, 2005

Parishes urged to do more for young adults

Catholic News Service

Young adult Catholics say they want to be involved in the church and learn more about their faith, but speakers at a February symposium expressed concern that Catholics in their 20s and 30s are often not getting their needs met at their local parishes.

Katherine DeVries, associate director for young adult ministry in the Chicago archdiocese, said that many of these young adults have huge responsibilities in their professional lives, yet they come to church and end up “feeling like a kid.”

DeVries, one of the speakers at The Catholic University of America’s Life Cycle Institute Feb. 18 in Washington, pointed out that Catholics in this age group represent “a leadership base that we’re not tapping into.”

To change this, she suggested that parish leaders take an inventory of the involvement by young adults, and in areas where there is a limited or nonexistent young adult presence, she said, they should examine what the reasons for that might be. For example, obstacles to young adults’ participation in parish life include meetings scheduled during the day and nonflexible time slots for ministries, she said.

Diane Guy, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and director of young adult ministry in the Richmond, Va., diocese, emphasized the importance of catechesis, pointing out that this generation of young adults did not get enough “conscience formation” and needs to understand basic elements of the Catholic faith, such as symbols of the Mass.

There are other gaps in young adults’ faith knowledge, according to William Dinges, a professor of religious studies at Catholic University and a member of the Life Cycle Institute. He noted that 57 percent of young adults, according to one survey, had never even heard of the Second Vatican Council. Dinges, one of the authors of Young Adult Catholics: Religion in the Culture of Choice, published in 2001, noted that this age group “has a vague idea of the need to do something for the poor” but lacks the ability to articulate this based on knowledge of Catholic social teaching.

On the plus side, he said, today’s young adult Catholics “are not alienated from the church in the way baby boomers might be.”

Dinges and the other speakers were quick to point out how this age group is clearly willing to learn, hence the popularity of successful programs such as Theology on Tap, an initiative in many dioceses that reaches out to young people by bringing reflections on faith and scripture to local taverns.

Guy also noted that older Catholics need to acknowledge the “poor religious education” many younger Catholics received and “take responsibility” for getting them caught up.

National Catholic Reporter, March 25, 2005

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