These reports should be studied and pondered, not just in chanceries -- but in parishes and seminaries as well.
The fact of the matter is, despite the great influx of Hispanics (where evangelization, discipleship, catechesis and retention are huge issues, especially with the second and third generations), the Catholic Church is losing the next generation. Big time.
In my own anecdotal experience working with young adults, all of whom were involved in the campus ministry I once worked at:
- A group of friends, very involved in the campus ministry, who I was close to in grad school. Of these 8 or so, only 1 is still an active, practicing Catholic. This one also spent some time at Falwell's Liberty U., and when she came back to the Catholic Church, the experience of Liberty only served to ground her more in the Church, ironically.
- Another active student now at a major law school. "I know the Church should be a part of my life. But ... Sunday rolls around ... and I just can't seem to make it. And the campus ministry here doesn't seem to have much for Law students."
- A recent conversation.. "Well, I last went to Mass at ... oh shoot, I didn't even make it on Easter. I know dude. But you know what it is ... everything is so darn far away. And gas prices being what they are, it's a huge deterrent. Going to a parish where everyone is decades older, where there's no community. When I could get to the Cathedral that was awesome -- they have an active young adult group. But it's 25 miles away now."
- A contretemps with a once faithful Catholic, who's marrying a non-Catholic. I can't go into details, but they decided not to marry in the Church. "When I called the church [a Cathedral somewhere in the South], they were like, 'Oh ok. We'll send you your deposit back, minus the administrative fee.' They didn't seem to mind that I wasn't getting married in the church. No questions asked, nothing. No attempt made to find out what happened. It's a god-d--- business is what it is. That's it."
- A few years back, another student, who was leaving to go overseas on work for the Federal Government, had to move ahead his marriage date. His experience at the local parish almost made him leave the Church. "Envelope #? Where's that in the Bible? All they seemed to care about was making sure I gave them enough money!"
- A recent experience with teens on retreat. All enthusiastic kids, from church-going families. Their level of catechesis? Abysmal. Depressingly so.
And, as far as I'm concerned, that's where we focus. Or at least, that's where I think I'm being called to focus, as I continue my journey towards the priesthood: discipleship.
Great discussion on the Pew report at Inside Catholic.
Amy, with her insightful stuff.
Sherry Wadell's research at Intentional Disciples.