UNITED STATES PRIESTS’ VIEWS

ON MINISTRY TO

YOUNG PEOPLE, THEIR FAITH,

AND VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT:

A PRIESTS’ PASTORAL VOICE OF HOPE AND JOY

WITHIN OUR PILGRIM CHURCH

 

A report from

the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP),

including a report from the National Catholic Office for the Deaf,

based on a Survey of priests and others in the U.S.

and their responses to 11 of the questions

prepared by the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops

in anticipation of the 2018 Synod

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018©AUSCP
Association of U.S. Catholic Priests
200 St. Francis Avenue, Tiffin, Ohio, 44883-3458, USA
872-250-5862
www.uscatholicpriests.org

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Introduction                                                                                                                                                                                                             Page 3

 

Survey Results                                                                                                                                                                                                         Page 3

                  A. 11 QUESTIONS CHOSEN FOR THE SURVEY                                                                                                                       Page 3

                  

                  B. READING THE STATISTICAL AND QUALITATIVE SYNOPSIS BELOW                                                                   Page 4

 

Data & Comments for Each of 11 Questions                                                                                                                                         Pages 5-23

 

    1.  Identify 2 positive things Young Persons can offer church and/or society.                                                       Pages 5-6

    2.  Identify items you consider major challenges Young Persons currently face in your community.   Pages 7-8

    3.  What Groups, Programs or Experiences are best in your area at engaging Young Persons?                                  Pages 9-10

    4.  Name one major lesson you have learned from the success of the Young Persons oriented                                Pages 11-12

programs you have experienced.

    5.  Name 2-3 factors that you see causing Young Persons to drift away from the Church.                            Pages 13-14

    6.  Name one or two ways that you have found effective in inviting and/or engaging Young People     Pages 15-16

who are not frequent participants.

    7.  Name 2-3 ways you would most like to see Young Persons involved in parish life.                                                       Page 17   
     8.  What can the Church, families, schools and Catholic organizations best do to assist Young
                  Persons in discerning major life decisions?                                                                                                                     Pages 18-19

    9.  Identify/Suggest some ways that churches can effectively reach out to Young Persons                         Page 20

not involved.

  10.  Has your ministry with Young Persons been changed by the cultural changes caused by the           Page 21

digital world?

  11.  In a secularized world, what pastoral activities after the Sacraments of Initiation are most                             Pages 22-23

effective for helping Young Person's continue their life journey of faith?

 

Report from the Deaf Community                                                                                                                                                              Pages 24

 

Committee Comment                                                                                                                                                                                        Pages 25-26

 

Limitations                                                                                                                                                                                                                Page 26

 

 

 

 

AUSCP Youth Synod Committee Members

 

 

Fr. Robert Beirne, Diocese of Providence - Co-Chair

Fr. John Stabeno, Diocese of Camden – Co-Chair

Fr. Bernard R. Bonnot, Diocese of Youngstown

Fr. Norman Supancheck, Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Fr. Frank Wright SMA, Chaplain, Gallaudet University

Fr. Joseph Ziliak, Diocese of Evansville

 

With:

Fr. Shawn Carey: President NCOD, Archdiocese of Boston

Fr. Frank Wright SMA: Chaplain, Gallaudet University

Ms. Laureen Lynch-Ryan, Vice President, NCOD

 

 

Report Editor, AUSCP Board Chair, Bernard R. Bonnot,Ph.D., S.T.L., M.A.R.S., M.A.

 

INTRODUCTION

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) counts nearly 1200 Member priests, all in good standing, from 142 U.S. dioceses and 34 religious communities and enjoys support from over 120 Friends (lay persons and deacons who choose to associate with AUSCP’s mission and work). 

 

AUSCP’s Vision is to be a pastoral priestly voice of hope and joy within our pilgrim church and world.  AUSCP’s Mission is to pursue that Vision by 

offering mutual support and a collegial voice,

through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action 

on issues affecting Church and world.

 

This report is one way we raise our pastoral voice within our church. It is a fruit of our collaborative work. We present it as a contribution to the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernmentconvened by Pope Francis. AUSCP prepared a similar report for the 2015 Synod on the Family. The delegation of U.S. bishops to that Synod as well as several Vatican dicasteries received that report with appreciation. That reception motivated us to prepare and submit this report.

ORIGIN OF REPORT, SURVEY INSTRUMENT USED, AND RESPONDENTS

 

The 2017national AUSCP Assembly held in Atlanta, Georgia adopted a proposal that the Association should prepare a report reflecting priests’ views for the 2018 Synod. In keeping with AUSCP’s mode of implementing affirmed proposals, an Ad Hoc Committee of 7 members was established. The Committee used the Vatican’s Synod Office survey questions as the basis of its work. It reviewed all the questions proposed and selected 11 that seemed most pertinent for priests and AUSCP Friends to address. 

 

The Committee prepared a SurveyMonkey instrument using 11 Synod questions followed by four for demographic information. The instrument was distributed to over 1229 persons – mostly AUSCP members and other priests as well as AUSCP Friends. Responses from 289 individuals were received, a respectable 23.5% return. The demographic data 

provides the following:

·      255 of the respondents are priests, 34 are Friends

·      240 of the 255 priests were ordained from 1951 through 2015, at least one from every year except 1991

·      222 of the 255 or 87% identify as diocesan priests from 89 identified dioceses

·      33 of the 255 or 13% identify as religious priests from 18 distinct religious communities

·      34 of the 289 or 11.8% of the total are Friends and others.

The survey included members of the Deaf community and a specific report from their participation.

 

SURVEY RESULTS

A. QUESTIONS CHOSEN FOR THE SURVEY

 

The 11 items discerned as most significant for tapping priests’ wisdom regarding Young Persons were the following: 

1.  Identify 2 positive things Young Persons can offer church and/or society.

2.  Identify items you consider major challenges Young Persons currently face in your community.

3.  What Groups, Programs or Experiences are best in your area at engaging Young Persons? 

4.  Name one major lesson you have learned from the success of the Young Persons’ oriented programs you have experienced.

5.  Name 2-3 factors that you see causing Young Persons to drift away from the Church.

6.  Name one or two ways that you have found effective in inviting and/or engaging Young People who are not frequent participants.

7.  Name 2-3 ways you would most like to see Young Persons involved in parish life.

8.  What can the Church, families, schools and Catholic organizations best do to assist Young Persons in discerning major life decisions? 

9.  Identify/Suggest some ways that churches can effectively reach out to Young Persons not involved.

10.  Has your ministry with Young Persons been changed by the cultural changes caused by the digital world?

11.  In a secularized world, what pastoral activities after the Sacraments of Initiation are most effective for helping Young Person's continue their life journey of faith?

 

Many questions allowed multiple choices followed by opportunity for respondents to write in comments. To our surprise, the result was a rich trove of perspective by priests with decades of pastoral experience ministering to young persons. The 23.5% response rate of return and the abundance of submitted comments suggest that those who responded care deeply about ministry to young persons and have had significant experience of such ministry. Of the 255 priests responding, 77.5% have had more than 37 years of ministry; 64 or 25% were ordained between 1980 and 2015, 7 were ordained since 2000.  

 

The reflections recorded offer much wisdom and indicate the enthusiastic readiness of priests to participate in the dialogue preparing for this Synod. Those who completed the survey offered these final comments:

 

·       Thanks for asking for input.

·       This is an important survey. Thank you for your work and for the invitation to listen to and reach out to young people in our culture.

·       I hope that this information will be helpful to the Synodal process and not just 'canned' and 'preordained' resolutions. Peace!

·       Thanks for the opportunity! It was well worth the effort.

 

B. READING THE STATISTICAL AND QUALITATIVE SYNOPSES BELOW

 

The data for each question is reported in three sections: 

 

The first section cites the statistically top 2-3 most frequently chosenanswers from those offered with the percentage and number of total respondents selecting them. For several questions, there were more than 2 or 3 choices.

 

The second section is a synopsis of the respondents’ written comments. This enables a quick read to provide one an initial sense of the report as a whole. The synopsis in no way does justice to the richness of comments offered, so a second reading with attention to all of the comments is recommended. 

 

The third section is a limited selection of the comments offered by respondents under each question, grouped together by theme by the editor.

 

The Committee was surprised at the readiness of respondents to share their thoughts and overwhelmed by the abundance of them.  The resulting SurveyMonkey report runs to 66 pages.  AUSCP’s office will make the full SurveyMonkey report available on request for anyone desiring to mine all the data and comments offered.  Readers can do so by sending a request to office@uscatholicpriests.org.

 

Thus we recommend three approaches to absorbing this report:

 

1.    Read first the 2-3 statistical items for each question together with the Editor’s Synopsis of Comments.

2.    On a second reading, review the statistical items and all the Select Comments.

3.    If desiring more, request the full SurveyMonkey report with all comments offered and read through them.

 

 

 

 

DATA & COMMENTS for 11 CHOSEN QUESTIONS

 

QUESTION 1

Identify 2 positive things Young Persons can offer church and/or society.

·      Their wanting to bring their energy, creativity, talents, gifts and leadership into church and society life            

o  79.51%            229/288 responses

·      Their hunger and thirst for God, the holy, authenticity, truth, justice, forgiveness, etc.                             

o  50.69%                        146/288 responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis:Young persons offer openness, insights, a search for God ‘within’ and meaning, a readiness to question rigidity and live with uncertainty; commitment to equality, inclusivity, and fairness, including toward diverse sexual orientations; strongly pro-life; need welcome, acceptance and accomplishment; yet lost and confused.

 

Select Comments (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Curiosity and expectation for authenticity; ability to see with clarity and ask genuine questions that need to be asked.

2.     Their openness to religious experience and of course, their expansive idealism, even in this negative age!

3.     The fresh eyes they bring with their new paradigms and cultural expectations if they are respectfully entered into dialogue with.

4.     Insights into what the world is like from their perspective, esp. equality for all, thoroughly pro-life.

5.     Their openness to persons of different cultures, sexual orientations, etc., as a rich resource for us as Church.

 

6.     Openness and honesty to question current rigid positions re clerical authenticity and leadership qualities that do not ring true according to gospel teaching.

7.    Their readiness to live with uncertainty, accept challenges and hold authority accountable.

 

8.     Their enthusiasm for "God within" instead of "God in the sky".

9.     Their desire to find meaning in life as a part of their search for God and for community. We can help them by bringing them in touch with "intergenerational" retreats and workshops.

10.  Their experienced gift of God's love in the full spectrum of sexual expressions.

11.  Their desire to find God and someone to give them help.

 

12.  Young people want to make a difference and are willing to work with their hands and minds. Do not waste their time however! Experience with technology and desire to use for evangelization.

13.  Their energy in working for worthwhile causes, and their radical sense of equality and fairness.

14.  Concern for people in distressful situations like hunger, homelessness, poverty

 

15.  Desire to be affirmed and welcomed by the adult community of faith; to find relevance of the Church.

16.  Their desire to build a world that is more inclusive of diversity of thought, lifestyles, ethnicities and

sexual orientations.

17.  Their desire to see that ALL are welcomed in the Church regardless, with no discrimination, prejudice, or exclusion.

18.  Before we can speak about Christian service, they want a feeling of acceptance and accomplishment.

 

19.  To do this, the Church needs to portray an authentic image of the triune God, with Jesus, not the God of the Old Testament, being the visible representation of the Triune God, the God of Love, through living his humanity on Earth. 

20.  A desire for meaningful, faith-related relationships an innate desire to experience both human

21.  Connections and transcendence in Liturgy

 

22.  Balanced young people in faith and life bring health and a spirit to any group who listens to them and who invite them to share their visions. They bring hope to generations who have lost their way because of greed, racism, and institutional rigidity.

23.  Their lived experience of contemporary life as a resource for developing a church that responds to

life today.

 

24.  Their desire to become fully alive human beings who are using their talents and gifts to make this world a better place.

25.  Their fresh analysis of what a positive "culture of life" would look like and require.

26.  Their attempts to find hope in an unstable political, social, and economic climate without being overwhelmed by fear. 

27.  Openness to God's voice in the world; their openness to the word of God and its truth

28.  Their desire to live a simpler life. Their “holy longing” for something more in life & our world

29.  Their dreams and ideals... their belief in the impossible... their courage to act...

 

30.  Their lostness in a confusing world.

 

 

 

QUESTION 2

Identify items you consider major challenges Young Persons currently face in your community.

·      Multiple activities and options competing for their engagement                

o   80.56%                                     232/288 responses

·      Secular culture’s indifference regarding faith life                                                   

o   69.79%                                     201/288 responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis of Comments: broken and non-practicing families; clerical, sexist and patriarchal church; sexual pressures, pornography and addictions; lack of a healthy sexual theology; loss of interest in institutional faith life; liturgy and homilies that do not engage them; lack of welcome and respect; exclusion of women; church’s fear of science, modernity and secular culture; church’s accent on orthodoxy vs. life of justice, service and love.

 

Select Comments (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Broken families (dysfunctional, alcoholic); Lack of lived faith and spiritual practices in families (not a priority as much as sports). So many have not had people who showed them in a basic life style what religion is all about. At age 83, I am understanding more…

2.     Uncertainty about their future If God has a plan for them

3.     Sexual pressure from peers and media. Parents not providing sexual moral teaching. Pornography.

4.     A pervasive, culture of death within society that exposes them to addictive substances such as

alcohol & illegal drugs; as well as the reckless availability of guns that lead to the potential for so

much suffering & death

 

5.     While there is a loss of interest in faith life, it's a loss of interest in institutional church life. 

6.     The loss of credibility in the Institutional Church. Fear of ecclesiastical persons to listen & accept as authentically Christian the gender expressions of many young Catholics

7.     According to my nieces and nephews, the present translation of the liturgy makes no sense. I have heard adults say the same.

8.     Boring Liturgies and lousy Homilies. 

9.     Insufficient emphasis on the Church as mystery, sacrament and renewal movement leading.

10.  Sterile Masses loaded with medieval pageantry, virulent clericalism and overbearing misogyny, institutional preoccupation with an outdated ethic, medieval liturgies with antiquated theological foundations. 

11.  Obedience instead of an ethic of responsibility, desacralization of authority, lack of institutional realization that our founding revelation must be rediscovered and reactivated so that tradition can again make sense, absence of a prevailing pluralism, the natural state of religious economy. 

 

12.  Lack of welcome of young. Lack of respect from adults for youth as the young Church of today, and not just the Church of the future.

13.  Exclusion of women from ordained ministry. Way too busy; Sexual abuse scandal; Male dominated hierarchy

14.  Official rejection of LBGT persons.

15.  Church rejection of peers who make different choices that the Church calls wrong.

16.  Youth do not want to be part of anything that rejects their friends or family, particularly gay friends or family.

17.  The lack of married priests and female priests.

18.  Leadership of old white men – Patriarchy.

19.  Fuzzy teaching and thinking regarding LBGTQ community and hierarchical repentance regarding abuse scandal, but few bishops who covered it up are removed or punished. Cardinal Law is exhibit A.

 

20.  NCYC & March for Life … Seeing faith in action rather than liturgical church as something he [a Young Person] can identify with and savor. 

 

21.  Lack of a healthy sexual theology and the use of sciences.

22.  Inability to confront an ideology that holds that only the natural (and possibly the social) sciences present objective "truth" and that all other sources of knowledge are mere opinion leading to difficulties in taking church teachings seriously.

23.  Church's failure to embrace science and other realities in the lives of youth. The human race, homo sapiens, evolved about 50,000 years ago from the Chimpanzee Community over 5 billion years. Young people know the story. The Church needs to stop being afraid of modernity and confront it with a renewed theology. Theology has these resources: Scripture, Tradition, Theologians, Nature, Human Experience in relation to our theology, and the truth that revelation still continues in our day through the development of doctrine, using modernity's truth and facts in sociology, psychology, anthropology, astrophysics, paleontology, genetics, biology, medicine, and the other sciences. Amen!  

 

24.  Lack of Intentional Discipleship.

25.  Formation relative to well-meaning parishioners and parents who no longer or cannot express their relationship with God. 

26.  Absence in many parishes/dioceses of the concept of exploring and developing one's sense of faith and conscience.

27.  As a leader in youth and young adult ministry (University Campus Ministry) for over 50 years, I observe that consultation and collaboration of our church reach only those who are "safe" and subservient.

28.  Our Church is too focused on orthodoxy. Parishes need to focus more on justice issues and appeal to youths’ idealism for their [Young Persons] involvement. Parishes and Bishops need to be more pastoral.

 

29.  The Church does not seem to care to hear what they [Young Persons] want, what they need. The church's continued emphasis on rules and requirements rather than mercy and human goodness.

 

30.  Like all "next generations,” they dislike elders trying to understand them. Like good parents, the church needs to find ways to "give them room." 

31.  We can stop using the term "secular." Either Christ has redeemed all creation or he has not. How do we point to God’s presence in the “signs of the times” in which what some call the “secular world” is seen not as good.

 

 

QUESTION 3

What Groups, Programs or Experiences are best in your area at engaging Young Persons?

·      Theology on Tap

o   45.13%                                     125/277 responses

·      Those that provide social justice training

o   41.88%                                     116/277 responses

·      Mission experiences

o   41.52%                                     115/277 responses

·      Those that are welcoming and respectful

o   41.16%                                     114/277 responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis: The items listed above as drawing most support are validated by the comments below. Successful programs welcome, respect, listen and understand young persons and make them feel important; programs that allow and provide authenticity and engage them in something bigger than themselves succeed.

 

Select Comments (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Programs Named:

 

a.     Search for Christian Maturity; Antioch 

b.     Service Camps (CHWC, Encounter the Gospel of Life)

c.     Teens Encounter Christ (TEC)

d.     Habitat; other community work

e.     Intergenerational faith formation

f.      LifeTeen

g.     ACTS Retreats

h.     Quest Retreats 

i.      Catholic Campus Ministry/Newman Centers

j.      National Catholic Youth Congress 

k.     CRS Food Fast 

l.      Alatot and Alateen

m.   FOCUS 

n.     Kairos

o.     Notre Dame Vision

p.     Prayer and Action (Salina Diocese)

q.     Alpha course

r.      Nazareth Farm

s.     Scouting

t.      Love Begins Here

u.     On Bread, One Cup (St. Meinrad)

v.     Catholic Heart Youth Camps

w.    Weekend Confirmation Retreats

 

x.     Discussions/gatherings with those who are a few years older

y.     Perhaps a return to the effective dynamics of Y.C.S. (Young Christian Students): observe, judge and act

z.      Catholic action based on Observe, Judge, Act models (Young Christian Workers, Young Christian Students)

aa.  Fountain Square Fools (of decades ago)

2.     TEC (Teens Encounter Christ), CYO (Catholic Youth Organization), etc. -- many of these need parish support (time and talent - not money) to be truly successful. If kids see everything as isolated, it will not make sense. 

3.     FOCUS – (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) I found it to be ultra-conservative and a source for attracting vocations to Sister Servants of the Eternal Word. This is a totally non Vatican II group.

4.     They need to know that however they find God in the Church is acceptable to their pastor, parish, etc. AND that it may very well be a step along a path toward more and future development in faith. To dash it or exclude the youth or something they believe connects them will harm them now and in the future.

5.     Treat the young persons with respect and understanding; be sympathetic to them in their struggles

to plow their way through a very secular society.

 

6.     I am low on programs high on processes…. The biblical process of community building as presented by all of St. Paul's writings, even the documents of the Church, is essential. Most young people I have ministered with are presented a God they don't know and have never known.

7.     The programs that seem to be the most successful, in my experience, are those that engage young people not just in authentic worship, but in spiritual formation, justice ministry, and community building.

8.     The Relationship building (community), Content (message), Commitment (service) process is essential to any organization especially church. The Emmaus journey is a primary example of the process.

9.     Young people get very interested and excited about service programs and I believe they have a

profound impact on their lives. However, the parishes and schools have little follow-up.

 

10.  Going back to 1970, I recall that Cursillo-derived youth retreats did much, much good (e.g. Search, Mark, Antioch -- just to name a few local ones). Kids opened up and talked about their inner-self....this was high-school level. I don't think this is in vogue today, though I find it works well for our 15-year olds prepping for Confirmation.

11.  We need to listen to them and let them tell us what they are dealing with in their lives and what their

spiritual needs are.

 

12.  Fundamentalist Catholic movements are best at engaging Young Persons who are emotionally immature which is a significant part of the Young Person population. They are emotionally immature for two reasons: 1) they have little life experience, 2) they have grown up in child focused families

 

13.  Good Religious education programs. 

14.  Good use of Sacramental Preparation to provide family on-going faith formation. 

15.  Extensive involvement of Youth in music ministry. 

16.  They are hungry to belong to something bigger than themselves.

17.  After some time, some young people lose interest.

18.  A caring and charismatic Youth Leader or local priests who make the kids feel important and worthy of their time.

 

 

QUESTION 4

In the box below, name one major lesson you have learned from the success of the Young Persons oriented programs you have experienced?

·      “Nothing has stuck

o   34.91%                                     97/275 respondents 

·      Comments

o   65.82%                                     181/275 offered comments

 

Editor’s Synopsis: community and peer ministry works; personal connection with adults and clergy more important than programs; non-judgmental listening and genuine caring essential; young persons have profound questions and a sense of their potential; mission experiences and encounter with Jesus important; adoration, meditation and application to life works for them; dialog better than preaching; treat as colleagues in search for truth; they are open to the Spirit more than adults are.

 

Select Comments (this question drew an abundance of comments worth reviewing (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     The disconnect between typical parish life and the lives of young people.

2.     Active Catholic youth feel very alone that their beliefs are not shared, young people have a desire to know God in a personal way; it is hard for them to express their desire.

3.     Young People need to see adults who are inspired by their faith and live what they proclaim.

4.     Presence and support of adults, including clergy is vital.

5.     Youths hunger for personal relevance in a faith community

6.     Community.

 

7.     Personal mentorship is critical. Programs are secondary.

8.     Authenticity, Relational Ministry, Open communication. Listening. 

9.     Experience that the Church sincerely cares for them.

10.  Consistency, consistency consistency.... Be there all the year.

11.  One must be a listener, compassionate and non-judgmental and authentic.

12.  TRULY LISTEN TO THEM; they want to be shown not just told.

13.  Their realization that you actually, truly care for them; non-judgmental attitude toward them

14.  They are learning from the adults around them and all of their questions are valid

15.  Once you get the core group, and stay on message, they love it!

16.  Successful youth ministry must be WITH, TO, BY, AND FOR YOUTH. Peer ministry is most effective. Youth are looking for mentors in adult leaders, and not "one of the gang."

17.  Parish youth ministers need more creativity in serving the youth community and need to reflect honesty 

18.  Having a young married couple involved really moved and inspired our teens. Accompaniment and engagement. They also love creativity and community in their events. 

19.  If a program engages young women, men will follow.

20.  Warm, chaste relationships sprinkled with a sense of humor.

 

21.  Somehow we need to learn what it is FOCCUS is tapping into with youth. But I find FOCCUS not only lacking but in the long run very harmful.

22.  The Life Teen program seems to have gotten very conservative. Appeals to mainly white males and conservative females. 

23.  Build on group experiences like musicals, plays & team sports by offering a retreat after

 

24.  How good they are and how deep their faith can be. They form a great community.

25.  They ask questions of profound moral inquiry ... they are deep in their thinking processes ... They want their questions to be validated. 

26.  They sense that they can accomplish much. They absolutely need programs that will help them truly encounter Jesus as a person to whom they can relate and who cares about them personally.

 

27.  Most young people are apt to act their way into thinking rather than think and plan their way into acting, which is why mission experience is of primary importance. When mission is lacking, our human nature (in the likeness of a God who is love), our calling and our fulfillment is lacking and faithfulness will disappear.

28.  After an alternative spring break they often come back with a greater appreciation for the value of working for social justice.

29.  Action, prayer and sharing component and then some follow-up.

30.  There has to be a combination of work, play and a sincere encounter with Jesus. Often this encounter is experienced during a traditional devotion; Adoration, rosary, Mass type of things. But it’s up to the leader to help make the connections for the youth.

31.  Young Persons are fascinated with meditation and its application to everyday life. Understanding spirituality (how they relate to self, others, things, life experience, God, etc.)

32.  Young Persons today love adoration and confession.

 

33.  Strengthening commitment to the primacy of conscience & sensus fidelium.

34.  Dialogue works better than preaching. 

35.  Youth ministers themselves have a demanding task in ministering to youth. They usually burn out in about 3 years. These ministers really need the support of pastors and parish administration. Pastors/parochial vicars must make consistent commitment to attending activities/gatherings of young people in their parishes.

 

36.  Recognizing Y/YA as equals by baptism and treating them as junior colleagues in the search for truth rather than a two tiered system

37.  The Holy Spirit is in control. Youth open to faith, experience the Holy Spirit and are efficaciously marked and they are transformed. Many parents and adults are not open to this and thus influence the youth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUESTION 5

Name 2-3 factors that you see causing Young Persons to drift away from the Church?

·      Confusion             

o   54.42%                                     154/283 Responses

·      Loss of Faith         

o   34.98%                                       99/283 Responses

·      Other

o   78.09%                                     221/283 Responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis: Young Persons are non-institutional; the culture; inability to commit or think abstractly; never were engaged, connected or committed to the faith; no relationship with Jesus ever developed; poor English of the liturgy; church legalism and rigid doctrine, church’s out of touchness; inadequate and irrelevant sexual theology; not welcomed and connected.

 

Select Comments (this question also drew an abundance of comments worth reviewing (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Lack of a connection to their world (digital age; social media).

2.     Lack of interest in any kind of institution.

3.     Many feel that the church is out of step with the times. Their moving away from home and their school community to go to college and follow their careers results in their losing the supportive community that could help them in their faith journey. 

4.     A culture that prizes instantaneous communication rather than thoughtful reflection, a culture that promotes constant sensual stimulation over silence and contemplation. A church that is perceived as primarily concerned about "pelvic issues."

5.     Culture and media militate against commitment.

6.     Loss of the belief that a relationship with God is important.

7.     Many have not lost faith; rather, they have never had faith to lose.

8.     I don't think they have actually bought into the faith as part of their development.

9.     My experience has been that youth in the past never left the church, but their hearts were never really engaged either -- they left with their hearts and minds but continued to come to Mass. Today's youth have the courage to leave for a while. 

10.  Legalism instead of relationship with Jesus.

11.  Help in developing a personal relationship with Christ is lacking. Faith formation gets reduced to faith information which is not enough by itself.

12.  No mentorship. Huge influence of social media. Weak faith practice in the home. No strong faith community nearby of their peers. They don't drift away from Christianity as much as they have never known it!

 

13.  Not understanding the liturgy with its Latinized English.

14.  Rituals, language and concepts in the Mass and sacraments are meaningless or confusing (God referred to only in Masculine, Heaven UP there, Hell DOWN there, etc.) Lack of women in real leadership roles in the Church.

15.  Boring liturgies/preaching and lack of substantive religious instruction.

 

16.  Our failure as adults in the church to recognize and nurture their faith.

17.  Church teaching with which they disagree.

18.  Lack of having been led to a personal relationship with the Lord.

19.  Lack of Vat. II , Bible-based and social justice information/formation 

20.  Inadequate parental modeling 

21.  The absence of authentic kerygma because of an inordinate emphasis on institutional religiosity in doctrine, sacraments, morality and practices; not experiencing a sacramental spirituality which is transformative not ritualistic.

22.  Too much legalism in the Church and the lack of respect for women.

23.  It's a general feeling (partly justified, partly not) that the Catholic Church puts its "way of seeing things, and way of doing things", and its vested interests, ahead of human dignity and human good. 

24.  Orthodoxy battles among church leadership. Drastic re-defining of parish experience when a change in pastor takes place (This is huge). 

25.  Being treated as if they need the church more than the church needs/wants them.

 

26.  Church is not any more attuned to the signs of the times.

27.  Don't understand "Catholic" language - they do understand the language of "Science." 

28.  The hierarchical church's focus on dogmatic orthodoxy and rules, rather than on personal and communal spiritual growth and transformation. The overemphasis on doctrine instead of faith as a life of radical trust and openness to mystery.

29.  Church's and the secular world's conflicting approaches to human sexuality. 

30.  Poor sexual theology.

31.  Church teaching on homosexuality and same couple marriages. 

32.  Peer and cultural pressures from secular society and non-denominational churches.

33.  The strong appeal of commercial interests to the human ego -- individual achievement, fame, and fortune. Christian love and the development of healthy relationships take a back seat.

34.  Some teachings of the church seem to go against their experiences. They have friends who, for instance, are gay and they don't see them as evil people.

35.  LGBT friends are disrespected at Sunday Mass in homilies and wording of prayers of the faithful.

36.  'The Church' may have drifted away from them. Without a moral voice, weakened prior to but certainly completely lost by the sexual abuse scandal, the institution has very little to say in a meaningful way to young people who understand sexuality as recreational but not Interpersonal. Sex and procreation are separate and distinct in their minds.

37.  Indifference- church makes no difference in their lives. 

38.  Sexual morality that seems completely irrelevant in contemporary world. 

39.  Political stances and ideological rigidity that do not allow for freedom of thought, alternate paths toward spiritual fulfillment, and honest engagement in differing opinions.

40.  We are not speaking to the heart.

41.  Not being connected, not feeling welcomed or needed in the life of the church

 

42.  Lack of peer support. A culture that has no time or place for faith. I am a sociologist, so I focus on the dynamics of social life. While faith is a person's individual relationship with God, that relationship is nurtured and shared in community. Community is where we share what is real and where we encourage, support, and challenge one another to growth as friends in the Lord. However, young people today often lack this experience among their peers.

 

43.  The Church's rigid ideological stands on moral issues that tends to view everything in terms of black or white, & which rejects & even stigmatizes anyone who questions or doubts.

44.  It's not enough to tell people not to have an abortion; we must help them see why we say that. The Churches teaching on sex, sexuality and trans-sexuality are not understood or even accepted by youth. Ministers have FAILED to teach and model a healthy view of sex and sexuality.

 

45.  Attractions by less regulated religions

46.  Lack of ability and/or willingness to think; especially in the abstract.

47.  Failure to distinguish between fundamentalist and other expressions of Christianity.

QUESTION 6

Name one or two ways that you have found effective in inviting and/or engaging Young People who are not frequent participants?

·      None                        

o   31./5%                       70/273 responses

·      Other                       

o   70%                          193/273 responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis: presence, dialogue, listening, friendliness and personal invitation; involve and engage in activities; mix and mingle with them; care for and about them; adapt to their timing; support their dreams, encourage them; World Youth Day and sports; good music.      

 

Select Comments (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Just plain presence.

2.     Go to where they are – cross the street to simply ask "How is it going?"

3.     Getting out of my office and going to where youth are found, especially local sporting events.

4.     Dialogue with young people regarding the connection between spirituality and social and political advocacy. 

5.     Friendliness, interest in them, opportunities for them to participate.

6.     Know their name. Keep smiling at them and inviting them.

7.     Discover what it is they are interested in & then build community with them, allowing open dialogue, utilizing orthodox theology with a focus on peace and justice.

8.     Somehow there has to be a personal invite.

9.     It's hard, but start the conversation, open yourself, be vulnerable. Get to point in relationship that we bond as fellow disciples.

10.  Give them an active role in worship and ministry and parish decision making.

11.  Big ears.

12.  Attending other events/activities in their lives, being seen at these other events, helping them realize I am not focused solely on their attendance at church but care about their lives as a whole, and wanting to help them bring their lives into the church.

13.  Literally reaching out and engaging them just as I am. There's nothing particularly attractive or charismatic about my individual personality. I feel they pretty much perceive me as an old fart with little to offer them.......until they pick up on the fact that I care about them, and value them, and am committed to them.

14.  Support for Pope Francis as a gospel model.

 

15.  Meeting their timing: mostly doing things on Sundays before, after, or in-between masses. 

16.  Focus on the last five pews in our assemblies to identify young adults on the way out of "Church" or on the way in and trying it out. 

17.  Activate stuff in our Church’s attic into our practice, like intelligible signs, symbols, myths, and tug them into the circumstances of our own day.

18.  Supporting their dreams and hopes and letting them know that it is up to them, not the clergy, to lead the church forward.

19.  Helping them understand that they need not be held back by the institutional church, but to act boldly as Jesus did. 

 

20.  When there is a good teen program in the parish and devoted leaders. They will come.

21.  Young People will respond to relevant, targeted, socially conscious programs (e.g. a "blast prayer" (10 minutes) for the victims of recent multiple mass murders in USA).

22.  World Youth Day and sporting events

 

23.  Theology on Tap. 

24.  Good music service programs.

25.  Involvement, with those who have some talent.

26.  Marriage prep that is well done.

 

27.  Shaming them. Badgering them.

 

 

 

QUESTION 7

Name 2-3 ways you would most like to see Young Persons involved in parish life?

·      Liturgy  

o   88.03%                   250/284 responses

·      Social Gatherings               

o   62.68%                   178/284 responses

·      Pastoral Council                                   

o   52.46%                   149/284 responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis: contemporary and soulful liturgy that will engage them; focus on discipleship; engage them as catechists; give them a voice in the parish somehow; young married couples’ groups; emphasize Catholic Social Teaching and engage them in action.

     

Select Comments (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Our parish communities desperately need liturgy that is both contemporary as well as thoroughly rooted in our best liturgical traditions. Young people are hungry for liturgy that connects them with Tradition that has a timeless characteristic to it that can mediate a felt connection with the Transcendent. In the face of constantly shifting cultural patterns, liturgy must provide some sense of soulfulness as well as rootedness in values that give them a genuine sense of permanence in the face of change.

2.     Celebrating Feast days with the entire parish – i.e. Feast of St. Francis - and ecology, Mary, the Mother of God and the environment, St. Valentine's and outreach to the homebound & sick, the Feast of St. Joseph and outreach to the hungry, etc.

 

3.     Discipleship-focused processes.

4.     There is nothing more effective for helping to clarify what one truly believes than trying to teach it to others. Thus I would like to see young persons heavily involved in catechetical work.

 

5.     Teach kids how to organize.

6.     Any and all activities....especially outreach.

7.     Contributing financially to the support of the parish and its mission.

 

8.     Perhaps not pastoral council (could be hell for them) but a vehicle to have some voice in Church life.

 

9.     Young married couples’ groups.

10.  All the above but with a view to Catholic Social Teaching and Action around race, income inequality, labor, climate warming, health, food security, and security in general. "Discussion without action is devastating."

 

 

 

QUESTION 8

What can the Church, families, schools and Catholic organizations best do to assist Young Persons in discerning major life decisions?

·      Emphasize importance of listening to the Spirit in making major decisions

o   68.44%                   193/282 responses

·      Prompt vocation discernment in all ministry to YPs and include process for discerning

o   50%        141/282 responses

·      Occasion encounters of YPs with priests and religious

o   50%        141/282 responses

·       Share vocation stories

o   47.87%                   135/282 responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis: clarify meaning of vocation, present as response to God’s call in whatever walk chosen; emphasize baptismal & universal call to holiness, authentic living and committed discipleship; include a vocation prayer regularly in parish worship; share stories of holy people -- official saints and others; faith sharing groups; spiritual direction; parish base vs. school base for faith formation (esp. high school level); teach discernment and lectio divina.

 

Select Comments (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Vocation understood properly.

2.     Stop defining Young People’s lives in restrictive ways: God does NOT pre-plan their lives, it is up to them to choose how to live their lives. 

3.     Let them know that the primary vocation is to be a Christian, the rest is up for grabs and might include some limited time frames - do you have to be a lifer in priesthood, religious life? 

4.     Stop thinking in terms of the innocuous options listed in question 8  -- prompt vocation discernment in all ministry to YPs and include process for discerning; Emphasize importance of listening to the Spirit in making major decisions; Share lives of the saints; Share vocation stories; Collaborate closely with Vocation Director of diocese/religious community; Occasion encounters of YPs with priests and religious; Consistently include prayer for vocations (not just to priesthood or religious life)...they are silly and not important in the lives of most youth.

5.     This list of choices shows the word “vocation” spelled with capital V and small v. Church leaders engaged in the disputes about who can be called ministers and who is allowed to do some ministerial activity blur the issue. YPs have for several generations sought a re-think of Vocation. Yet Vocation Directors continue to recruit candidates for seminaries and religious communities. We need to discern the role of the spiritually and emotionally HEALTHY young clergy. Too many of them are overshadowed by the bizarreness of some of their peers, the style of their clerical garb and content of their message. E.g. a recently ordained who sees his vocation as confessor, and every homily for two years has urged people to confess. He has his own hours for confession. YPs are not going to wait two hundred years for the church to have the conversations that they have had already. I am saddened when I remember wonderful conversations over 42 years with young people interested in priesthood. Most of them ended with either, “if it weren’t for celibacy or men only...”

6.     Emphasize the importance of realizing that whatever one does in life should be in response to God's call to us whether that be to married life, single life or religious. The same thing should be emphasized in the choice of careers.

7.     Provide numerous opportunities to experience the hardship and suffering in the lives of so many people in the world, thus opening up their vision of what needs to be done as imitators of Jesus.

8.     All forms of living an authentic human life and committed discipleship.

9.     Important: not just for the priesthood or religious life; Jesus did not send out 72 priests but 72 disciples!

 

10.  Invite those gathered to pray together a printed prayer for vocations that gets inserted into the inside cover of the missalette/hymnal in the pews. It's a simple, but very effective, means of fostering a culture of vocation awareness.

11.  Speak in homilies about the universal call to service/ministry and the powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit to enable our effectiveness.

12.  Ask parents if they encourage vocations in their homes.

13.  Emphasize baptismal vocation. 

14.  Emphasizing baptismal authority of all to be prophetic in sharing their vision of God's will in today's world.

 

15.  Gathering informally to share stories, ask questions.

16.  Faith formation that helps link Gospel teaching with discernment about life choices

17.  Form faith sharing groups.

18.  Consistently include prayer period.

19.  Promote spiritual direction as an option for personal growth in young people.

20.  Catholic witnesses.

21.  Have priests, teachers, religious, youth ministers who embody an orthopraxis approach to life as a disciple of Jesus.

22.  James Martin's marvelous "My Lives with the Saints." 

23.  Share lives of more than official saints. Women and men dedicated to justice, to people, to compassion, motivated by faith in God and God's faith in them.

 

24.  Provide a Church reality in which it humanly makes sense to give one's life in an ordained or consecrated life; get them in contact with women religious and presbyters.

25.  Move away from a Catholic school course curriculum to a parish life perspective which includes both youth and adults in the personal experience of faith formation.

26.  Parochial High Schools should not be "mini churches"; they should not provide all the services the students should participate in the parishes.

 

27.  Emphasize the importance of talking with others about their discernment.

28.  Teach them how to discern.

29.  Discerning God's voice, along with the voice of society, or their own immediate gratification.

30.  Introduce Young Persons to the Ignatian discernment process.

31.  Lectio divina.

32.  We need to teach youth and adults about the Holy Spirit, how the Spirit speaks to us, and how to listen to the Spirit.

 

 

 

QUESTION 9

Identify/Suggest some ways that churches can effectively reach out to Young Persons not involved.

·      Civic Involvement

o   52.16%                   145/278 responses

·      Presence at their school

o   49.28%                   137/278 responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis: presence – one must insert oneself in their lives; direct invitation; student to student ministry; social justice activities; relate them to the larger world; accent paths of spiritual growth more than programs.

 

Select Comments (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Meet them at the peripheries.

2.     Direct invitation

3.     Personal visits to their own home.

4.     Student to student is the best outreach. We need to equip our young people with the courage to discuss their faith decisions with other students. This is the only way to effectively reach out to others.

5.     I retired from a secular university where a quarter of the student body self identifies as Catholic. Those practicing their faith on a regular basis--i.e. from weekly to monthly---constitute 10 % of the students who call themselves Catholic. Effectively reaching out to the non-involved is a roller coaster ride. I have no answer to give at this time.

6.     Social Justice outreach. Seeing our bishop marching in the cause of Immigrants and DACA is more powerful than seeing him in his regalia celebrating Mass at the Cathedral. We also have bishops who celebrate a mass at one of the local amusement parks (Six Flags) with Christian rock music, which opens doors, gives a different experience of 'church'.

7.     Have concrete proposals in relationship to the world (devise forms of renunciation, as the church is in the world but not of it; propose a critique of the consumer society to promote the spiritual growth all people along the Maslow's self-actualization model; emphasize community beyond conformity and cultural Christianity) appear as a servant church, rather than a power structure support a moral culture, not just a moral theology from above support a sacramentality from below rather than Romanization from above.

8.     Participating in Black Lives Matter and other crisis situations. When I prayed with youth on the streets of Ferguson after Michael Brown young people said, "You want to know why we're not in church and we want to know why more of you aren't out in the streets."

9.     Service groups, protests, marches, etc. Nuns on the Bus, let's get some bishops on buses, with their sleeves rolled, minus their pectoral crosses, miters, beanies, etc.

10.  Being much more vocal.

11.  "Bless" positive efforts, results and hopes they have brought forward. Increase support of these directions.

 

12.  Propose paths of spiritual growth rather than ideological programs. 

13.  Prayer and faith sharing.

14.  Those that provide pastoral ministry/care simply must make the conscious decision to insert themselves into the world and lives of young people today.

 

 

 

QUESTION 10

Has your ministry with Young Persons been changed by the cultural changes caused by the digital world?

·      Yes(see comments below)

o   70.3%             187/266 responses

·      No   

o   30/06%         80/266 responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis: digital media distract, isolate, introvert and isolate users and reduce social gatherings; printed media not effective – visual vs. verbal; can be used to reach and affirm young persons; make mass obsolete; can be used to promote prayer and contemplation

 

Select Comments (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Very difficult to engage with Young Persons! All rely on special media. 

2.     Sadly their digital world makes them introverts.

3.     They’re more distracted, less silence and prayer in their lives.

4.     No one just gets together and talks! People are less-inclined to see the need for gathering together.

5.     Their unawareness of the physical presence of the "other", a game changer.

6.     The digital world promotes an individualist isolation that is the opposite of genuine community: it underscores the importance of & need for gathering for young people so that they may interact face to face & not as anonymous nobodies.

7.     Everything is faster.

8.     The digital world keeps their lives secret from adults that they want to hide from. It has shortened their attention spans and certainly impaired social skills like interacting with another person that would require conversation.

9.     Virtual community/friendships supplanting actual community/friendships.

10.  Students have experienced alienation; previously non-existent thoughts of suicide have emerged.

 

11.  Printed media is no longer effective. The global reach of the digital media can overwhelm the apparent relevancy of a local community's approach and/or program.

12.  Deluges of information with little guidance on how to sort through what is true and false.

13.  Absolutely! Young people rarely check emails or Facebook. Basically they use text and snapchat.

 

14.  Facebook has made me aware of what they are doing and it gives me a chance to affirm them and encourage them 

15.  Include online preaching & Facebook sharing.

16.  Am learning to use PowerPoint for homilies, to engage them and keep their attention. Liturgy of the Word is mainly verbal, and story-telling with names, symbols, and culture that no longer speak to them.

17.  Utilizing social media for communication & promoting a contemplative approach to prayer and life decisions.

 

18.  Why would anyone want to attend a rigid, formal and unimaginative liturgy as the Mass when there are so many exciting things to do in the digital world? The Mass is a culturally developed event from 2,000 years ago... It does not speak to people in a digital world. It is time to re-invent liturgy in a way that is meaningful and speaks to the modern world.

 

 

 

QUESTION 11

In a secularized world, what pastoral activities after the Sacraments of Initiation are most effective for helping Young Person's continue their life journey of faith? (pick 2-3 responses)

·      Social service activities/mission trips, etc.

o  80/85%         228/282 responses

·      Engaging Sunday Liturgies with YP participation

o  74.11%          209/282 responses

·      Social activities

o  50%                 141/282 responses

 

Editor’s Synopsis: a supportive parish community; good music and good preaching; connecting sacraments with social outreach; faith discussion groups; ways to keep them connected between school years and marriage; open approaches to marriage and place of celebration.

 

Select Comments (grouped into sections with similar themes):

 

1.     Supportive Parish community.

2.     Find ways to get to know them and what their concerns are with an attitude of accepting and understanding them rather than judging them.

3.     Outstanding preaching and teaching and MUSIC at every liturgy. Retire the majority of parish musicians and pay to have good music (combined with great preaching).

4.     We need to encourage our youth to belong to social activities including sports that our church offers and especially social service activities. It is essential that learning about the faith and the engagement with the church continues through adulthood. 

5.     Often marriage preparation is very inadequate and too late. Choosing a partner for life is so important that we should focus early on with teenagers about how to live as a Christian and how to share our lives as Christians. The most effective witnesses are the adults around us. We cannot protect our children from the culture that surrounds them unless we give them a viable alternative Christian life style.

6.     Help them to understand that they are the Beloved of God and help them discover the unique gifts they have.

7.     Connecting the sacraments as the way to celebrate our hearing the cry of the poor and strengthening us to do so more effectively and with even greater effectiveness. Connecting the sacraments with inviting others to join us in mission activity.

 

8.     Faith discussion groups for university students, grad students, and young professionals. Support groups for newly married couples and new parents. Faith groups around helpful books of faith and development (see Brene Brown's books like "Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone").

9.     Young people often drift, but then re-engage in their faith when they form their own families. Now marriage is delayed, and the drifting phase is longer. We need to develop ministry and outreach for people in that specific phase. 

10.  Moving the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation to age 15 and placing it within the context of parish youth ministry & high school offers a wonderful opportunity for young people to remain actively engaged with the church.

11.  Intellectual freedom to question and engage in social justice actions. Without intellectual freedom to question and engage in social justice actions why do it?

12.  Jesus was a radical who challenged the staid forces of his church. What we need today are people who will do what he did.....but the present church will not allow that. Create pathways by which youth can do today what Jesus did in his own lifetime....then their lives will find meaning.

13.  Involvement in things like LGBT rights, standing up to our political system, working for immigrants.

 

14.  Membership, a more pervasive witness and intersection with campus and social life, with the invitation of "Come and see."

15.  As a Newman chaplain for 25 years on the local, state and national level, I have found immense jealousy on the part of other priests who think that an effective Campus Ministry on campus will harm their parish. The Bishops presented a document "Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future." (1985) Still relevant today because of the time honored scriptural approach to ministry. The content might change but the methodology does not, except in authentic cultural paradigm shifts.

 

16.  Rethinking marriage - specifically to help Young Persons to be able to stay in the Church but also have the wedding of their dream.

 

17.  Until our episcopacy visibly asks forgiveness for their hiding the pedophilia issue there will not be a considerable trust in our church. It is written in many sources, spiritual, psychological, sociological, etc. They covered up and have collectively expressed little remorse for the victims and an openness to admit their sin. This is very real and very needed.

 

 

 

 

 

National Catholic Office for the Deaf

Survey Report

 

What is the current state of ministry to Deaf youth in the U.S.?  What can the Church, through its ministers, do to improve outreach and foster vibrant Church communities?

The National Catholic Office for the Deaf (NCOD) availed itself of a survey created by the Association of US Catholic Priests (AUSCP) to get a snapshot of our Deaf Catholic Youth communities and our Church ministries. The respondents to the survey (25) hail from all across the United States—pastors, youth workers, ministry coordinators—and are at the center of Deaf youth ministry in this country.[1]

Respondents noted the desire of young people to share their faith and their interests.  Deaf youth are active participants in current youth culture, and in one sense, even more subject to influences coming from our secularized society than their hearing counterparts.  Despite this, Deaf university students are eager to share who they are as Deaf youth and to maintain contact with their home parishes.

In an attempt to pinpoint influences that mitigate against Deaf youth participating in Catholic ministry initiatives, let us point out 1) the influence of secularized society and current distrust of institutions of all kinds. 2) The lack of effective catechesis for Deaf youth, particularly if they have grown up in hearing families.  3) The tendency of the Church to present its “ideological” positions on complex issues without acknowledging their complexity. 4) The unfamiliarity of Church ministers with the lived experience of young people today.  These conditions make it hard at times to persuade young Deaf students to remain active in Church.

There are no simple remedies.  We commend the work of the NCOD and other initiatives such as Camp Mark VII, but given that Deaf youth are all over the country, and that in many cases, they are now being “mainstreamed” instead of being educated in Deaf schools, the first opportunity for encounter must be at the local diocesan and parish levels through effective Deaf ministry.[2]

What those of us active in Deaf youth ministry would like to see would be increased participation in Deaf and hearing liturgies, increased access to social service projects, and a more effective catechesis that meets young people where they are and not where older adults think they should be.

Finally, as regards vocations to the priesthood or religious life, one should note the paucity of opportunities at the diocesan level and with many religious institutes.  The net result is that oftentimes, Deaf youth are unconsciously viewed as exotic creatures by both dioceses and religious congregations, whereas the truth is they are young men and women like any others.

Prepared by:

Fr. Shawn Carey: President NCOD, Archdiocese of Boston

Fr. Frank Wright SMA: Chaplain, Gallaudet University

Ms. Laureen Lynch-Ryan, Vice President, NCOD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMITTEE COMMENT

 

We encourage all those who give their attention to this Report to be sure to read through the comments written by those who responded. They are loaded with pastoral insight and wisdom. In our view, Question 5 regarding factors that cause Young Persons to drift away from the Church is the most significant part of this report.We particularly urge readers to take the factors articulated there seriously.

 

One overriding insight and observation on our part is that the most fundamental need for Young Persons, and indeed persons of all ages, is to be introduced to the person of Jesus, to encounter him. Young Persons have an openness to God, but they need to learn how to encounter God as revealed in Jesus the Christ in the daily unfolding of their lives. They need to be mentored in developing a trusting relationship with Jesus and following his way. Only then will the teaching, sacraments, guidance and activities of the church make any sense and have any hold on them throughout their lives. Minus that grounding, minus Young Persons’ direct perception and experience of God’s dwelling within them, the Church as an institution, in its sinfulness, is not credible, meaningful, nor of interest to huge segments of today’s Catholic Young People, perhaps the majority. Bishop Robert Barron made that point well in his Lenten Gospel Reflection for March 10, 2018:

 

The entire point of religion is to make us humble before God and to open us to the path of love. Everything else is more or less a footnote. Liturgy, the precepts of the Church, the Commandments, sacraments, sacramentals – all of it – are finally meant to conform us to the way of love. When they instead turn us away from that path, they have been undermined.

 

Theologian Karl Rahner once opined that in today’s world Christians will be mystics, persons living in direct experience of the living God, or they will not be Christians at all. Faith is not believing doctrines. Faith is not obeying rules. Faith is not belonging to an institution. Faith is a trusting personal relationship with God, for us that relationship is in and through Christ. Only that relationship merits one’s ultimate and deepest trust. Only through that relationship can one hear God’s call. 

 

If parents and families, parishes and faith formation programs, schools and colleges and universities -- the Church as a People and as an institution -- through their ministry are not grounding Young Persons in that relationship, they are failing in their mission. Sadly, it appears we are failing all too much. The Church and her ministers must enable Young Persons to nurture, grow and deepen in a relationship with God in Christ by welcoming them, making them feel they belong, grounding them in prayer, the Scriptures, community, Liturgy and the other Sacraments; through welcoming, sharing, dialogue, experiences followed by reflection, and teaching; through trusting them and setting them free to live authentic lives of love as they discern themselves called by God. 

 

It is love I desire, not sacrifice;

and knowledge of God.

Hosea 6:6

 

We flag especially the reported broad failure of our liturgy to engage young persons. Unintelligible Latinized English used in our wordy worship, dated styles of music, the exclusion of women from ministry and preaching, and the resurgent malodor of clericalism deter the vast majority of young persons from drawing close. They withdraw. They are absent. An accent in many sectors of our faith community on doctrine and law and sacrifice over mercy and relationship and freedom is still too much heard.  Families are not effectively passing on the faith at home and providing attractive witness for their children. The continuing shadow of the abuse scandal combined with an inadequate theology of sexuality in a hyper-sexual culture makes the church both incredible and irrelevant to many young people. Indeed, it seems, to the majority. The discriminatory treatment and exclusion of those who do not fit the Church’s ideal gender model scandalizes young persons. It drives them away with their friends. 

 

Clearly our Church can and must do better with and for Young People. We pray that the 2018 Synod will respond to the Spirit and will articulate a path to more effective ministry to our Young People, their faith and their sense of vocation. We submit this report hoping it will help the Synod process achieve its goal, in some small way known only to God.

 

LIMITATIONS

 

This Report offers data that was collected in response to questions distributed by the Vatican in preparation for the 2018 Synod of Bishops and adapted for this purpose by the AUSCP Committee. The instrument used, SurveyMonkey, was customized by AUSCP’s Committee. None of the members are survey experts.  The number of participants to this survey was limited but 23.5% response rate (289 of the 1229 invited) to the survey is significant. Not all priests have extensive experience of ministry to Young Persons. Those who responded have had such experience.

 

The selection of comments included in this Report indicates the collective direction of the thinking of those who responded, but surely does not capture all the nuance. Those concerned with the life and faith and sense of vocation of Young Persons can benefit greatly from perusing all the comments, often. A file document containing the complete SurveyMonkey data is available on request by contacting AUSCP at office@uscatholicpriests.org. 

 

 

[1]  It should be noted that the Deaf Catholic world is small enough that most of us know each other.

[2]  There are many dioceses and archdioceses with effective Deaf ministry; however, there are many that have nothing in place.