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Melissa Cidade’s Response to “How American Catholics Think About The Church”

by Melissa Cidade
as prepared

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pryzbyla University Center
The Catholic University of America
Washington, D.C.

A bleak picture

Some have charged that young adult Catholics (Millennials) do not look as “Catholic” as their predecessors. Consider the following statistics from our organization, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate:

Given these figures, the future of the Church as we know it now looks bleak. Less regular Mass attendance, coupled with a belief that Mass attendance (and, by extension then, parish life) are not essential to Catholicism are changing the face of the parish. Less emphasis on the Sacraments, the Gospels, and even the Trinity and the existence of God do not bode well for the Church as we know it.

As we know it….

I would argue that the issue here is not that young adults are “bad Catholics.” Rather, researchers and church leaders are using “bad measures;” that is, definitions of what it means to be Catholic that are less salient to this generation. Consider, from the same research, the following:

So, what’s going on here?

It is interesting to note that, on some issues, Millennials distribute more similarly to the Pre-Vatican II generation than the two generations directly preceding. Is this a product of the so-called “sandwich” generation, increasing the amount of contact Millennials have with their grandparents? Or, is this the result of the “dust settling” in the wake of Vatican II? Whatever the cause, the result is an exciting time in the Church: Millennials are coming of age at a time when Catholics have never been more socioeconomically stable, politically engaged, and culturally acceptable. New technologies – like the Paulist’s “Busted Halo [1],” Father Roderick’s “Daily Breakfast Podcast,” and email listservs and websites that connect members of young adult groups – create a unique opportunity to reach out to young adult Catholics in ways that are culturally and spiritually meaningful to them. They are listening; the question, then, is ‘are we communicating the timeless and beautiful message of the Church in a way that is salient to them?’