Dio­cese in­vites young Catholics, ‘nones’ back to church

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY NATASHA LIND­STROM

PITTS­BURGH | Taco Tues­days at Holy Trin­ity in Robin­son. Mass mee­tups dur­ing work­week lunch breaks in down­town Pitts­burgh.

Pub-style trivia nights at Saints John and Paul in the North Hills, where a $5 ticket gets you free grub, drinks and 10 rounds of team trivia cul­mi­nat­ing in a $200 grand prize.

As the Ro­man Catholic Dio­cese of Pitts­burgh un­der­goes its big­gest re­struc­tur­ing in three decades, reli­gious lead­ers are pon­der­ing: How do we get 20- and 30-some­things back into the church?

The pop­u­la­tion of 20- to 30-yearolds spans more than a half-mil­lion peo­ple across the dio­cese’s six-county ter­ri­tory, about 145,000 of whom iden­tify as Catholic, dioce­san and cen­sus data show.

“That might be a Christ­mas and Easter-goer. That might be some­one who goes to Mass once or twice a month, and out of that, there are 40,000 who go to Mass reg­u­larly, mean­ing once a week,” said Ja­cob Wil­liamson, 30, hired last year by the dio­cese to be di­rec­tor for young adult out­reach, a new po­si­tion. “We need to bring all these peo­ple in their 20s and 30s into a liv­ing re­la­tion­ship with Je­sus Christ.”

On Sun­day morn­ing, grad­u­at­ing high school se­niors were in­vited to min­gle over break­fast be­fore at­tend­ing a Mass in their honor at Our Lady of Vic­tory in Springdale Town­ship. This month, young Catholics across AlleKiski Val­ley churches are re­ceiv­ing the sacra­ment of Con­fir­ma­tion. Chances are, the ma­jor­ity of them will leave the church af­ter go­ing to col­lege and the work­force.

Amer­i­cans are shy­ing away from or­ga­nized re­li­gion in droves — es­pe­cially the young.

Four-in-10 U.S. adults raised Catholic now iden­tify them­selves as exCatholics, the Pew Re­search Cen­ter re­ports.

Twenty-seven per­cent of U.S. adults sur­veyed last year can be de­scribed as a so-called reli­gious “none” — those who de­scribe them­selves as “spir­i­tual but not reli­gious,” up 8 per­cent­age points from 2012, Pew data show.

Mil­len­ni­als re­port be­ing among the least reli­gious of all gen­er­a­tions, cit­ing dis­trust in reli­gious in­sti­tu­tions.

It’s an age group that many par­ishes across the dio­cese do not yet appear to tar­get heav­ily — par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral and some sub­ur­ban ar­eas.

A review of lo­cal weekly church bul­letins shows many par­ishes heav­ily pro­mote pro­grams cater­ing to young chil­dren and older adults, play­ing on the long­stand­ing be­lief that peo­ple tend to re­turn to the church once they set­tle down and have chil­dren.

“We can’t count on that to­day, quite frankly,” Mr. Wil­liamson said. “The ‘nones’ are the fastest-rising group of peo­ple in our cul­ture right now.”

The “spir­i­tual none” trend doesn’t mean that peo­ple are shed­ding faith com­pletely. Data pub­lished by Pew last week showed that nearly eight in 10 U.S. adults be­lieve in ei­ther a higher power or God — they just aren’t par­tic­i­pat­ing in a church com­mu­nity.

Draw­ing from suc­cesses of other Chris­tian churches and their turn­arounds, Mr. Wil­liamson said he’s been work­ing to re­cruit young adults to be­come men­tors, ed­u­ca­tors and evan­ge­lists.

Bishop David Zu­bik has em­pha­sized the need for more lay lead­ers to guide the church’s fu­ture, par­tic­u­larly as priests dwin­dle.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Grad­u­at­ing high school se­niors at­tend Mass in Springdale Town­ship, Pen­nys­lva­nia, as par­ishes pro­mote pro­grams geared to bring young adults back to the church.

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