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