Sunday, February 3, 2008

Optimistically Pessimistic?

First, read this post at Adam's Ale.

I know a priest in the Columbus Diocese (we were in college seminary together.)

He's a year younger than I, but we were ordained the same year.

Another priest of the Columbus Diocese (mutual friend and mentor) recently gave a retreat for the seminarians at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, and he and I had the chance to speak.

Fr. L. was lamenting the fact that he had no peers among his parishioners. There are very few people his age (circa 30) who are members of his parish. Msgr. L. commented that when he was a young priest, most of his friends (whom he still has) were his age and he has grown with them over the intervening years. They have supported his priesthood, he has supported them in their marriage.

Fr. L and I do not have this luxury. Most often, when I am in a group who 'gets it,' Catholics who realize that there is more to that title than just a Sunday obligation, I am the youngest. (Interesting, I'm still the youngest priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.) While it still sometimes stikes me as odd that people much older than I call me 'Father,' I'm starting to get used to it. But, most of these families already have children, already are established. I don't get to experience some of the things that Msgr. got to experience as a young priest. (And Karol Wojtyla (JPII) did as well.)

There is a lost generation in the Church, a generation that does not have any basis and foundation in Catechesis. The Catechism is written in a foreign language to them.

The challenge is how to reach them. Adult education programs are attended by a small dedicated group, but not usually the 25-40 group. Homilies have to be a mixture of catechetical, readings, and relevant. Hard to base a life in Christ on just a 10 minute reflection, no matter how good it is.

One solution that was talked about last night: to reach the parents, first you must reach their children. OK, great, but how to do that? Most teachers in Catholic schools (luckily not all) are products of their environment, and don't see the difference that being a die hard (literally?) believer can make.

We have to rethink things. What we have done over the last 30 years has not worked! (wink, che, wink)

What's next? There are bright lights, for sure. Is it widespread enough to make a difference?


a thorn in the pew said...

We had a priest at a parish who was so good at "reaching the chldren". I also believe it starts there. When children ask their parents to take them to Mass week after week, that puts a seed in their head that won't go away. I saw some wonderful examples of children bringing parents into the faith more fully. It can be done but there has to be that priority in place. I've seen it work and it was amazing!

Father Schnippel said...

Thorn, your wisdom is spot on, as usual.

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

Here's a thought. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is not written to be read cover to cover (unless you name is Fr. Robert Jack). It's a reference. In fact, it has lots of cross references built in. It would be a snap (technologically speaking) to set it up in a wikipedia-style web site, and cross reference Church documents and the writings of the Fathers.

Experts on the CCC could add their experience of how specific sections came to be written as they were, along with clips from popes and other Vatican officials who contributed to it. This, and similar ideas, could be immensely helpful to this generation. It could be even more helpful to the gen-Xers who missed out totally.

Antonia said...

Father, it's great to read that you are sharing my optimism! Where I'm staying now (Singapore, far East), priestly vocations are going down (4 priests died & no ordination in 2007) and many Catholics I know (usually above 45) --especially those who are in Church ministries-- are usually complaining about how the youths are not going to Mass and how the Church need to be 'modernized' to bring the young back, etc.

But I agree whole-heartedly that the best way to 'reach out' to younger crowd (and children) is by good example and good doctrine. Just by saying Mass reverently, a holy priest plants a powerful seed of faith in many parishioners.

My blog is a source of consolation for me when I see that many random visitors stumbled there redirected from search engines when they are looking for Higher things: "Lent", "finding God at work", "daily reflection", "relationship with God" -- many people are searching! And those who are "#1's" are in a good place to bring souls to Christ!

Hope you have a good trip in Rome!