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?