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You Lost Me!

April 23rd, 2012by Fr. Satish Joseph

I received this e-mail just a few days ago:

Dear Fr. Satish,

I recently got engaged to my boyfriend of a few years, a week ago. So I’m starting to think about wedding plans and things even though we aren’t planning on getting married until next year at the earliest. And this might sound ridiculous but ever since I came to mass at IC I’ve always wanted you to do the marriage ceremony. However 1) I’m not a member of IC, and 2) Neither my fiance nor I are practicing Catholics. While we both were confirmed when we were younger we’ve both grown away from organized religion. (Which drives my dad nuts – Every time he goes to IC he stops by my house to give me the bulletin). 

So I pretty much was wondering if that was feasible or if IC was against doing marriage ceremonies for non-member and non-practicing Catholics. I haven’t looked elsewhere or anything else because as I said previously you are the only priest that I’ve ever wanted to participate on that special day. Frankly you are the only priest I have ever been able to talk to or that knew my name when I did attend church. If you’re not able to do it, its okay, I understand, I’m just hoping you could. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this I really appreciate it. 

S S 

Ironically, this mail came to me as I was also reading the book You Lost Me, by David Kinnaman. The title says it all. Based on research conducted by the Barna Group, the book explores why young adults are giving up on the Church. The book does not single out any particular denomination nor identify a single cause for this malaise. But the young adult in the e-mail fits the profile of the young people Kinnaman is talking about.

Kinnaman’s research reveals six factors responsible for the drop-out:

a)      For young people, creative expression is invaluable and they see the church as a creativity killer. In the Church creativity and risk taking are shunned upon.

b)      Most young people’s perception of Church is that it is boring and young people fail to connect their faith with their gifts, abilities, and passions.

c)      Young people are increasingly perceiving faith and science to be incompatible. Science welcomes questions and skepticism whereas the Church expects dogmas to be accepted without doubt or question.

d)      Religious rules, particularly in the area of sexuality, are considered repressive.

e)      Young people are generally more inclined to open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance and they find Christianity’s claims to exclusivity, problematic.

I responded to S with a welcoming yet cautious note. But I have not heard from S since. It was my hope the wedding preparation might be an opportunity for Catechesis and that I would get the couple to understand the deeper reality of faith and the Church. After all, the e-mailer likes me and has great appreciation for me. But I am beginning to get the sense that young people are not even willing to make even that much room.

May be I should have responded differently.  But, right now, I am not the only one on the dock; the Church is too, and so are the young people who are moving away from the Church. Once again, the reality of the Church and young people is being exposed to us. As with my previous blog, I am inclined to raise questions.

What do we do about young people and the sign of the times? How can we get the culture of the Church and the culture of the young people to intersect meaningfully?

Kinnaman has his own answers and he outlines fifty strategies. Many of them can be very helpful tools to reconnect with the disconnected and alienated young.

I would like to have our own response and strategies. Archbishop Schnurr, along with the Offices of Evangelization & Catechesis and Youth & Young Adult Ministry, has scheduled several meetings to develop an archdiocesan vision for young people. I plan to be there and I hope that this conversation will lead to creative ways to address the reality at hand. If the data from Kinnemans’s research are any indication, the problem is gargantuan. And so must be the solutions and strategies we seek.

Fr. Satish Joseph

Fr. Satish Joseph is the associate pastor at Immaculate Conception and St. Helen parishes in Dayton. He is also the founder Ite Missa Est ministries. You can find his free iPhone and droid apps by typing in itemissaest or ite missa est.