Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
August is usually the month when summer activities begin to wind down and families with children start preparing for a new school year.
These new beginnings are full of so much anticipation and promise for our young people. The Catholic schools and faith formation programs in our diocese are blessed to have teachers, staff and volunteers who are dedicated to their ministries and vocations. I am very grateful for that, and it gives me much hope for the future of our young people and our Church.
At the same time, I am also aware of the challenges our Church faces when it comes to today’s young people. Several years ago, a study titled “Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Catholic Disaffiliation” was published by St. Mary’s Press. It focused on teens and young adults — ages 15 to 25 — who stopped identifying as Catholics. There are many reasons for this, ranging from ineffective catechesis and lack of support to distrust of institutions and society’s ever-increasing secularization.
For me, one of the most striking statistics from the study was that the median age for those who stopped identifying as Catholic was 13 — on the cusp between middle school and high school. This points to the need for our efforts at evangelization and forming disciples to begin early. Too often, our young people are among those on the Church’s peripheries.
How can we change that? In addition to what we are already doing today to support families in their faith lives, what are some new ways and new resources that we might offer for additional support? What are some creative approaches that parishes and Area Catholic Communities can take to walk with young adults, listen to them and keep them engaged in the life of the Church?
I believe it is a sign of hope that a number of youth and young adults participated in the local synod process that recently concluded. When those results are fully analyzed and published, I expect that we will learn valuable information to help us in our ministry efforts.
In addition to the synod process, another major initiative in the diocese is the National Eucharistic Revival, which kicked off in June. Let’s challenge ourselves — as a diocese, ACCs and parishes — to think of ways to invite youth and young adults to participate in the planning of, and attendance at, revival-related events over these next few years. This is an opportunity for everyone to reinvigorate their faith life and become better Christian disciples. We need to accompany young people, who are both the present and future of the Church, and ensure they have an opportunity to rediscover — or discover for the first time — the power of encountering Christ in the Eucharist and how it can change their lives and the lives of the people they encounter every day in their schools, parishes and communities.
Please remember our youth in prayer in a special way this month as they prepare for another school year with all of its joys and challenges.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud