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Millennials hold the key to the future

We must hand over freedom

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In these uncertain times many writers are forcing us to think about the future of all religions and particularly the Catholic Church, in a new way.

Surveys show that what we call the young millennials do not have a connection or a loyalty to their parents' religion. For example:

  • Nearly 9 in 10 reject a male-only priesthood;
  • On most sexual and gender issues, only seven per cent agree with church teaching;
  • Only 27 per cent regard church authority as important.
  • Less than 30 per cent attend Church except on special occasions.
  • Experts in pastoral theology warn that the Catholic Church must quickly and effectively engage young Catholics through dialogue, awareness, listening, respect, humility, patience and creativity - or its future will be endangered.

    One leading scholar, Sister Katherina Schuth, has lectured to groups of clergy all over America, warning them that millennial Catholics are made up of multiple groups which, in turn, have sub-groups.

    Immigrants

    "Do not lump all Catholics under 50 in the one group. They do not hold the same views and they do not have the same lifestyles. Younger people from Europe and North America will have less connection to church than Latino, Asian-American or African American millennials. Third World teens will differ from their white, middle-class counterparts and among one another," she cautions.

    In America, for example, the growing Latino Catholic population is projected to make up half of the US Catholic population in the near future. In Europe immigrants will also change the face of religion. There will be many coming from Christian countries but even more will be Muslim believers.

    It is dangerous, she said, to think of millennials as a homogeneous group.

    "There are enormous variations among Latinos including country of origin, time residing in the US, economic and educational backgrounds. For example, Latinos whose families have lived for generations in the US will have significantly different views than those who have recently immigrated."

    That said, there are some generalisations that can be made about millennials:

    Even if they do not always connect volunteer service to religion or spirituality, many have a strong desire to work for the common good with more than two thirds volunteering on a regular basis.

    They are prone to be materialistic; they are career driven and ambitious yet they expect parishes to create "an environment of frugality".

    Fundamental to engaging young Catholics for the longer term, though, is engaging them in genuine conversations and by listening sincerely to their concerns and ideas. They need to be part of the leadership

    We should encourage millennials, believe in them and encourage them to follow their dreams and we should always go out of our way to thank people for giving so much to the church when they do.

    Sister Katerina, as reported in the NCR Catholic newspaper, explained that for millennials, the Second Vatican Council is as far away from their experience as Trent is. What is in the past in is in the past.

    Millennials, she explained "do not and cannot look at the church, the Mass, the hierarchy, the sacraments, devotions and other aspects of Catholicism with the same cultural mind-set of older Catholics."

    Millennials, for example, "are not used to waiting. A 12-hour delay in responding to an email is an eternity for them."

    "An attractive, image-filled, interactive - and frequently updated - web page is far more effective than any printed material. Consider the possibilities of blogs and podcasts, too.

    We have to throw out the non-essentials and hand on the freedom to be religious in a new way.

    Online Editors