The numbers vary, but reality remains: Millennial Catholics are falling away from the faith.
A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found more than one-third of Millennials between 18 and 35 are unaffiliated with religion — many of them former Catholics.
“Young Catholic America” authors reveal an array of startling statistics including high numbers of self-identified “practicing Catholics” who don’t make Mass a priority, who engage in sexual activity outside of marriage and who consider themselves “spiritual,” but not religious.
Enter Young Catholic Professionals and Alpha, a pair of new offerings in the Diocese of Phoenix which are launching this month as outreaches to these Catholic young adults.
Young Catholic Professionals
The six-year-old ministry that has already spread to as many states with inquiries abroad launches a Phoenix chapter Aug. 23. Young Catholic Professionals hosts regular, free events to foster genuine community and nuggets of wisdom on living a faith-filled life.
“We will draw professionals in where they feel comfortable, at a quarterly happy hour,” explained Drea Faulkner, a St. Andrew the Apostle parishioner. She is one of the key volunteers who helped bring YCP to Phoenix.
“[We will] show them examples of what it looks like to be a successful, edgy, Catholic professional in a secular world that seems divided by indifference and immorality with our executive speaker series every month. Lastly, it will draw them into a deeper faith, fuller friendships and dedication to St. Joseph the Worker with our biannual retreats.”
Faulkner wanted to foster a community that would challenge anyone who showed up to be a better friend, family member and individual in the secular work place. YCP does that while nourishing both fallen away Catholics and those already strong in the faith.
With YCP events, “they encounter Catholic professionals who are dynamic, fun, professionally driven, faithful to the Church. They sense in these young adults something that they don’t have,” said Angela Gaetano, director of parish leadership support for the Phoenix Diocese.
She also served as a local liaison for YCP in the start-up process.
Catherine Eckland, a St. Francis Xavier parishioner who is serving as Phoenix’s first chapter president, learned about YCP after somewhat lamenting to a Catholic co-worker that Catholic networking groups existed for physicians and lawyers, but not a communal one for Catholic workers in any industry.
“There’s already this existing hunger and vigor for this,” she said. There are so many Catholic young people finishing school and entering the local work force. “They need to learn to work in witness for Christ too.”
Gaetano said millennials enjoy the journey of discovery to learn what that is, noting their dislike of structure. They’re more apt to try new things too. YCP leaders encourage chapter leaders to host events at different parishes.
Young Catholic Professionals of Phoenix Launch
Young Catholic Professionals engages young adults in their 20s and 30s, in professional formation while more deeply entering the Catholic faith. Join Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and the YCP Phoenix leadership.
When: 7 p.m., Aug. 23. RSVP.
Where: St. Francis Xavier Parish, Anderson Hall, 4715 N. Central Ave.
Millennials and the confessional
“You have people who will go to events and say, ‘This is pretty cool, maybe I’ll come to Mass here,’” said YCP’s national vice president Peter Blute, who oversees operations and training.
One woman returned to the confessional after 13 years when attending one of Chicago’s first chapter events this year because a priest was available.
“That’s what I respect about YCP,” said Trieu Nguyen, a St. Thomas the Apostle parishioner who once belonged to YCP’s Dallas chapter, “it provides participants an opportunity to contribute to their community in a real way, such as in their workplace, while nurturing their spiritual life as well.”
He recalled a YCP Dallas service project. During breaks helping a home for pregnant mothers, Nguyen prayed in a Eucharistic chapel overlooking an abortion facility next door. He described YCP as a one-stop shop for building community along both the professional and faith journeys.
Community, particularly healthy relationships that foster religious faith and human flourishing, can be very powerful, authors wrote in “Young Catholic America.”
Beginning anew with Alpha
Building community while introducing the Christian faith in an open environment lie at the heart of Alpha. Danielle Burr, who led a pilot group this summer, said the idea is to cater to the person farthest away from Jesus in the room.
Alpha roots itself in hospitality, something lost on the millennial generation. The next free 11-week series starts at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral Aug. 18.