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Young people can attract others to the Church

The word of the Lord came to me:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
“Ah, Lord God!” I said,
“I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”
But the Lord answered me,
Do not say, “I am too young.”
To whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak. Jeremiah 1:4-10

This summer we have fresh air blowing through the corridors of our RENEW office. Along with the Holy Spirit, the source of this fresh air is three young, faith-filled, and talented interns. Besides significantly lowering the median age of our staff for the summer, Samantha, Jessie, and Annie have brought a new and vibrant perspective on all things faith and Church. Please read more about them—and from them—in this newsletter.
The faith and exuberance of these young women is exhilarating. Still, it reminds me that young Catholic like them are becoming more and more exceptional. The 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape survey by the Pew Research Center found that almost 23 percent of the public in the United States identified themselves as religious “nones” (unaffiliated with any faith group). Close to another 16 percent said “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious affiliation. Adults under 30 made up 35 percent of “nones.” These are startling but not surprising statistics.
RENEW is deeply concerned about the loss of young people engaged in our Church. We believe the significant number of Catholic young adults and young families who are disengaged from their Catholic faith, or who now number themselves among the “nones,” has made it urgent for everyone in the Church to focus our attention on children, adolescents, and young adults. My hope is, first, that more pastors and lay ministers will recognize the urgency of this situation and, second, that this recognition will move them to change, renewal, and reform.
Young people force us to revisit, rethink, and redo the ways we think about and do Church. We not only need to listen to young people who are still practicing the faith (and those who are not) but also invite them to participate in reimagining the context in which the sacred teachings of Christ and his Church are presented in the 21st century. We should encourage them to not only speak but lead. Their ideas are unique and relevant and are needed to attract other young people and make our parishes vibrant. Young people are not only the future of the Church they need to be called and encouraged to be leaders in the present.
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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