Church seeks input from young adults (18 to 39)

By Ricardo Gandara
Correspondent

Just as the Vatican took the pulse of the world’s Catholics on the family in 2015, it now focuses on the thoughts and opinions of millennials worldwide.
The document called “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” begins with an online survey and culminates with the 2018 synod of the world’s bishops who will examine the results of the survey of young people, those between the ages of 18 and 39.
The survey is available now through July 31 at the Diocese of Austin’s web site at www.austindiocese.org/synod. Paper copies are also available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese by calling (512) 949-2400.
The survey questions seek input on a variety of issues, including the cultural changes resulting from a developing digital world. Summaries of the survey responses from each diocese will be compiled and distributed to bishops.
The survey is directed at three audiences: young people engaged in the church, those not engaged in the church and pastoral and ministry leaders who work with young people.
“The church has a responsibility to young people,” said Alison Tate, director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Diocese of Austin. “This is a public awareness campaign for young people engaged or not engaged with the church. The church is looking for creative ways to walk the journey of faith with young people.”
The first question gets to the heart of the survey: “In what manner does the church listen to the lived situations of young people?” 
The survey isn’t just for American Catholics. Some questions seek the experience of those in Africa, Asia, Oceania and Europe, where demographics and life experiences are surely different. And the survey tackles serious matters such as “How does your community care for young people who experience extreme violence (guerilla warfare, gangs, prison, drug addiction, forced marriages) and accompany them in various way in their life?”
It’s no secret that the Catholic church often feels a disconnect with young people. According to a 2016 survey by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Catholics born in the 1980s and ‘90s are less likely to be active in parish life and are more doubtful about God’s existence than their older peers.
Among the findings reported in www.americamagazine.org:
In 2008, 50 percent of all Catholic millennials reported receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday but now that number has dropped to 41 percent.
Two thirds of Catholic millennials attend Mass “a few times a year or less often,” compared to a majority (55 percent) of pre-Vatican II Catholics who go at least once a week. About 25 percent of millennials pray once a day, whereas 30 percent pray just a few times per year.
“Young adults can be isolated from parish issues,” Tate said. “Young adults are not engaged in the church. Churches don’t see them. This is based on statistics,” Tate said. 
The digital world has become synonymous with millennials, who are one of the driving forces of the popularity of social networks. The focus on millennials starts with Pope Francis, who has long courted millennials. He has 10.6 million followers on Twitter and 3.7 million on Instagram. He is regarded to be tech savvy. 
Pope Francis has called the Internet a “gift from God” and has invited the faithful to “boldly become citizens of the digital world.”
Pope Francis has also spoken out in defense of the planet and people’s duty to protect it. Coinciding with his stance, the 2016 Global Shoppers survey by the World Economic Forum interviewed more than 26,000 millennials from 181 countries. It found that 45 percent cited climate change and the destruction of natural resources as their primary concern.
Thus, the survey now serves as a measuring stick to make change.
Tate said today’s young adults are getting married much later and “our ministry doesn’t represent that life stage. Based on the needs of people, we’ll be looking at how parish life might look like in the future.”
Worldwide, local responses to the survey will be reviewed by local committees looking for common themes, and then given to bishops for review. Executive summaries will eventually make their way to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for further review. The summaries and responses will then be sent to the Vatican in preparation for the 2018 synod of bishops.
But the process begins at home and with you. The online survey awaits at www.austindiocese.org/synod.