In the Church today, young adult Catholics are often given a bad rap. Data have shown that our age group is disassociating from the Catholic Church in droves, and we are sometimes perceived generationally as being non-committal, for having short attention spans and not valuing traditions.
There is a bit of truth in some of that, but those sentiments fail to acknowledge that there are many young adults actively engaged in the Church, who desire to be a part of it and are committed to their Catholic identity — even when we feel like our pleas for inclusivity within the institutional Church are misconstrued as mere grievance rather than sincere zeal mixed with a need to be seen, heard and truly known.
In the last several years, Catholics throughout the country have participated in numerous gatherings inviting the faithful to share insights on the current landscape of different segments of the U.S. Church, and to recommend pathways toward improving ministries and outreach. We have had the Convocation of Catholic Leaders, the V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry, the National Dialogue, the Synod on Synodality and Journeying Together — all of which collectively included numerous younger Catholic participants from throughout the country.
As the national Eucharistic Revival gains momentum, I worry that this initiative will become just one more item on the list of projects meant to foster energy and catalyze small but vital changes in the U.S. Church, which never develop into coherent practices benefiting (or even touching) the larger Church. The gatherings I previously mentioned all delivered myriad reports and recommendations for courses of action, but with seemingly little corresponding impact. It makes it hard, sometimes, to feel that our concerns are really being heard.
Truly, I believe we young adults who have participated with great hope in these assemblies and convocations are experiencing a bit of emotional fatigue. We have been asked repeatedly to share our hopes and dreams, our difficult experiences and frustrations with the Church — which carry a significant emotional weight. I have heard countless young adults tell personal stories of marginalization, racism and of not feeling seen, heard or taken seriously as participants and evangelists within the faith.
There is profound depth in what we have shared over the past few years, and yet somehow our sacred stories and trusted conversations are reduced to documents, lengthy bureaucratic reports and bullet-point lists of recommendations, all seemingly filed and then forgotten as people hastily move on to the next initiative, program or event.
My prayer for 2023 is that instead of scheduling more all-talk-little-action events or expending energy discussing strategies at risk of seeming stale before they’re ever tried, the Church would draw from the knowledge shared throughout these past get-togethers and that she would make some room and create an intentional space for the younger Church. Let us help to mold and form how the national Eucharistic Revival takes shape and help establish how we “do” Church, together. Young Catholics carry on their shoulders the weight of the missteps and sins of past Church leaders. We also will bear the Church in the future. This is an opportune time to give those of us who are committed to our relationship with Christ, and with the Church, real opportunities to help renew and rebuild the Church we dream of.
Cecilia Flores is a first generation Filipina-American, mother and community organizer living in Sacramento, California. “20/30 Vision” features a new young adult Catholic voice, each month.