January 1, 2023 | Editorials and Columns, Youth
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Matt Purcell, a youth ministry leader from Fancy Farm, spends time with youth during Owensboro Diocese Youth Conference, which was held Nov. 18-19, 2022. RILEY GREIF | WKC

We need adults who care


During the recent synod listening sessions, we heard the concern time and time again about young people leaving the Church. According to the Diocese of Owensboro’s synthesis, “We repeatedly heard the concern that young people are leaving the Church at alarming rates… A desire was expressed for more opportunities to help young people grow closer in their relationship with Jesus and to have a greater sense of belonging in their parish communities.” In the national synthesis from the USCCB, a similar concern was shared. It stated, “Practically all synodal consultations shared a deep ache in the wake of the departure of young people… Young people’s waning participation in parish life was a source of great pain for many older community members.”

There is good reason for the concerns being expressed. We often hear staggering statistics like for every one person coming into the Church, six are leaving. Two recent CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) studies have revealed that youth who are leaving the Church have decided to do so on average by the age of 13 and that the decision may come as early as age 10.

While awareness is a start, I am asking you (every adult in each parish of the diocese) to consider doing more than worrying, more than simply expressing concern. I’m asking you to know and care about individual young people within your parish and community. I’m asking you to join me in being an adult who cares!

Here’s what you can do:

  • Pray for young people. And do this in as specific a way as possible. Ask young people how you can pray for them and tell them you are praying for them. Know and use their name.
  • Know young people. What are their names? What are they into? What makes them come alive? What are they passionate about? What are their concerns?
  • Share with the young people about Jesus and what He has done in your life. Young people are asking why Church matters. They need to know the person of Jesus Christ and what is offered in a relationship with Him. Your story perhaps matters more than your teaching. Help young people see the relevance of faith in everyday life.
  • Include them. Young people aren’t the Church of tomorrow, they are the Church now. They are busy, but often willing to get involved in things that really matter. Help connect them to ministries and experiences that speak to their gifts and passions. My own son refused to be an alter server until an adult other than me asked him to consider it.

Breakout session presenter Wade Gaynor speaks to an audience of youth during the Owensboro Diocese Youth Conference on Nov. 19, 2022. RILEY GREIF | WKC

In the book “Sticky Faith, Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids,” Dr. Kara Powell shares about the importance of a 5:1 ratio. She states that rather than 1 adult to every 5 youth, we actually need each young person to be able to identify 5 adults (outside of their home) that care about their faith.

I’m inviting you to be one of the five adults a young person will name in their parish community that’s cares about them, knows them, and walks them to Jesus.

The Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry is available to help any adult in the diocese discern how to better come alongside young people. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].

Charlie Hardesty is the director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Learn more at owensborodiocese.org/youth-ministry.

Originally printed in the January 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
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