By Frank Wessling
Next time you’re at Mass, or in church for any reason, look around at the people who are with you. Notice how few, if any, are the folks we call young adults, particularly those in their 20s.
This can be said with confidence because it is obvious almost everywhere, with the exception of college chapels and student ministry centers. Even in those places the percentage of Catholic students present is small.
None of this is new: the age of first independent exploration of the world and oneself is seldom a steady course of development in faith. A few young men and women feel enough integration of their religion that it is already part of how they see themselves. They hang around where that part has a chance to grow. For too many, religion sits lightly and is easily dropped, like a childhood shirt left behind.
There is too much else demanding attention when you’re groping for a place in the competitive world of adult relationships and work. And the Church itself doesn’t have much to offer twenty-somethings that feels immediately relevant to their lives — to the finding of that first great job or surviving in this lousy job or finding that true-love soul mate.
But the Church is still the place where another essential, the most important one, is taken most seriously. That is the deep interior questions: Who am I? Where am I going? We may think we can get along without taking these questions seriously, and we can, in a way. There is enough busyness and distraction in our culture to allow that. But a shallow skate on the surface of life never satisfies in the end. The questions keep nagging: Is this all there is?
Young adults deserve more opportunity to bring up and share their deep questions.
A new movement here in the Davenport Diocese is trying to answer that need. A Catholic Young Adult Network was formed this year by faith formation leaders around the diocese and its first open conference is scheduled for Oct. 13 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. The Hawkeye football team will be away playing at Michigan State on that Saturday, so traffic shouldn’t be a problem.
This isn’t an event for preaching at anyone or selling anything. It’s more like a peer party where the talk gets beyond sports and work and girls/boys.
For only $15 and about 8 hours of time, this CYAN conference is a worthy investment for every young Catholic. Parents and other adults with influence ought to mention it and otherwise gently bring it to the attention of the young folks they love. The website is www.davenportyouth.org/davenportya.org.
It’s an offer to put them with like-minded peers among whom they can share the questions and challenges for faith life at their age. They can meet people who have already done some work on building a foundation for adult faith and its satisfactions.
The simple “Child of God” we all once learned as the answer to Who am I? is good and necessary, but it’s not sufficient as we grow. The child must do some work to become a well- integrated, truly mature woman or man. Help in that direction is available here on Oct. 13.