View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Keeping young people involved in Church

I was out at St. Leo's in Hilton for the Secular Franciscan Order Day of Recollection this past week. A parishioner was there getting ready for a separate gathering of the First Communion kids, and I asked how things were going at the parish.

She was enthusiastic. The pastor, Father Joseph Catanise, who arrived in 2005, has brought new life to the parish, she said. Attendance is up. Enthusiasm - like that lady's - is up.

Now that's just one parishioner, but I have met Father Catanise - he's actively involved with pro-life activities, and with the Secular Franciscans. He is a good preacher, and his Masses are "celebrated" not just said. During my visits to the parish for Franciscan meetings there always seems to be something going on, and there are a number of active parish groups (like the SFO fraternity).

One area I asked about is the teen Mass they have on Sunday evenings. I have not attended one of theirs, but I've heard the music is lively and contemporary - and the Mass is full of energy. Celebrated, not just attended.

I was reminded of this when I stumbled across an article on ZENIT about keeping young people involved in the Church.

In the article U.S. bishops' conference spokesman Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington spoke about a Pew Forum survey that revealed a key factor in whether or not one remains Catholic as an adult is whether or not one attends Mass as a child or teenager.

The study, “Faith in Flux: Changes in the Religious Affiliation in the U.S.,” was made public Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“The report highlights the importance of Mass attendance among children and teenagers,” the archbishop said. “Adolescence is a critical time in religious development and, as the poll shows, what happens in the teen years has a long-lasting affect. We have to help young people and their parents appreciate the importance of going to weekly Mass so teenagers know Jesus is there for them now and always."

Absolutely. That's why Masses like the one out in Hilton are important. I know some people don't like the music, for example, but that reaches some kids and some of them will stay involved if they like what they see and hear and they are then more open to the Spirit. At St. Theodore's we have Rock of Faith (admission here - I am a member of that group), which plays a more upbeat contemporary style of liturgical music that will hopefully reach young people. We play for the youth-oriented Masses (i.e. the Grade-level masses, Hands of Christ, Confirmation), and hope eventually to have some separate Masses specifically aimed at young people.

And if young people remain involved and active, they are more likely to consider a vocation in the Church.

I'm not an absolutist when it comes to music or liturgical styles. I was unhappy when the Diocese of Rochester took so long to approve the old Latin Mass back in the 90s, for example. It's not my style of worship, but it is meaningful to many people - including some young people - so I argued that it should be an option. I'm glad that it is - though I have no desire to attend such a Mass (and yes, I did go to a couple to check them out).

I also like to see traditional organ music, Gregorian Chant, Gospel music and more offered - because each might appeal to some people and enhance their worship. And I applaud when Churches offer various options for worship in addition to Mass - Benedictions, Eucharistic adoration, Stations of the Cross, Rosaries, and so on.

We are a "catholic" Church.

According to the study, The Catholic Church has a 68% retention rate, which is higher than most other Christian churches. The key reason people leave their church, the study reported, is that “they just gradually drifted away from the faith.”

Keep them active, keep them involved, give them something that helps to meet their spiritual needs, and they are less likely to drift. They are more likely to remain active lay people in the Church - and maybe we might see a few more priests, sisters, and brothers emerge from their ranks as well.

A good pastor is a help - so I'm happy for St. Leo's.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your support of rock music in church seems more self-motivated than out of interest for the children.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

What do you think I would gain out of it??

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Tiffany said...

Keeping young people involved in the church and keeping them attending Sunday mass are two very different things. I'm sure that you're talking about a broader involvement, but I wanted to point out the distinction because I know from experience that it is entirely possible for teenagers to attend weekly mass by rote without ever having the slightest inkling of Jesus "being there for them" or anything else beyond "this is what we do on Sunday morning" if it's not part of everyday life the rest of the week.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Good point Tiffany.

Yes, I do want to see broader involvement - with Mass, but also with parish ministries and activities, and with witnessing to faith in the broader community. For example I love the number of young Catholics I see at pro-life events!

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:10 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

The music would not necessariy retain them - but it would help to attract them into attending, to developing a sense of community, and into hearing sound teaching. When I've heard Father Catanise preach, I've only heard him say sound things, not wishy-washy theology. He's solid and challenging on life issues, for example.

And yes, no squirt guns!

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:04 PM  
Blogger Rich Leonardi said...

Leaving aside that rock music is unsuitable for the Mass (see Sacramentum Caritatis, 42), it probably repels as many teens and young adults as it attracts. Taste in popular music isn't monolithic anymore, and on any given iPod you'll find hip hop, rap, rock, blue grass, and country. I'm glad Father Catanise is a solid preacher.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Rich Leonardi said...

And I agree wholeheartedly with Lee that a healthy parish devotional life will attract and retain Catholics of all ages.

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some clarification on the Latin Mass. This was not approved by Bishop Clark until he received a phone call from the Ecclesia Dei Commision in Rome mandating approval. Doors that once were closed all of a sudden swung open.

We had collect over 1,000 signatures on a petition to Bishop Clark to allow the Tridentine Latin Mass. The Bishop's office at first ignored us and then they said they lost them and could we submit them. You sure bet we did.

They play games all the time on Buffalo Road.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Anon - I don't know anything about a phone call. I do agree the Diocese was slow to allow the Latin Mass, and it is one of the things I have repeatedly said they did wrong. It should have been approved quickly.

5:30 AM  

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