Let’s face it: these days, it’s tough to be Catholic. Friends, family, even the media can make you feel as though you’re alone in the faith you profess. However, although being a Catholic at any age can be a tough life, in today’s secular society, young people still choose to follow their faith regardless of the roadblocks they might encounter.
“I think the hardest part about being a young adult Catholic is remembering that God is with you all the time,” wrote Kerri Duerwachter in an email interview with MyFaith. “We all go through tough times throughout these years and it’s really easy to forget that he’s there for the good and the bad.”
The 22-year-old graphic designer, a member of St. Charles, Hartland, has come up with various ways to stay close to her Catholic faith, despite what she hears from negative outside sources.
“First of all, I pray daily. Not necessarily right away in the morning or before bed, but sometimes in the car or just throughout the day, I take a minute to reflect on my life and what’s good in it. If I need help with something or (if) someone I love does, I ask and have faith,” she said, adding that she keeps visual reminders around her at all times to remind her of her never ending faith journey.
“I always wear a ring, given to me on my confirmation day by my godfather, that has a cross with a heart around it,” she explained. “That ring reminds me every day what my faith is and who I can count on.”
Finding balance, common ground
Andrew Schueller, 23, director of youth and young adult ministries at St. Charles, Hartland, spent much of his youth attending Mass without really understanding the mysteries behind it. It wasn’t until he started confirmation classes at the age of 16 that he began to search deeper into his Catholic faith, and from there discovered its true meaning. Attending Marquette University has also allowed him to research and look more closely at his faith.
“In high school, it kind of seemed that no one really wanted to talk about religion, it was kind of skirted around, whereas going to Marquette it was going to be discussed, there were all the people there who wanted to discuss it with you, and at that time I was just learning more about my faith,” he said, adding that his original goal of studying political science and education took a backseat to his newfound interest, theology, in which he majored.
“I think it’s still kind of similar to what it’s been like through high school,” he explained about following his faith today. “It’s balancing the teachings of church, and what we’re being told to follow Jesus and his example … it’s trying to find that balance.”
When it comes to keeping the balance between living his Catholic faith and interacting with his non-religious friends, Schueller sees two ways to look at it.
“I hope people don’t really see me as a great Catholic example, because I’m not a saint, I’m not a John Paul II or anything like that,” Schueller said. “For me, it’s not being confrontational. I really listen to other people and hear what’s important to them. Sometimes, I don’t have the best Catholic answer, like when people ask, ‘Why does the Catholic Church not teach against this?’ I don’t necessarily have the best answers for them.
“I’m not going to condemn them because they’re not Catholic. I listen to what they believe, and coming through that conversation comes the truth in the matter, where we kind of find common ground in what we believe,” he added. “I have a lot of friends who are frustrated with what they think the church is, without really knowing what the church is.”
Stephanie Rumpza, 25, grew up in St. Paul, Minn., and is now a second year graduate student at Marquette. Attending college in a big city allowed her to meet and get to know people of various races, religions and lifestyles, and since then she has found a way to express who she is as a Catholic without “turning off” her non-Catholic or non-religious friends.
“I’m just authentic about what I believe and who I am, and the faith is a part of who I am, and they respect that,” she explained. “Especially because I don’t judge them, I don’t come to it with an attitude of, well, ‘I’m a Catholic and you’re a non-practicing Jew, so I’m better than you.’
“I think it’s really important for Catholics to be out in the world and among people, and to be authentically Catholic but not to hide from people who are not Catholic,” she explained. “But also be more deliberate and aware in the way that the culture is influencing you, so that you don’t go to a movie and just suck it all up – just totally get sucked into the message they’re promoting. You go with a certain understanding that you’re already grounded in, so that you have the ability to discern what in it is contrary to the truth, and what in it is good.”
Although Rumpza acknowledges that it can be easy to become negative living your faith in a world that oftentimes looks down on you for it, it’s important to keep looking for the good in everything.
Look for the good in everything
“It’s really a good thing to not get so pessimistic about the culture that we live in, but really see the truth and the values that our culture does have, and see that while they may be imperfect and while there are a lot of things that are lacking, there are a lot of really good things there that just kind of need to be encouraged and nourished in the right way.
“I think being a part of the culture and going to movies or whatever kind of supposedly secular things that there are, there’s very much a way to be a Catholic in the middle of all that, to recognize and love the truth wherever it’s found,” she added.
Peter Wagoner, 23, a parishioner of St. Monica in Whitefish Bay, has found a number of modern tools to follow his age-old Catholic religion, such as looking for dates on Catholicmatch.com, following Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan on Facebook, and keeping up to date with how others are living their faith, by reading their blogs.
“I lead a youth group and teach Christian formation,” he wrote in an email interview with MyFaith. “Ever gotten frustrated because you couldn’t find that one verse you were thinking of while talking to kids? Bam, iPhone. Verse found without missing a beat.”
When asked why he still remains a Catholic, Wagoner says he can’t imagine not being one.
“My friends and I liken it to being part of an ancient society, like the ones Indiana Jones was always stumbling in on,” he joked. “Because it is. We’re connected with some of the most rebellious people who have ever lived. We have a direct line to the fourth man in the pyre from the Book of Daniel, the military general who fell off his horse in Acts, and a wealth of saints who just smiled happily while being burned alive at the stake…how could I not?”