The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is pulling out all the stops to keep young adults active and engaged in the Church.
Brew City Catholic, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s initiative to engage young adults (including college students), forms young adult missionary disciples to reach their peers, provides archdiocesan-wide events to reach and engage young adults who have left or never practiced our faith, and supports Catholic parishes and leaders’ efforts through training to better understand and connect with young adults.
“There are many, many good things happening,” said Margaret Rhody, the associate director of the archdiocese’s office of evangelization. “But it’s a trap to expect someone else to ‘do something,’ as if somehow reaching and walking with our young people is only the youth minister’s, priest’s, archdiocese’s, or even just the parents’ responsibility. The research shows that young adults who keep their faith have supportive relationships with at least five different adults in their church community.
“Let’s not forget: Jesus could have saved the world any way he wanted,” she continued. “The way He thought best was to form and send a motley crew of ordinary, unqualified people, to invite others into the adventure of living as His disciples in His Church. Young adults will not want to leave our faith when every person in our Church falls in love with God, seeks His help to love young adults as He does and invites them into the adventure. Pope Francis has dedicated the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops this October to be focused on the theme of ‘Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment’ to help all of us embrace the challenge.”
The Catholic Church as a whole is dealing with a loss of young adults. The challenges are, “more pervasive, I fear, than most people realize,” Rhody said.
Research shows that 50 percent of young people who were raised Catholic are no longer Catholic today, and 79 percent of Catholics leave the Church before the age of 23.
“The numbers of those who return for marriage or baptisms of children are dropping,” Rhody said. “I regularly encounter young adults who are struggling with anxiety, loneliness, an unfulfilled desire for ultimate purpose, and addictions from trying to numb their pain. The greatest tragedy is that they don’t know that our Father in heaven is ridiculously in love with them, that Jesus came to save them, and that God invites them to true belonging and the greatest of all missions in our Catholic Church.”
Some of the regular events Brew City Catholic hosts include Brewing the Faith and Theology on Tap (details can be found at brewcitycatholic.com or on Instagram @brewcitycatholic).
“The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has a vibrant Catholic young adult community with well-attended young adult-led annual conferences, retreats, and regular outreach events, such as Brewing the Faith and Theology on Tap, which draw seekers and non-practicing Catholics and welcome them into our community,” Rhody said.
There are resources and advice out there for parents whose children are at risk of leaving the Church or who have already left. (See info box.)
“Seek to understand them and their choices when it comes to faith,” Rhody suggested. “Ask questions. Listen. Keep listening. And resist the temptation to nag. Offer gentle invitations. If your child is in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Brew City Catholic’s Meet New People events will help them to connect with normal, accepting, fun-loving peers who are actively living their faith. If your child is in college anywhere in the U.S., Brew City Catholic’s college student outreach can help you connect them with Catholic students on their campus.”